Players bought into the motivation

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Players bought into the motivation

The news of the New Orleans Saints having a 'bounty system' that paid bonuses for injuring players on opposing teams shocked the NFL world on Friday. Former Saints' defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and the team could be facing major penalties by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

Former NFL safety and CSNChicago.com Contributor Matt Bowen played for two seasons with the Washington Redskins under Williams and checked in on SportsNet Central on Saturday to discuss this issue with Chris Boden.

"I was involved in it and I'm not saying it's right, but I also know how it works. It's going to get a little embellished over the next couple days, couple of weeks.

Bowen continued: It's a practice that's been going on for a long time. I would say if you question all 32 teams you would find a little of this in every NFL city."

Bowen talked about the players deserving the blame just as much as the coaches.

"It was mostly player run. I'll take the heat myself as a player. It was something we organized mostly ourselves. I don't think it's a good practice, but I bought into it. It was a motivational tool, all those things are motivational tools; try to get a pick, try to get a big hit and you got rewards for that on the field."

Boden brought up a good point and asked Bowen: If Greg Williams was a great motivator than why were bounties even necessary?

"The bottom line here is I think we all bought into the motivation. From coaching to the players, we all thought about it as more as a way to get more production on the field. Whether that was that big hit, a game changing interception, whatever it was. We used it that way and we kind of advanced the motivation ourselves."

With concussions and season-ending injuries running rampant in the NFL, Bowen explained how violent the game is and how everyone's jobs are the line.

"I don't think it has any place in youth football, high school or college. Defensive football, whatever level you're playing at, you have equipment on. You're going to go after people. You tackle hard, you hit hard, you finish ball carriers to the ground, that's how you play and if you got a little extra incentive in the NFL, so be it. That's how it works."

"Live I've said many times before. This isn't a very nice game. It's a violent game, it's controlled violence, but there are those situations where as a player you kind of toe that line a little bit because it's the business of winning. That's what it is. This isn't everyone gets a trophy, this is win or you lose your job, coaching staffs lose their job as well."

In Week 2 against the Saints, the Bears saw Earl Bennett leave the game with a chest injury. Bennett would go on to miss the next five weeks. In that same game, Gabe Carimi was lost to a season-ending injury. Bowen gave his input on if he thought New Orleans targeted any of the Bears' players.

"No, because I wasn't down in New Orleans. I don't know if they were still doing it or not. Now I do. Now I look back, I'm sure there were guys that were targeted. Target wide receivers, go after Jay Cutler a little bit."

Finally, Bowen was asked if he had any idea what the punishment for Williams, former teams and current players that participated would be.

"I think the NFL is going to come down hard and I agree with them. Coach Williams is going to have to stand up and take the punishment. You might see a loss of draft pick, suspension, fine, whatever it may be, the NFL is going to try to make an example of it and I don't blame them. They need to correct this and this a good way to do it."
Do you agree with Bowen's comments? What do you think the punishments for the Saints and Gregg Williams should be? Let us know in the comment box below.

Bears establishing smash-mouth core with Jordan Howard

Bears establishing smash-mouth core with Jordan Howard

Eric Kush was in some pain after the Bears win over the San Francisco 49ers. But it was a “good” pain, particularly since part of it was inflicted by a teammate.

The teammate was running back Jordan Howard, and the Bears left guard was learning along with his linemates that when Howard is coming, “he’s a-comin’,” Kush said.

“Oh man, sometimes you’re, ‘[groan-groan-groan], and he’ll hit you right in the back, you fall and try to take your guy down with you and stick him in the snow so you’re not the only one getting soaking wet and cold. But Jordan’s a lot fun and we try to kick some butt for him.”

The rookie running back has become more than simply a draft nugget from the fifth round of this year’s draft. Howard has established himself as an integral part of a winning formula of complimentary football, the concept long favored by John Fox, Lovie Smith and coaches who operate from the foundation of a premier running game, impact defense and solid special teams.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

The Bears’ three wins have come this season in the only games in which Howard has been given 20-plus carries: 23 vs. Detroit, 26 vs. Minnesota, 32 vs. San Francisco. Add to those the 3 pass receptions against the Lions and the 4 against the Vikings and the true centerpiece of the 2016 Bears offense is more than a little apparent.

For obvious reasons beyond simply the rushing numbers.

“Especially pass protection,” said offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. “I think he's taken a big jump that way. When you're young in this league, those are the things that can get grey for you. You run the football, he's obviously a talented player there, but in pass pro, he's made his biggest growth.”

As a corollary to Howard, San Francisco was only the second game this season in which the Bears called fewer than 30 pass plays (the only other time was at Green Bay, when the Bears only ran a total of 45 plays, 27 of them pass plays). In that respect, the snow was viewed as an ally by some in the locker room who have been unhappy at the run:pass balance, which was just 36-percent-run coming into the 49ers game.

“It was one of these games where, with the weather, we couldn’t pass the ball like we normally do —  30 times — so we had to keep it on the ground,” said one member of the offense.

Howard’s breakout game as an NFL ball carrier came against the Lions (23 carries, 111 rushing yards, 3 receptions). The Bears, looking for a breakout of their own in the form of a first two-game win streak in more than a year, are expected to keep it simple — and in Howard’s hands.

“I always expected a lot out of myself,” Howard said. “I didn’t really think that things would happen maybe this soon or this fast. I’m definitely grateful for it.”

Bears looking into Teryl Austin’s past for clues on how Lions will scheme vs. Matt Barkley

Bears looking into Teryl Austin’s past for clues on how Lions will scheme vs. Matt Barkley

The adage “play the man, not the board” seems somehow appropriate for what the Bears are doing to prepare for the Detroit Lions behind quarterback Matt Barkley.

“The man” is Detroit defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, and the Bears have been scouting him as well as his defenses, beyond just Bears games, beyond this season and last, taking in his 2014 Detroit season when Austin prepared defenses for Jay Cutler and Jimmy Clausen.

How did Austin scheme for rookie Carson Wentz when the Lions played (and beat) the Philadelphia Eagles? How did he structure is defense to stop a rookie Teddy Bridgewater when Detroit played Minnesota? (Not very well, apparently, since the Vikings won both games and scored 54 points combined in the two games).

While the John Fox Bears staff went against Austin’s Lions defense twice last year, Cutler was the Bears quarterback. When the Bears beat Austin and the Lions two months ago, it was with Brian Hoyer.

Now the Bears quarterback is Matt Barkley, who has fewer NFL games played (seven) than Cutler has NFL seasons (11), Hoyer (eight), too, for that matter.

“Different defensive coordinators attack young quarterbacks differently,” said offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. “Some guys blitz, some guys play a bunch of zone. This group on defense there, they have a really good defensive coordinator, they're really smart, they do a bunch of stuff. On the back end, they run all the coverages.

“As a game, we'll have to make adjustments as the game goes and see what their plan to come out is early.”

Coaches and players may talk about how they prepare for a scheme irrespective of which opposing quarterback, running back, linebacker or whatever they will be facing. But in fact, preparations start with who is orchestrating the opponent’s offense or defense – play the man, not the board.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

A risk can be out-thinking yourself trying to anticipate what a coordinator will do. The first point, Loggains said, is to start with your own strengths.

“We definitely look at that,” Loggains said. “As you go in the league long and longer, you face these guys, you see them in crossover games. We always know how a guy attacks a rookie quarterback or attacks a young quarterback, a veteran, or, in Matt's case, a guy who hasn't played as much.”

Evaluations of Barkley’s performance will broaden, particularly now that he is on tape for defensive coordinators to scheme for and scout. And while they are watching Barkley, the Bears are watching them.