Report: Urlacher to miss multiple games

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Report: Urlacher to miss multiple games

At some point the Bears were going to be forced into moving forward without franchise middle linebacker Brian Urlacher. That point may be at hand.

An MRI exam on Tuesday confirmed a Grade 2 strain to Urlachers right hamstring, an injury suffered on the next-to-last play in last Sundays loss to the Seattle Seahawks. The story was first reported by the Chicago Tribune.

Depending on the precise severity of the strain and also on Urlachers recuperative powers, he could return before the end of the season or for the playoffs. That is, if the Bears change course back toward the postseason after losing three of their last four and now face three of their final four on the road.

The concern going into this season initially was the state of the knee injury Urlacher suffered at the end of Game 16 in Minneapolis. His mobility has been clearly below what it was in his prime but at age 34, the shock would have been him not losing a step or steps.

What the Bears lose now, in the midst of what coach Lovie Smith already has described as the playoff stretch remains to be seen.

Urlachers value to the defense was beyond his tackle total, which stands at a team-high 88 according to Bears figures. He is tied with Lance Briggs for team honors with seven tackles for loss and his three forced fumbles are second only to Charles Tillmans eight.

Sans Urlacher in the past

The Bears were lost without Urlacher defensively when he missed seven games in 2004, all losses. Urlacher was down twice with separate hamstring injuries and finished the year on injured reserve.

He was lost for the season after suffering a wrist injury in the first half of the 2009 season opener in Green Bay. The Bears replaced him with Nick Roach and eventually Hunter Hillenmeyer and were 7-8 over the final 15 games of that season, Jay Cutlers first as a Bear.

Roach played extensively at middle linebacker through training camp and the preseason, with Urlacher out while his knee recovered.

Future: TBD

Urlacher is out of contract after this season. GM Phil Emery has maintained a preference to address all contract issues after the season although the team has occasionally done late-season extensions.

That will not be the case with Urlacher, who is earning 7.5 million this season. The Bears have extended his contracts in the past and Urlacher has stated his wish to end his career with the team that selected him ninth overall in the 2000 draft.

Urlachers problem now is that his bargaining power is substantially reduced in terms of his health. His return before the offseason would represent a statement to the organization.

For their part, the Bears have no proven alternative currently in place. Lovie Smith has told CSNChicago.com in the past that Roach fits the prototype of middle linebackers in his scheme but the next several games will establish the workability of that option.

Philosophically, teams using Smiths defensive schemes do not draft middle linebackers. That may change sometime around the end of next April.

Cubs: The next steps for Kyle Schwarber

Cubs: The next steps for Kyle Schwarber

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – Kyle Schwarber might have been the most dangerous hitter in a World Series lineup that featured the National League MVP plus four more All-Stars. After spending more than six months recovering from major knee surgery. Against Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber and a dominant Cleveland Indians bullpen.

“He’s not going to play winter ball,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said with a perfect deadpan delivery. “We felt like he proved he can hit major-league pitching.”

The Cubs spent Monday at the winter meetings inside the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, continuing their search for pitching on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. The Cubs are so stacked with hitters that manager Joe Maddon could write out a 2017 Opening Day lineup tomorrow and Theo Epstein’s front office would still have Jorge Soler left over as trade bait.

Schwarber could hit second for the defending World Series champs, and his presence would mean more than any player the Cubs could sign as a free agent. The Cubs expect him to be at full strength by spring training, though it’s unclear how much work, if any, he’ll get as a catcher.

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“That’s the hurdle we haven’t really gone over yet,” Hoyer said. “Can he do it? There’s no question he’s going to want to do it. I think he can do it. I think that we have to have discussions about how heavy a workload we put on him in that regard.

“One of the things we talked about even last year before he got hurt was (how) he’s doing full catching drills, running around the outfield, doing stuff hitting. That’s a lot to put on a guy, sort of like playing two ways in football.”

Schwarber, an all-Ohio linebacker in high school, has a run-through-a-brick-wall mentality and doesn’t like to hear about what he can’t do. He wrecked his left knee in an outfield collision in early April and needed a procedure that reconstructed his ACL and repaired his LCL.

It took only two warm-up games in the Arizona Fall League before Schwarber made his dramatic return as the designated hitter at Progressive Field, batting .412 (7-for-17) with a .971 OPS during the World Series. 

The Cubs appear to be set with Willson Contreras and Miguel Montero behind the plate, but Schwarber is the type of baseball gym rat who enjoys breaking down video, giving input for scouting reports and being involved in every pitch.  

“We have to talk through all that stuff,” Hoyer said. “We know what his position’s going to be, so we have to figure out what our position’s going to be. I know he’s going to want to catch.

“But he knows he’s coming in as a left fielder next year. And we have to decide how much of the catching drills (he does).”

Slow start to fourth dooms Bulls in loss to Blazers

Slow start to fourth dooms Bulls in loss to Blazers

With his old teammate Robin Lopez in front of him and his feet at the United Center sign on the floor, Damian Lillard threw caution to the wind as he sensed the end was near.

With redemption on his mind and the Bulls on the ropes, Lillard unleashed a long triple that took the air out of the building with five minutes and pushed the Portland Trailblazers lead to 10.

The Bulls got closer but a few disastrous minutes spelled doom in their 112-110 loss Monday at the United Center, their third defeat in four games as they were without Rajon Rondo, who was suspended for conduct detrimental to the team earlier in the day.

Dwyane Wade scored 34 points with four rebounds and four assists in his return from a one-game rest while Jimmy Butler scored 26 with seven rebounds and five assists but the Bulls shot just 42 percent and committed 15 turnovers, many of them unforced against a defense that isn’t known for stopping opponents.

Lillard hit free throws in the final minute after the Bulls pulled to within three with 18.2 seconds left but his triple was a backbreaker.

It gave the visitors the push they needed after trailing to start the fourth, going on a 13-3 run while the Bulls missed 11 of their 13 shots to start the period, halting a relatively smooth offensive game to that point.

And when their offense abandoned them, they couldn’t get enough stops against a potent Trailblazers team that loves playing fast and loose. Chicago native Evan Turner hit two big baskets during the run, as he hit five of six on the night to score 11.

The Bulls harassed Lillard into one of his worst shooting nights of the season in a blowout win a few weeks ago and he made amends with a 26-point, seven-assist night

He looked to start off on the right foot from the jump, taking advantage of Jerian Grant off the dribble.

The Bulls’ defense was confused on rotations, allowing Lillard, C.J. McCollum and Allen Crabbe to feast early on. McCollum ran around screens and read a slow-reacting Bulls defense, nailing jumpers over flat-footed defenders.

Crabbe scored 17 off the bench while McCollum hit 10 of 19 to score 24, as the Blazers hit nine triples at 39-percent accuracy.

The trio of guards combined for 45 in the first half and the Bulls needed to make an adjustment.

So Butler started the third quarter defending Lillard and it seemed to throw off the Blazers’ rhythm. The Bulls took a 67-66 lead minutes into the second half and held off the duo until McCollum’s 25-foot triple right at the end of the third.

He dropped in another two minutes into the fourth to give the Blazers a 90-89 lead.

By then, they were in a dogfight and unable to slow down the hot shooting Blazers.