Boden: Welcome to the crossroads of the Bears' season

929569.png

Boden: Welcome to the crossroads of the Bears' season

A year ago, the Bears celebrated Thanksgiving grateful to have a five-game winning streak that improved their record to 7-3, before feeling indigestion about the loss of Jay Cutler the rest of the season with his broken thumb.

They celebrated this year, also 7-3 under the unknown of when they'd get Cutler back from his concussion, with the knowledge in the back of their minds that whenever their No. 1 quarterback gets back out there, another blow anytime soon like the one that knocked him out against Houston would likely end his 2012 season for good.

At this time last season, they were undone by backup quarterback ineptitude (and a Matt Forte injury) as the offensive line finally stabilized after some early experimentation by exasperation.

But Phil Emery's trust (and belief?) in the staff he inherited placed offseason O-line improvements down the priority list behind stud wideout, backup quarterback and Forte insurance - from injury and contract. Now, here the Bears stand through 10 games with a line that seems to take two or three steps back with every step forward. And two new starters.

So will this Band-Aid (and the hoped-for health of Cutler) produce better than the 1-5 finish of last season? Can J'Marcus Webb and Chris Spencer (the same tandem that saw Clay Matthews zip past them for 3-12 sacks the last time they started together) keep Jared Allen without a sack for the third straight game? Allen had 3-12 sacks vs. Webb the last time these two squared off. Combine Allen with Brian Robison and Everson Griffen, and those Vikes defensive ends have combined for 16-12 sacks this year. Just so Jonathan Scott's aware, too, as he makes his first Bears start, sliding in for Gabe Carimi.

However they get it done, these next two home games loom monumental for how the rest of the season may unfold. Minnesota and Seattle are both 6-4, a game behind the Bears, and on the NFC playoiff bubble. The former 7-1 Bears would put themselves on that bubble if they don't deliver setbacks to the Vikings' and Seahawks' postseason aspirations.

And that's not even considering the rematch with the Vikes in two weeks, followed by Green Bay, the lone home game in the final four of the regular season.

So does 7-3 turn into 7-5 if the Bears take the wrong path? Or 8-4 or 9-3 with the right one, no matter the obstacles that might be in their way?

Offensive coordinator Mike Tice said it about his offensive linemen Wednesday, but it really applies throughout the roster, as this team is starting to really feel some heat for the first time this season, coinciding with improved competition:

"At a certain point, a guy needs to grit his teeth, buck up and win a fight," Tice said this week.

These next two (three? four?) opponents will be fighting to keep playoff dreams alive. The Bears will need to approach it the same way. If not, "too late" often comes quicker than anyone sees it coming.

Fire showing patience with emotional Dax McCarty

Fire showing patience with emotional Dax McCarty

The Chicago Fire opened its preseason on Monday, but much of the focus was on a player that wasn’t there: Dax McCarty.

The Fire traded for the midfielder from the New York Red Bulls last week and he is in camp with the U.S. national team.

Leaving New York hasn’t been easy for McCarty. He tweeted a lengthy thank you note to Red Bull fans on Sunday and still hasn’t mentioned anything about the Fire publically.

Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez and coach Veljko Paunovic visited McCarty at national team camp last week to make introductions.

“We obviously knew that this had to come as a surprise to him,” Rodriguez said on Monday. “A captain of another team, he had just gotten married. There’s never a good time to have unexpected change hit you.”

Getting McCarty on board with what the club is building is going to be key for the team’s success in 2017. Integrating McCarty and the other high-profile offseason additions, fellow midfielder Juninho and striker Nemanja Nikolic, into what Paunovic wants to implement will play a big role in how the Fire start the season. In order to do so effectively means making McCarty happy with his new team.

“For sure he’s a very, very emotional guy,” Paunovic said. “I like the way he expressed how he feels at this point. We all have to empathize with that and respect his time and the situation that he is going through.”

As poor as the timing of McCarty being traded two days after getting married was, it could be to the Fire’s benefit that McCarty is with the national team now and can have some time to process the change before arriving in preseason camp with the Fire in Florida in February.

“We are waiting for him here with open arms and waiting for him to come back, to handle all this situation, to go through that, then come here clear with desire that he played so far, with the same passion, with the same effort on and off the field and for sure with leadership that he will bring to our locker room,” Paunovic said.

For now, both Rodriguez and Paunovic are preaching patience. Rodriguez said McCarty was the top target of the Fire and said the move was six months in the making.

“We respected his need to breathe and to have time to go through his emotions, to spend time with his wife,” Rodriguez said. “I think everything will come in its due course and when his time with the national team camp ends we’ll give him a little time that he might need to recover from that camp and to attend to some personal matters and we’ll embrace him when he comes.

