Notes: New nickname for Tillman; Bears playoff bound?

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Notes: New nickname for Tillman; Bears playoff bound?

Mega-Nut?

The Bears defense shut down All-World wide receiver Calvin Johnson by assigning cornerback Charles Tillman to cover him from the time he laced up his shoes. Johnson caught just three of the 11 passes thrown to him, due to a combination of pass rush, help from solid play at safety and a nickel defense tandem of D.J. Moore and Kelvin Hayden.

And Tillman.

I dont know how he does it, linebacker Brian Urlacher said, shaking his head. I mean, Calvin Johnson is a big-, big-time receiver. Peanut is a big-time corner. I dont know how he does it but Im glad he does, glad he plays for us.

So, if Johnson is known league-wide as Megatron, does that make Tillman, with his Peanut nickname, MegaNut?

Tillman was selected to his first Pro Bowl last season. On the heels of his consecutive-game interception returns for touchdowns, Tillman virtually locked up his second on the national stage of Monday Night Football.

Against Johnson, one of the wideout standards in the NFL. Tillman also forced two fumbles.

The performance is consist with all the ones since his well-remembered ripping of the ball away from Randy Moss, when Tillman was an upstart rookie and offensive coordinator Mike Tice was the Minnesota Vikings head coach.

Bears coaches used 5-9 Moore as their base nickel back but went to Hayden, taller at 6-feet and 15 pounds heavier, for some man-to-man matchups when Johnson was moved inside to the slot.

But the heavy lifting was Tillman, the prototype big cornerback sought by every team for matchups like Johnson.

I think credit has to go to Tillman, said Detroit coach Jim Schwartz. He matched Calvin pretty much the whole game and they did a good job and combined that with pass rush. It threw our timing off.

MegaNut can do that.

Playoffs? PLAYOFFS?

As I mentioned Monday on Chicago Tribune Live, if the NFC playoffs started today, three NFC North teams would be in the draw.

Besides the Bears, the Minnesota Vikings (5-2) are tied for the third-best record in the conference, and the Green Bay Packers (4-3) would hold an edge in a three-way tiebreaker with Arizona and Seattle by virtue of a better conference record.

More to the point, although nothing really matters historically as far as a current season, but this marks the eighth time since the 1970 merger of AFL and NFL that the Bears have started a season 5-1 or better. They reached the playoffs in all of the previous seven (1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1990, 2001, 2006).

In two of those they reached the Super Bowl.

After kneeling during anthem, Huskers' Michael Rose-Ivey explains protest in speech

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After kneeling during anthem, Huskers' Michael Rose-Ivey explains protest in speech

Sparked by the actions of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick during the NFL's preseason, protests by athletes during the national anthem have grown more and more common in recent weeks, athletes kneeling or raising fists in protest of killings of African-American men by police across the country.

Add some Big Ten football players to that list, with athletes from Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska notably taking part in anthem protests this past weekend.

Three Nebraska players — linebacker Michael Rose-Ivey, linebacker Mohamed Barry and defensive end DaiShon Neal — kneeled during the national anthem before the Huskers' game against Northwestern in Evanston.

Monday, Rose-Ivey took to the podium during Nebraska's weekly press conference and delivered a lengthy prepared speech to members of the media, discussing his reasoning for engaging in the protest and his beliefs on some of the biggest issues facing the country as well as sharing instances of racism he's experienced as a football player at Nebraska.

The Omaha World Herald posted a video of Rose-Ivey's entire speech. It is a thoughtful, passionate and eloquent speech and should most definitely be watched. Here it is:

Certainly the issue is a divisive one, that fact made no clearer than by Rose-Ivey's examples of backlash he and his teammates received following their protest.

But regardless of your opinion on the matter, Rose-Ivey deserves praise for the manner in which he made his statements Monday.

Blackhawks: Keith unlikely to play first four preseason games

Blackhawks: Keith unlikely to play first four preseason games

Duncan Keith was already deemed unlikely to play in many, if any, Blackhawks preseason games, when training camp opened. As of now, it doesn’t look like he’ll be in the first few.

Keith will probably not play in the Blackhawks’ first four preseason games, assistant coach Kevin Dineen said following Monday’s training camp sessions. As for whether or not Keith will play in any, that’s still up in the air.

“That’s a question that Dunc and the medical staff, Stan [Bowman], Joel [Quenneville], we’ll all get to that. I wouldn’t foresee him certainly in these first four games. I would say that’s not going to happen,” Dineen said. “We’ll let him keep progressing on his timetable that he’s on now.”

Keith has been participating in one practice each day but has not been in any of the scrimmages. Assistant coach Mike Kitchen said Keith has asked to skate in the team’s second practice each day – each session is about 20-25 minutes – but the Blackhawks have told him no. As of now, both Dineen and Kitchen figure Keith will be ready for the regular-season opener but the Blackhawks will continue to be prudent with him.

“He’s out there wheeling around, doing well,” Dineen said. “We had a good chat with him today. He feels like he has a lot of jump but not a lot of stamina right now. We’ll continue the way we’ve handled it so far. We’ll keep moving forward that way.”

Players returning soon

Patrick Kane, who was at the United Center on Monday afternoon, will skate with the Blackhawks on Tuesday. Defenseman Michal Kempny will also join Tuesday’s sessions. Dineen said Niklas Hjalmarsson, Marcus Kruger, Artem Anisimov and Artemi Panarin are expected to join the Blackhawks on Friday.

Neither Kane nor Kempny are expected to play Wednesday vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]​

Pokka is back

Defenseman Ville Pokka, who played for Team Finland in the World Cup of Hockey, skated with the Blackhawks on Monday.

“Anybody coming back from Toronto over the last two weeks is going to have a heck of a lot of confidence,” Dineen said. “A young kid like that getting the chance to represent his country on the international stage is a great honor and a pick-me-up heading into training camp and the season.”

First cuts made

The Blackhawks made their first round of cuts on Monday, sending Radovan Bondra, John Dahlstrom, Nathan Noel and Roy Radke to their respective junior teams. The active roster is now at 57 players.