Chicago Bears

Brooks, Mirer reflect on '92 Snow Bowl (7 p.m., CSN)


Brooks, Mirer reflect on '92 Snow Bowl (7 p.m., CSN)

Comcast SportsNet will air a Notre Dame Football Classic tonight at 7 p.m., with 1992's Penn State-Notre Dame "Snow Bowl" being replayed. CSN caught up with quarterback Rick Mirer and running back Reggie Brooks -- who linked up on the game-winning two-point conversion -- about their experiences from that game 20 years ago.

Twenty years before conference realignment tore apart plenty of heated rivalries, Notre Dame's 1992 tilt against Penn State looked like the end of an era. The two teams met for the 10th consecutive year in 1992, but with the Nittany Lions scheduled to join the Big Ten in 1993, it was the last scheduled meetings of a series that grew competitive over the previous decade.

"It was a good rivalry," quarterback Rick Mirer recalled in an interview with Comcast SportsNet. "We were very much alike, and it was two good teams, usually. We had a lot of respect those guys, but it was our last chance to play on our home field, and thats the way we looked at it."

For Mirer and the rest of Notre Dame's seniors, it was their final game at Notre Dame Stadium, and stands as one of their more memorable contests in South Bend. Snow hit midway through the game and kept scoring low, with the two teams tied at 9 going into the fourth.

After Penn State got in the end zone with under five minutes left, Mirer, Jerome Bettis and Reggie Brooks steered one of the more memorable drives in team history. It culminated with a fourth-and-goal from the three, with Mirer floating a touchdown pass to Bettis that brought Notre Dame within one.

From there, Notre Dame went for two. Mirer explains: "in those days, we had ties. We had already tied Michigan and it didn't feel very good. We didn't want to go through that again."

So Lou Holtz and Notre Dame decided to go for two, with one play deciding whether the Irish would win or lose. But the Irish already used their go-to two-point conversion play on fourth down.

Mirer would up improvising on the play -- he referred to it as kind of like "streetball" -- rolling to his right and spotting an open Brooks in the end zone.

"It was kind of surreal. Everything slows down," Brooks said. "The play broke down, and things were kind of hectic, if you will. But as I watched the ball coming in, it seemed like it was coming in slow motion. And for a minute there, I didnt think I was going to get to it because it was so far outside. I just reached out, laid out and made the play that was there to be made."

Brooks' diving catch secured a win for Notre Dame over then-No. 22 Penn State, and his already-heroic grab was even more impressive given it was only his second catch of the entire season.

"I definitely didnt think it was coming to me," Brooks explained. "In practice, I didnt wear my contacts, so I didnt catch a lot of balls. But I did wear them in the game -- what happens in practice is whats relayed in the game, so I was not a very reliable receiver at the time."

"What a great time to catch the one that mattered," Mirer added.

Shunning hypotheticals, Bears aren’t setting a timetable for Pernell McPhee

Shunning hypotheticals, Bears aren’t setting a timetable for Pernell McPhee

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. — While John Fox said Pernell McPhee is “truly day to day” after being placed on the physically unable to perform Wednesday, he didn’t want to delve into a timetable for one of the key players in the Bears’ pass rush.

Fox said the Bears found a “little irregularity” in McPhee’s right knee — not the same one that troubled him last year — during a physical on Wednesday and decided to place the 28-year-old on the PUP list. McPhee will continue to receive treatment in Bourbonnais and can attend all team meetings, and could be removed from the PUP list at any time.

“I hate to get into that hypothetical stuff,” Fox said. “We did that a couple years ago (with Kevin White) and it kind of bit us so we'll just let the doctors evaluate it and when we're ready to give you something concrete, we'll give it to you.”

McPhee was placed on the PUP list prior to last year’s training camp and missed the first six games of the regular season. His absence was one of many for an injury-addled Bears pass rush that also was without LaMarr Houston for 14 games and Leonard Floyd for four games.

If McPhee winds up in danger of missing time early in the regular season, though, it could bolster Houston’s chances of making the Bears’ 53-man roster. A thought regarding Houston, who had eight sacks in 2015 but has missed a total of 22 games in three years in Chicago, was that the Bears would cut him and clear about $5 million worth of cap space. But the team needs depth behind Willie Young and Leonard Floyd, and Houston certainly would fit the bill to fill it (provided he’s back to 100 percent, too).

For now, though, the Bears are in wait-and-see mode with McPhee and aren’t indicating one way or the other what his future status could be.

“When you go on PUP it could be a day or it could be a week,” Fox said. “It could be, I mean, he might be fine and  then you’re back off of PUP. I don’t know.”

Recovering from injury and switching positions, there's a lot on Kyle Long's plate at Bears training camp


Recovering from injury and switching positions, there's a lot on Kyle Long's plate at Bears training camp

BOURBONNAIS — Saying that it’s been a tough offseason for Kyle Long would be putting it mildly.

Long has been recovering from a pair of injuries, a serious one to his ankle that required surgery and another to his shoulder. On top of that, the Bears are moving him to the other side of the offensive line, switching his position for the second time since he arrived in Chicago by moving him from right guard to left guard.

All that has made for a pretty crazy few months. So being back with the Bears for the first day of training camp allowed Long a return to normalcy that has been evasive for some time.

“First time being away from the team for that extended period. First time missing any games, like not being able to be on the sideline for games,” Long said Thursday. “Mobility was really tough. Gives you an appreciation for your health, and it makes you feel sympathetic and empathy toward people who don’t have great mobility. So I’m really trying to get back to where I was and keeping it that way.”

Long previously revealed that he lost a good deal of weight while recovering. He added Thursday that his body didn’t react well to medication he was taking. The best way he described a challenging recovery period was perhaps also the scariest.

“It just doesn’t make you feel like you,” Long said. “And I don’t like to be in that state.”

So being able to play football again is a welcome reality for the guy who’s arguably been the Bears’ best player for several seasons now.

Thing is, even that is providing a challenge for Long.

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Changing positions is nothing new for the Oregon product, as the Bears shifted him from right guard to right tackle two years ago. Now he’s getting another new position, a move to left guard.

Long’s being a good sport about it and expressed excitement over getting to play a new position. But it’s another major thing added to this offseason — and now preseason — whirlwind.

“I like it. It’s fun. It’s a different view on things,” Long said.

“Be patient, but also understand that every rep is an opportunity to learn. You’ll be humbled over and over and over again, but you keep showing up, you keep swinging. You can only play one play at a time.

“There’s certain things that bug you as a player and there are certain things that are out of your control, and then there are certain things you can capitalize on, that I can take the knowledge I have acquired over the last few years at guard and at tackle and apply it to my new position. … We have a lot of guys in the room who can help me out as well. I just need to take it one day at a time.”

So entering this new season, there seems to be nothing but question marks surrounding the two-time Pro Bowler: Will Long return to full health by the start of the regular season? Will the transition to the left side of the line go smoothly? Will Long be the type of elite offensive lineman he’s been in the past?

Those are enough uncertainties to make anyone concerned. How’s Long handling things?

“I wouldn’t say I have a lot of anxiety in regards to my health and my future. I would say that there’s a lot of pressure. Pressure’s good. I’ve got to fight pressure with pressure. I’ve got to work harder and harder in the training room, in the weight room and on the field.

“There’s no real timetable right now, I’m just happy to be out here. Coach is letting me ease back into it. I knew it was going to be a long process when I initially got injured, and I don’t think the timing could have been much worse there toward the end of the season.

“But the cards are what they are, and we’ve got to play the hell out of them.”