“For those of us that are married we know that happy wife equals happy life so we have work to do with Dax and his wife and his family and having them feel comfortable about Chicago. They were looking to put down roots in New York. Whether it’s unexpected like that or it’s someone like Nemanja Nikolic who chose us and chose to come here, we still have to work with him and his family and acclimating them. Our approach and our attitude is the same, although the circumstances are different. We have to be empathetic to the sensitivity that Dax and his wife are going through.”

CSN to carry expanded, live SoxFest 2017 opening night coverage

soxfest_friday.jpg

CSN to carry expanded, live SoxFest 2017 opening night coverage

4:00 PM on CSN & CSNChicago.com -- LIVE SoxFest 2017 “Opening Ceremonies” coverage - hosted by Chuck Garfien & CSNChicago.com White Sox “Insider” Dan Hayes,

featuring live interviews with numerous White Sox players, coaches, and front office execs!

5:00 PM on CSN -- Special SoxFest 2017 edition of “SportsTalk Live” - hosted by David Kaplan featuring special White Sox guests!

Complete SoxFest coverage throughout the weekend on CSNChicago.com’s ‘WhiteSoxTalk’ section via reports from Garfien, Hayes, CSN White Sox beat reporter Siera Santos, and White Sox digital reporters JJ Stankevitz & Paul Roumeliotis, which will include even more player/coaches/front office interviews, along with panel discussion highlights and much more!

Social media highlights on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat to include the latest Convention news, live streaming segments, and special CSN prize giveaway details! 

Chicago, IL (January 24, 2017) – CSN Chicago (CSN), the television home for the most games and the most comprehensive coverage of the Chicago White Sox, is ready to start up the 2017 MLB season in a big way with expanded, live Opening Night coverage from “SoxFest 2017,” which will be held downtown this weekend (January 27-29) at the Hilton Chicago.

On Friday, January 27 beginning at 4:00 PM CT on CSN & CSNChicago.com, viewers can look forward to every thrill-packed moment of “SoxFest 2017’s” Opening Ceremonies featuring introductions of White Sox players/coaches/broadcasters/front office executives, plus video montages, and much more.  CSN’s “SoxFest 2017” Opening Ceremonies coverage will be hosted by White Sox Pre/Post Game Live host Chuck Garfien and CSNChicago.com White Sox “Insider” Dan Hayes, which will feature live interviews with White Sox players, coaches, and team VIP’s.

Immediately following the Opening Ceremonies coverage at 5:00 PM, CSN’s “SoxFest” coverage continues with live player/coaches/team exec interviews from the annual fan convention, along with detailed 2017 White Sox discussion, on SportsTalk Live presented by The Chevy Silverado (hosted by David Kaplan).

Throughout the weekend, fans can look forward to even more comprehensive SoxFest coverage on CSNChicago.com’s WhiteSoxTalk section (csnchicago.com/white-sox) featuring additional players/coaches/front office executive interviews, feature stories, fan reaction, photos, videos and much more to be provided via Garfien, Hayes, CSN White Sox beat reporter Siera Santos, CSNChicago.com White Sox digital baseball reporters JJ Stankevitz & Paul Roumeliotis, along the CSN’s team of behind-the-scenes White Sox experts. 

From a social media standpoint, fans can follow “SoxFest” updates all weekend long via Twitter from Garfien (@ChuckGarfien), Hayes (@CSNHayes), Santos (@SieraSantos), and Stankevitz-Roumeliotis/WhiteSoxTalk (@CSNWhiteSox). Twitter and Facebook followers will also be able to gain access to the latest fan convention news, live streaming, and information on special prizes to be given away at CSN’s “SoxFest” booth.

In addition, fans are urged to follow @CSNChicago on Instagram & Snapchat for enhanced, exclusive content featuring real-time sights and sounds to experience all the exciting weekend festivities.  Plus, fans can also get interactive with CSN’s “SoxFest” coverage throughout the weekend by utilizing the social media hashtag #WhiteSoxTalk.

Fans are also urged to stop by CSN’s “SoxFest” booth this weekend for autograph signings featuring scheduled appearances by CSN White Sox announcers Ken “Hawk” Harrelson, Steve Stone, and Jason Benetti, along with special, exclusive “player experiences,” where fans can meet White Sox stars for autographs, take selfies, and much more!  Fans in attendance need to follow CSN’s White Sox Twitter handle (@CSNWhiteSox) for full details about the player experience opportunities. In addition, fans can even pick up special CSN White Sox-themed giveaways throughout “SoxFest” weekend (while supplies last).