Competition vs. friendship on the O-line: Bears aim to stay close

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Competition vs. friendship on the O-line: Bears aim to stay close

Because it pushes already competitive individuals sometimes even more, competition for positions is a good thing.

Dont necessarily tell that to the players with jobs at risk, particularly along the offensive line, traditionally the closest-knit group on any football team.

Long-time Bears center Olin Kreutz always maintained that the most unpleasant time in his distinguished career was the 1999 training camp and preseason competition he went through vs. Casey Wiegmann.

The reason had nothing to do with acrimony or bad feelings between the two. It was that each knew that the loser was someone who deserved to be an NFL starter.

Kreutz went on to become a six-time Pro Bowl center and started 183 games for the Bears. Wiegmann was voted to the AFC Pro Bowl as a member of the Denver Broncos and at one point had a 127-game streak of consecutive starts.

Then 2012 training camp has been the proving ground for JMarcus Webb and Chris Williams at left tackle. Both have started at the position; both have started at right tackle as well.

Unless a calamity befalls Gabe Carimi at right tackle, either Webb or Williams will no longer be a starter.

In a meeting room and position group built on closeness, a measure of strain among friends would be understandable.

Not at all, insisted center and Bears co-captain Roberto Garza. Both guys are true professionals and weve spent a lot of time together, but this obviously has nothing to do with the friendships.

Its got everything to do with them just showing the coaches that they deserve to be the starting left tackle. Nothing gets in between us.

Competitions are going on elsewhere. Chilo Rachal and Ricky Henry are challenging guards Chris Spencer and Lance Louis. But the starters in each case are established rather than in the kind of competition involving Webb and Williams.

And much of the upheaval along the offensive line over the past couple of seasons has been the result of injury rather than straightforward Player A beating out Player B.

The one with arguably the most to lose right now is Williams, who becomes a free agent after the 2012 season. But Webb is desperately in quest of establishing that he was not the pass-protection disaster that he became in 2011.

Its a big position to be in for both guys, Garza said. Its Chris contract year and JMarcus is trying to establish himself as well. So its going to be very competitive and important for our team.

Both know the stakes and the terms of the competition.

It doesnt affect me too much, Webb said. You just got to come out here and do your job, get better every day and help your team out.

For Williams, who has lost tackle jobs before, theres always pressure, he said. Everyone has a job to do the whole team and we just got to come out and do our best to be explosive and take care of our part of the bargain.

Road Ahead: Blackhawks play three home games before All-Star break

Road Ahead: Blackhawks play three home games before All-Star break

CSN's Pat Boyle and Steve Konroyd preview the Blackhawks' three upcoming games in the Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland & NW Indiana Honda Dealers.

The Blackhawks have three home games before the NHL All-Star break, which takes place in Los Angeles.

The Blackhawks have dates between the Vancouver Canucks, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Winnipeg Jets. All three opponents are out of the playoff picture, sand Steve Konroyd is looking for the Blackhawks to step up in a certain part of their game: scoring.

See what Boyle and Konroyd had to say in the video above.

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

In doing some post-season wrapping up of my Nerdy NFL Notebook as we begin turning the page to the 2017 season, part of it involves compiling where each team finished in big-picture team offensive and defensive categories: overall ranking (total yards), as well as team rushing and passing ranks on both sides of the ball.

So if the Bears wound up ranked 15th overall in total yards gained and allowed, they should've finished…oh, 8-8, right? It adds to the deception of some of the deeper issues that focus on a lack of playmakers, which tied into their inability to make plays when it matters most. In John Fox's 9-23 start, 18 of those games have been decided by six points or less. They've won just six of those games. 

Offensively, the Bears ranked higher in total offense than five playoff teams: Kansas City (20), Detroit (21), Miami (24), New York Giants (25) and Houston (29). They wound up 17th in rushing offense, better than four teams who advanced: Seattle (25), Green Bay (26), New York Giants (29) and Detroit (30). And their 14th-ranked passing offense ranked better than the Giants (17), Kansas City (19), Dallas (23), Miami (26), Houston (29).

On the other side of the ball, they'd be even better off before allowing 109 points over the final three losses. Their total defense ranked better than Detroit (18), Green Bay (22), Kansas City (24), Atlanta (25), Oakland (26) and Miami (29). After being gashed for 558 rushing yards the last three games, they fell to 27th in the NFL against the run (better than only 30th-ranked Miami). But the seventh-ranked pass defense, despite collecting a measly eight interceptions (among only 11 turnovers), was better than nine playoff teams: Miami (15), Pittsburgh (16), Kansas City (18), Detroit (19), the Giants (23), Oakland (24), Dallas (26), Atlanta (28) and Green Bay (31).

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

What do all the hollow numbers indicate? A lack of complementary, opportunistic football, playmakers on both sides of the ball, a minus-20 turnover ratio, and a lack of quality and continuity at the quarterback position — to name a few. All of those playoff teams have more impact players (or kept more of their impact players healthy) than the Bears in 2016.

While some of the numbers aren't that bad to look at, and some even raise an eyebrow, there's still a deep climb from the most significant numbers: 3-13.