Miller: Campbell well-prepared to run Bears' offense

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Miller: Campbell well-prepared to run Bears' offense

Around the NFL this weekend, a few backup quarterbacks could potentially get the starting nod for their teams. Jason Campbell is one of them, now that the Bears have ruled Jay Cutler out for Monday night's game against the 49ers.

There are plenty of misconceptions about what it is to be a backup quarterback in the NFL. It normally comes down to excuses about the number of repetitions the backup quarterback receives during the work week. For the record, the backup quarterback receives plenty of repetitions. They just arent with the starting unit preparing that weeks particular game plan.

Any backup quarterback who is worth their salt is going to get their work done while preparing the first string defense during the week on the show teams. Backups typically work on the show teams to prepare the starters on offense, defense, and special teams. Show teams prepare these units by executing drawn up looksplays on eight-by-10 cards of the opponent.

Its not at all surprising for starters to work on the show teams as well. Healthy bodies are hard to come by and coaches make the most of any available week to week. For example, I used to run down on show team kickoff coverage or punt coverage to help special teams prepare their kick or punt return units. A lot of starters rolled through on those units to keep legs fresh. Imagine running eight 40 yard dashes back to back to back. Everyone helps out on show teams.

Its the same for backup quarterbacks. Although they are not getting repetitions within their offense, they are working off cards with similar plays against the No. 1 defense. In case you just missed that point, Campbell is going against one of the leagues best defenses every single day. He is getting reps reading defensive fronts, coverages, working footwork, and making all kinds of throws during the week.

To get quality work done, I found it best to execute show team cards similarly to how I would execute plays within our own playbook, unless the coaches requested differently. First team wide receivers have to roll through show teams also. Essentially, Campbell could be throwing to Earl Bennett, Devin Hester, and yes, even Brandon Marshall when preparing Brian Urlacher and the boys defensively.

Backup quarterbacks also throw individual drills with starting wide receivers, running backs and tight ends during the week. Essentially, Campbell has worked with starters throwing routes on air, one-on-ones and seven-on-sevens since the day he signed. The schedule may say week 11 in the NFL, but Campbell is prepared and has been prepared.

Hes experienced from being in this position before and will only benefit receiving work with the first unit. This week Campbell will hone the Bears' offensive game plan by now working against defensive show teams, who will give him defensive looks he could potentially see from San Francisco if he has to start.

At this point in their careers, backup quarterbacks like Pittsburgh's Byron Leftwich or Campbell have already been there and done that. It really is not that big of a deal -- pretty much what their teammates have been stating throughout the week.

Marcus Kruger 'pretty close' to returning for Blackhawks

Marcus Kruger 'pretty close' to returning for Blackhawks

Marcus Kruger has been sidelined a little longer than the originally expected three weeks with his right hand injury. Not that any missed time is enjoyable.

"I wanted to get back there probably a few weeks ago but unfortunately I couldn't," said Kruger, who suffered his injury on Dec. 30 against the Carolina Hurricanes. "I tried to listen to the doctors and do everything I can instead to be ready when I get cleared. That's my mindset."

Kruger is close, but not quite there, as the Blackhawks prepared for Sunday night's game against the Vancouver Canucks. Kruger skated with his teammates for the first time since being injured but wasn't among the line rushes. The center took faceoffs on his own at the end of practice. Kruger pronounced himself, "pretty close," to returning. Coach Joel Quenneville said the Blackhawks will see how Kruger is over the next few days. The Blackhawks play again Tuesday and Thursday before heading into the All-Star break this weekend.

The Blackhawks have missed Kruger's versatility and especially his play on the penalty kill. The Blackhawks' kill has been fine through Kruger's absence but he nevertheless is a big part of it when he's healthy.

"We have a lot of options and when he's out everyone gets a more important role, whether starting or faceoffs. And we have a rotation of five guys who are in there most of the time. But he definitely absorbs the most responsibility when he's playing in that area," Quenneville said of Kruger. "So it's nice you get to try some other guys and you get deeper as you go along."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

One of the players who's emerged in Kruger's absence is Tanner Kero, who filled his third-line center void. Kero and linemates Vinnie Hinostroza and Marian Hossa clicked on the dads trip, coming up with big plays and points in the Blackhawks' victories over Colorado and Boston. As of now, Kero appears to have the hold on third-line center.

"I don't see too many things that would change his positioning because he really helped himself," Quenneville said.

Kruger said he's fine if that means returning to fourth-line center duties. Regardless, he'll help bolster the Blackhawks' forward lines. The last step is likely contact, which Kruger got a little of – outside of faceoffs – in Sunday's skate. Kruger's had to wait a little longer than expected on his injury but he's getting there.

"I wanted to get back there probably a few weeks ago but unfortunately I couldn't. Tried to listen to the doctors and do everything I can instead to be ready when I get cleared," Kruger said. "That's my mindset."

Cubs, White Sox react to tragic deaths of Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

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AP

Cubs, White Sox react to tragic deaths of Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

The sports world woke up to some tragic news on Sunday morning.

Former major leaguer Andy Marte and Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura were both killed in separate car accidents in the Dominican Republic within an hour of each other, according to multiple reports. A Royals representative confirmed the death of 25-year-old Ventura.

The Cubs and White Sox took to Twitter to give their condolences:

Ventura was a member of the Royals from 2013-16 and won a World Series title in 2015 with Ben Zobrist and Wade Davis, who the Cubs acquired this offseason for Jorge Soler. Ventura also played with White Sox pitcher James Shields in 2013-14.

Marte, 33, played a majority of his seven-year career with the Cleveland Indians. He was teammates with Todd Hollandsworth (Atlanta 2005), Kerry Wood (Cleveland 2009-10), and Miguel Montero (Arizona 2014).