Was Cutler 'protection' adequate?

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Was Cutler 'protection' adequate?

The topic of the day and what will be until it just isnt 'The Topic' was the state of quarterback Jay Cutler following his concussion. It is a genuine NFL-wide topic for various reasons, as Mike Florio and I discussed in some detail on ProFootballTalk.coms PFT Live on Monday.

Mike raised the question of whether proper procedures and safeguards were observed by Cutler not being removed from the game right after the blow to the head by Houston Texans linebacker Tim Dobbins. Cutler stayed down for a few moments as officials and medical staff checked him out and he was allowed to stay in the game.

But should he have?

My thought was that this is an extremely difficult area for officials, who are in the spot of ring referees in a prize fight. A fighter takes a standing eight-count, the referee checks briefly to see if they can defend themselves and the fight continues if the boxer can maintain his hands up.

Mike rightly noted that the officials are in a tough spot of possibly ordering a key player off the field, with the obvious potential impact on the game. Obviously the league is concerned about the protection of players from concussion effects and Lovie Smith and the Bears are insistent that they will not have a player on the field who is significantly injured.

My early guess is that Cutler will not play against the San Francisco 49ers, who also may be without their starting quarterback after Alex Smith suffered a concussion in the 49ers tie with the St. Louis Rams.

If not Cutler

The natural follow-up issue was where the Bears are with Jason Campbell taking over. Mike and everyone else remembers the death spiral after Caleb Hanie took over after Cutlers thumb injury at about this point last season. The Bears certainly do, which is why signing a Campbell was an offseason priority of incoming GM Phil Emery last offseason.

Mike observed that Campbell was not overly effective coming in for the second half on Sunday. A fair share of that owes to the quality of the Houston defense, and I noted that players told me in the locker room afterwards that the Texans were taking away anything deep in a one-score game.

Campbell did have a 45-yard completion to Brandon Marshall but that was about all other than some very unproductive dump-offs to tight ends and Matt Forte.

Looking post-season

The Houston game was the first of six straight against teams currently with winning records (Houston, San Francisco, Minnesota, Seattle, Minnesota, Green Bay). Mikes thought was how the Bears could fall from a No. 1 or 2 seed to having to fight to get in as the fifth or sixth seed via wild card.

That could be the case even with Cutler returning sooner rather than later. The Packers have won four straight to reach 6-3, and Seattle and Minnesota represent important games in potential head-to-head tiebreakers.

Mike mentioned the job that Adrian Peterson did on the Detroit Lions yesterday. Ill address this in more detail as the Vikings approach but one person the Bears have done well to control is Peterson in recent years, after he simply annihilated them early in his career. Peterson had 39 yards in the first Bears game last year, missing the second with the knee injury he is clearly well beyond.

Northwestern's Tre Demps joins Bulls' Summer League roster

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Northwestern's Tre Demps joins Bulls' Summer League roster

From Chicago's Big Ten Team to Chicago's NBA team.

Former Northwestern guard Tre Demps will play for the Bulls in this offseason's Summer League in Las Vegas.

Demps spent four seasons in Evanston and became quite a prolific scorer, averaging 15.7 points per game as a senior last season after averaging 12.5 points per game and 11 points per game during his junior and sophomore seasons, respectively. Last season, Demps connected on 39.8 percent of his field-goal attempts and shot 33.2 percent from behind the 3-point line, averages down from the previous season.

Demps had some incredible scoring performances last season, including a 30-point effort on the road against then-No. 3 Iowa that featured six made 3-pointers, a career high he matched with six triples in a win over Rutgers later in the season.

Demps is the son of New Orleans Pelicans general manager Dell Demps.

Cubs: How Kris Bryant became a superstar in the making

Cubs: How Kris Bryant became a superstar in the making

What initially looked like a garbage-time home run for Kris Bryant – and day-after spin from Theo Epstein – actually summed up why the Cubs have a homegrown superstar and a franchise ready for another close-up in October.

It also helps explain how Bryant – at the age of 24 – became the first player in history to hit three homers and two doubles in a Major League Baseball game. Bryant set a franchise record with 16 total bases during Monday night’s 11-8 victory over the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park, becoming the youngest Cub to ever have a three-homer game (or 10 days younger than Ernie Banks in 1955).

After the New York Mets swept the Cubs out of last year’s National League Championship Series, Epstein sat in a dingy Wrigley Field storage room converted into a media workspace for the playoffs. During that end-of-season news conference, the president of baseball operations highlighted Bryant’s final at-bat, how New York’s right-handers kept attacking him with changeups.

Cubs officials felt like they were beaten at their own game, impressed how the Mets did such a great job with advance scouting, breaking down numbers and executing that night’s plan. If Bryant appeared to be vulnerable to that weakness – and a little worn down at the end of an All-Star/Rookie of the Year campaign – he still had the presence of mind to make an adjustment in Game 4.

