Bears schedule: Hurtin in Minny, Green Bay, uncertain in Detroit


Bears schedule: Hurtin in Minny, Green Bay, uncertain in Detroit

While the Bears can look forward to getting the likes of Gabe Carimi, Jay Cutler, Chris Williams and presumably Matt Forte back from injuries that had them out for the final quarter of last season and more, their colleagues in the NFC North are facing concerns in the other direction.

Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins is hoping to be coming back from a season-ending neck injury. But as recently as last week Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy said, If Nick were my son, I would not let him play, and agent Alan Herman did not disagree, according to the Green Bay Post-Gazette.

The Minnesota Vikings have worries of their own with the linchpins of both their running and passing games. The news on rehab progress of running back Adrian Peterson after his December surgery to fix torn knee ligaments continues to be ostensibly positive. But this was major surgery on a high-mileage running back and as strong and diligent as Peterson is about rehab, the target date is generally the start of the season, and thats if everything remains to the good.

On top of that is reportedly minor shoulder surgery for Percy Harvin. The No. 1 receiver (87 receptions) broke the news via Twitter, then reassured with a followup tweet that he would be ready for organized team activities scheduled for May.

Thats encouraging, but as anyone going through shoulder issues knows only too well, its the most complex joint in the body and takes its own sweet time mending. Harvin was the entire focus of the offense last year when Peterson went down so his is a shoulder thats going to be doing some heavy lifting.

The Detroit Lions continue having significant issues at running back as Mikel Leshoure, their second-round pick out of Illinois last season, is facing felony drug possession charges that could lead to as much as a six-game league suspension.

Leshoure missed all of 2011 with a torn Achilles tendon and the Lions already are unsure of Jahvid Bests prospects after a concussion sidelined him last year as well.

Vikings handling of Sam Bradford offers object lesson for Bears transition to next QB

Vikings handling of Sam Bradford offers object lesson for Bears transition to next QB

Call it variations on a theme. The Bears on Monday night will face not only the Minnesota Vikings, but also Sam Bradford, the latest quarterback opponent that hints at possibilities in the Bears’ own future far beyond what was once the norm.

That norm is what can reasonably be expected from a new quarterback, one coming into a new system, new environment, even a new league, and having near-immediate success. Quarterback changes can involve upheaval of staff, personnel and even franchise identity, as the Bears can confirm based on their last eight years with Jay Cutler.

The experiences in Dallas, Minnesota and Philadelphia point to the kinds of quarterback transitions the Bears may be in search of after the 2016 season.

Bradford arrived in Minnesota via trade just eight days before the season opener, yet has proceeded to post the best results of his career: for completion percentage (67.5), interception percentage (0.6 percent; 7 TD’s vs. 1 INT), yards per attempt (7.4) and rating (100.3, vs. a previous best of 90.9).

More important, without the Vikings’ starting left tackle (Matt Kalil) and running back (Adrian Peterson), Bradford has the Vikings leading the NFC North and tied for the NFC lead at 5-1.

“[The Vikings] had the misfortune of losing their quarterback, they go out and make a bold move to get him and they haven’t missed a beat offensively,” said Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. “He’s been getting better and better.”

This all holds particular relevance for the Bears, who saw Brian Hoyer step in and deliver four straight 300-yard passing games, something he’d never done in his career and no quarterback in Bears franchise history had done. Cutler’s personal best was two straight, for purposes of comparison.

The Bears are expected to have a new quarterback in some form or other next year. In the meantime they have been victimized by two rookie quarterbacks already this season (Carson Wentz, Philadelphia, and Dak Prescott, Dallas). The experience of Bradford, Prescott and Wentz, all new in 2017 to their situations, suggests chances of dramatic improvement over the Bears’ recent history with Cutler, for example.

“A good quarterback can influence the guys and make guys around him better,” Wentz said. “So it’s one of those things where the quarterback usually gets too much credit and too much of the blame as well. It’s just kind of the nature of the position.”

Prescott and Wentz were 2016 draft choices and had offseasons and training camps with their respective teams. Bradford had none of that, yet began his year throwing 130 passes without an interception.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

How that happens may be illustrative for the 2017 Bears. The Vikings traded for Bradford, a one-time starter for the Rams and Eagles. But because of the late-offseason timing of the deal, necessitated by the season-ending leg injury for Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, Bradford had to be eased into the new offense.

“I think that’s honestly one of the bonuses of coming during the regular season,” Bradford said on Thursday. “Obviously it would’ve been nice to have some practices in training camp. But once you get into the regular season, it’s not like you have the whole playbook in each game plan. Each game plan is very specific for that week’s opponent, so it’s considerably less than would be in your training-camp installs.

“So I think that helped a little bit. But as far as it being cut down, the volume wasn’t so much cut down as how the plays were called, naming some concepts with some things I was familiar with. That really helped me.”

Bears Talk Podcast: Jay Cutler returns against one of NFL's best defenses


Bears Talk Podcast: Jay Cutler returns against one of NFL's best defenses

Jim Miller joins Pat Boyle as they discuss the return of Jay Cutler as he gets ready to face one of the toughest defense’s in football. Plus, the key to a Bears win on Halloween night.

Listen to the latest Bears Talk Podcast here: