Miller: Big blow for Ravens

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Miller: Big blow for Ravens

News broke early this morning about Baltimore Ravens All-Purpose OLBDE Terrell Suggs partially tearing an Achilles tendon during a workout session. This is a huge blow for the Ravens as most likely, they will be without their 2011 Defensive Player of the Year for most of next season.

Suggs is the Ravens All-Time career leader with 82 12 sacks. Rushing the passer is Suggs specialty, but its his versatility that the Ravens will miss most. His versatility is one of the reasons Baltimore GM Ozzie Newsome drafted Alabama OLBDE Courtney Upshaw this past draft in the first place. The goal was to put Suggs and Upshaw opposite each other on pass rushing third down situations. At the very least, the Ravens would have had the opportunity to work matchups by moving Suggs all around as DE or OLB. Or better yet, how about Baltimores ability to deploy three defensive ends with Suggs, Upshaw, Paul Kruger, and DT Haloti Ngata on third-and-long situations.

T-Sizzle has lined up at OLB and DE for the Ravens for years. He's spent so much time playing both positions that when the Ravens placed the Franchise tag on him in 2008, - with the lower designation number as a linebacker - Suggs filed a grievance for not receiving the higher tag as defensive end where he logged more snaps. Suggs ultimately struck a deal with the Ravens, reported to camp and had the grievance withdrawn.

Timing is Everything

The Ravens recently drafted Upshaw (6'2 272 lbs) who is considered a tweener like Suggs (6'3 260 lbs). Is Upshaw an end or linebacker? Newsome traded out of the first round, specifically targeting Upshaw early in the second round with the 35th overall pick. Supposedly, Upshaw fell on draft boards due to poor workouts. Ummm, I would suggest watching tape of Upshaw playing in actual football games. He's a one man wrecking ball that I personally witnessed as Alabama destroyed Michigan State during the 2011 Capital One Bowl, 49-7. Scouts and coaches loved his no-nonsense relentless play during the week of practices leading up to this years Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. Obviously, Newsome loved Upshaw more than most.

Since joining the Ravens in 1996, Newsome has drafted 15 Pro Bowlers with the Ravens first overall pick, starting with OT Jonathan Ogden. Of Newsomes 17 first round draft choices, they have a combined 51 Pro Bowls.

When the Ravens had to draft late in the first round, Newsome has nailed those picks too. How about Todd Heap (31), Ray Lewis (26), and Ed Reed 24th overall for examples?

Newsome may have wanted to draft a compliment to Suggs by selecting Upshaw, but if the Ravens 2012 top pick makes the Pro Bowl as a rookie, it will prove without a shadow of doubt that Newsomes timing and drafting skills are second to none.

Fashion Statement: Kevin White shows team spirit with socks at Bears practice

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Fashion Statement: Kevin White shows team spirit with socks at Bears practice

OTA's are underway at Halas Hall and there seems to be a new battle taking place on the Bears offense - whose sock game is stronger? Wide receiver Kevin White and running back Ka'Deem Carey made fashion statements Wednesday, sporting customized socks to display their Chicago Bears pride.

White's pair of socks took a page out of the Bears' fight song, while Carey's featured the Chicago skyline.

Take a look for yourself.

Fans seem to be split over whose sock game takes the prize, but if both pairs of socks keep White and Carey at the top of their game, they should share bragging rights. 

Bears 'horizontal' leadership plan building on some surprising leaders

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Bears 'horizontal' leadership plan building on some surprising leaders

Sometimes you really do have to just appreciate the attitude. Because Bears coaches do, in ways of significance in what kind of team the 2016 Bears will become.

Ka’Deem Carey has been a backup his first two Bears seasons, yet now finds himself with more games played in a Bears uniform than any other Chicago running back. The 2014 fourth-round draft pick accordingly has set one very lofty 2016 objective for himself:

“Just being a leader, really trying to focus on that,” Carey said during the team’s OTA this week. “We’ve still got a young team, I’m vocal, coaches like the way I run the ball, and sometimes the way I play out there, the coaches like that and want to pass that on to teammates.

“So I’m just trying to be a leader to these young guys.”

Somehow the notion of a 23-year-old talking about setting an example for “these” young guys shouldn’t be dismissed. At all. Because Carey is representative of something developing within the current team.

Leadership is a popular, near-annual topic for Bears teams, no less so early this offseason as the 2016 team takes shape without 40 percent of its elected – and veteran – captains from the 2015 season.

Players elect five captains: two for offense, two defense and one special teams. Coach John Fox names a sixth captain each based on merit from the previous week.

The problem for the Bears is that two of the 2015 five elected captains – running back Matt Forte, safety Antrel Rolle – were not brought back by the organization this offseason. Veterans were added in free agency, but headcount does not translate into instant chemistry, cohesion or leadership.

That falls to a Carey to infuse. Elsewhere, guard Matt Slauson, a popular leader in the offensive-line room and huddle, was released, as was left tackle Jermon Bushrod. After just three NFL seasons, Kyle Long abruptly becomes the offensive lineman with more games in a Bears uniform than anyone else in the O-line room.

Indeed, longevity is no criterion whatsoever for a Bears “leadership” role. Teammates elected Pernell McPhee one of the defensive co-captains last year, his first as a Bear. And linebacker Danny Trevathan, brought in from Super Bowl champion Denver, could emerge as one in his first, using precisely the same calling card that McPhee did.

“I'm just going out there and being an example,” Trevathan said. “It's not hard, you know, I've just got to go out and play the game that I know how to play but also get guys to come along and speak and communicate and be on one page with these guys.”

The key is the “horizontal” leadership concept – leading not from a few at the top, but from multiple strong individuals in a leadership layer.

“Obviously missing Matt Slauson, missing guys like Slauson and Forte, there are large voids to be filled,” Long said. “But this team has been built on horizontal leadership and we’ve done a great job bringing in the right people, defensively, offensively and the special teams unit.

“I love the coaches, I love the guys on this team, I don’t think that will be an issue, so I don’t really have to take on that much bigger of a role because of the guys that we have in our room. Everybody is kind of accountable themselves.”

Bears OTA's: Observations from the first all-team practices

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Bears OTA's: Observations from the first all-team practices

The sessions are not mandatory, meaning that Alshon Jeffery’s continued absence from Halas Hall is simply disappointing for the Bears and not yet quite in the realm of Martellus Bennett’s pointed stay-away’s last year.

But as the Bears continue through their allowed quota of organized team activities (OTA’s) this week and through mid-June minicamp, it is evident already that a handful of aspects are different in 2016 from one year ago at this time.

One is a sense of urgency, a practice-speed tempo surprising for this time of year but emblematic of changes within the roster and coaching staff from even the end of last season. Coaches were driving the intensity and competitions, if not technically permitted under collective-bargaining rules, were very much in evidence, unusual for a hot day in May.

The offense is under Dowell Loggains, promoted from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator with the exit of Adam Gase to coach the Miami Dolphins. That is involving an element of re-orientation even within an are still grounded in the same philosophies. Position changes are afoot and even with veterans, there is a learning curve that coaches and players are fast-tracking.

“It’s become clear the last few days it’s a lot different when you’re lined up in the spring and there are trash cans across from you, and then when you’ve got these big, fast D-linemen across from you,” said Kyle Long, doing his own orientation back inside from right tackle to right guard. “There’s going to be a bit of a learning curve. We’ve got to gel. You talk to a lot of guys who have been on good teams before and they’ve said, ‘We didn’t really gel until the end of training camp,’ or ‘it took us until training camp.’ So there’s going to be some time to get some of the rust off from a technical standpoint, from a live football standpoint, but I think we’ll be all right.”

Besides Jeffery, linebacker Pernell McPhee was at Halas Hall but not practicing following offseason knee surgery. Defensive lineman Will Sutton was not practicing, but fellow D-lineman Ego Ferguson was practicing after an aggressive rehab program following season-ending knee surgery of his own.

Without Jeffery, Kevin White was No. 1 through the lines for individual reps, and a scramble is developing down the wideout depth chart with rookie speed blurs Daniel Braverman (seventh-round draft choice) and Kieren Duncan (tryout player who earned a roster look with repeated highlight plays in rookie minicamp) getting looks in a group that includes nickel receiver Eddie Royal, Josh Bellamy, Marc Mariani and Marquess Wilson, all with NFL experience but few anywhere close to roster locks.

“The effect [of no Jeffery] is that someone else is getting an opportunity to get some reps and that’s a good thing,” Loggains said during rookie sessions. “We all wish Alshon was here. We’re in constant communication with him. He knows how we feel about the situation and him. But it is an opportunity for some of these different receivers that we like to get opportunities and we’ll find out more about them.”