With his team down seven runs in the eighth inning, Bryant drove a changeup from a two-time All-Star reliever (Tyler Clippard) 410 feet into the left-center field bleachers for a two-run homer.

Bryant can grow up as the son of an old Boston Red Sox prospect who learned the science of hitting from Ted Williams – and have his own batting cage at his family’s Las Vegas home – and still not feel burned out from the game or create the wrong Sin City headlines.

Bryant can get drafted No. 2 overall out of the University of San Diego in 2013, shoot a Red Bull commercial with a goat before his first at-bat in The Show and have his own billboards in Wrigleyville – and still not alienate himself from teammates or come across as having the wrong priorities.

Bryant is athletic enough to play third base, right field and left field during that 5-for-5, six-RBI, three-homer game. He can also get analytical and self-diagnose – without feeling paralyzed at the plate.

Bryant didn’t remember the NLCS as an eye-opening experience or give the Mets too much credit: “They all throw 96 (mph), which is kind of just where baseball is nowadays, too – a ton of people are throwing gas.”

For Bryant, it’s a constant process of self-evaluation, from his 0-for-4, three-strikeout debut last April, through the 21 games it took before hitting his first big-league homer, beyond hitting the rookie wall last summer (.639 OPS in July).   

“It’s the peaks and valleys of baseball,” Bryant said. “From August and September last year, I had two really good months (.900-plus OPS). I didn’t really have the postseason I wanted to. But up until that point, I was swinging the bat really good. I was feeling really good about myself.

“I kind of just went back to what I did in college, a drill that kept me more flat to the ball. That’s what helped me. And then going into the offseason, I really wanted to expand on it. Just continue with it and see where it took me.”

After finishing second in the majors with 199 strikeouts last season, Bryant struck out 12 more times in 37 playoff plate appearances. He’s now on pace for around 160 strikeouts – with 21 homers and 57 RBI a week out from the Fourth of July.  

“What he had been doing before was not going to work (long-term),” manager Joe Maddon said. “I’m not one of those guys (who says): ‘Hey, you can’t hit like that in the big leagues.’ I always used to hate hearing that from coaches. (But) the fact was that he had such an abrupt uppercut or chicken wing – whatever you want to call it – easily exposed by good pitching. Easily. And it had to go away.

“(He) worked through it. He knew how he was getting beat up at the plate. He knew what he couldn’t get to that he was able to get to before. He’s only 20-something years old, (but) he’s quick (and thinking): ‘I’m seeing the ball good. I just can’t get to it. What do I have to do to get to those pitches?’ Now he is.”

The Mets won the pennant, but their foundation might already be crumbling, with Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard reportedly dealing with bone spurs in their pitching elbows and Matt Harvey (4-9, 4.64 ERA) struggling to live up to his Dark Knight of Gotham persona after throwing 216 innings during last year’s return from Tommy John surgery.

The Epstein regime built a franchise around young power hitters like Bryant – believing that young power pitchers are inherently too fragile – and the Cubs could be 25 games over .500 when they get another shot at the Mets in an NLCS rematch that begins Thursday night at Citi Field.  

“Obviously, the front office has done a really good job of getting good players,” Bryant said. “You look at the young talent around the room, it’s pretty cool to see that.

“They’re just good people. They drafted good people, signed good people, and I think that just makes it easier to go out there and play our game and be yourself.”

Terps add ex-New Mexico State receiver Teldrick Morgan

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Terps add ex-New Mexico State receiver Teldrick Morgan

One of the most productive receivers in college football during the 2014 season is joining Maryland for the 2016 campaign.

Teldrick Morgan, who spent the first three seasons of his collegiate career at New Mexico State, has joined the Terps as a graduate transfer and will be eligible to play this season.

“Teldrick brings a great deal to our program, and we’re excited that he’s a part of our family,” Maryland head coach DJ Durkin said in the announcement. “It’s always great to bring a local kid back home, and on top of that he’s very skilled and brings a wealth of experience to our receivers unit.”

The 2014 season was a big one for Morgan, a native of the Old Line State. He ranked 32nd in the FBS with 75 receptions and 50th in the nation with 903 receiving yards.

Morgan missed three games last season due to injury and finished with 44 receptions (still a team high) for 543 yards and four touchdowns. He did have a pair of triple-digit receiving-yardage games, though, racking up 151 yards against UTEP and going for 101 yards against Louisiana Monroe.

Maryland can use all the help it can get when it comes to the passing game. The Terps ranked 13th out of 14 Big Ten teams in pass yards per game, averaging just 174.3 yards through the air per Saturday.