15 on 6: Player safety a concern at TCF Bank Stadium

15 on 6: Player safety a concern at TCF Bank Stadium

Monday, Dec. 20, 2010
9:14 AM

By Jim MillerCSNChicago.com

Jay Cutler and a few Bears have been critical of the league allowing Monday night's game to be played outdoors at TCF Bank Stadium at the University of Minnesota. The players have a point because the stadium was not built to host games after November. More importantly, it's all politics playing into the ongoing Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations. Hypocrisy is again being displayed by the NFL where the players feel obligated to make a good point to the public through the media. The league has been cracking down on helmet to helmet hits more than ever this year. Commissioner Roger Goodell says "it's all about player safety", which is baloney with his latest decision to play at TCF. It's all about increasing revenues by going to an 18-game schedule along with CYA. There simply will not be enough players to accomplish the goal of 18 games. Injuries are at a record number in 2010. Players placed on Injured Reserve is even worse, up by more than 50 players compared to last year. Even with these record numbers, the owner's standpoint is the desire to play two more games with no increase in pay. You cannot be serious or even remotely make this up! Thus, the league for public image concerns, wanted to take a stronger stance on safety because concussions are all the rage lately in the media. Show sympathy to the public and indicate they are addressing the issue. Can any rational person, business, or industry concerned about safety really subject its workers to head injuries by playing on a block of ice? Almost laughable when you think about it!

Bigger Picture

Increase the rosters to 68, allow teams to placeactivate players from IR at any point of season, and add two more weeks pay. A simple solution, but owners do not want costs of two more weeks pay or any increased player costs with increased roster size. Amazing how we all want things for free, even though numbers prove teams will not be able to field a team for 18 games with the current injury situation and how Injured reserve is utilized. The current roster is 57, but 68 is just a number in my head that I feel is sufficient. It is a buffer number. A team can probably get away with 6465 but a lot of guys practice who should not be due to injuries. Extra bodies should be agreeable with owners because:

1. Owners would be protecting their biggest investments (marquee playershigh priced contracts who need to rest rather than practice). It enables the best product to get on the field which fans are paying to see.

2. Owners could be developing a future NFL star player for practice squad compensation. (RB Arian Foster of the Texans is leading the league in rushing right now, that is called return on investment. He may be the Texans only bright spot of the season.)

3. The Key is: scoutingpersonnel department need to be earning their keep with correct analysis of players added to the roster, allows teams to develop players into their system, teams will be more capable dealing with injuries that currently derail a season. Teams ultimately, would be more competitive which giving them a better opportunity to contend for postseason play where owners make a lot of money. (The last point I will get into in a future blog as the Bears will be in postseason play).

As a former player, I could not care less and current players could not care less where they are playing tonight's game. It's just political posturing because players who love the game know this is how all games should be played. Which is outdoors in the elements! How you adjust and prepare for playing in the elements, the playing surface, and playing gear, all factor into the outcome of the game. The team most prepared to execute their game plan along with the aforementioned will win.

Jay's elements

Tom Brady made it look like it was 80 degrees and sunny when dismantling the Bears. I thought it was odd Cutler did not scrub down the game balls prior to every game. Almost all starters in the NFL do it including Brady. For those not in the know, there is an allotment of footballs used in every game provided by both teams. They are inspected by officials for scuffs, air pressure, etc. to ensure they are legal and regulation. When regulation footballs come out of the box brand new, they have a layer of film on them which becomes slick in cold or wet weather. Did this slickness contribute to Johnny Knox fumbling the ball that was returned for a touchdown against the Patriots? Point is, the QB is not the only one handling the football and you need to give your team the best chance to win. I used to pay the equipment managers to scrub down every ball weekly. Then I inspected each to ensure they were perfect. In 2001 we led the league with the least amount of turnovers. Turnovers are the biggest factor in deciding the outcome of a game. Turnovers are too big a statistic to ignore. I would suggest Jay start having it done.

Jim Miller, an 11-year former NFL quarterback, is a Comcast SportsNet Bears analyst who can be seen each week on U.S. Cellular Bears Postgame Live. Miller, who spent five seasons with the Bears, analyzes current Chicago QB Jay Cutler in his "15 on 6" blog on CSNChicago.com and can be followed on Twitter @15miller.

The 5 Bears players with the most to prove in training camp

The 5 Bears players with the most to prove in training camp

1. Mike Glennon

Glennon is, for now, the Bears’ unquestioned starting quarterback — a role the Bears made clear he wasn’t going to lose after drafting Mitch Trubisky with the second overall pick in April. It would take a monumental effort from Trubisky — and a disappointing one from Glennon — for that to change. But Glennon has only attempted 11 more passes in the NFL than Trubisky since the beginning of the 2015 season, leaving plenty of uncertainty heading to Bourbonnais. Glennon’s three-year, $45 million contract is structured so the Bears could cut him for $2.5 million next spring, and with a highly-touted player developing behind him, he may not have as much leeway as his contract would appear to give him. As Glennon put it in May: “This is my year. There are no guarantees in the NFL.” The 27-year-old is well aware this year is his best opportunity to prove, either to the Bears or the rest of the league, that he’s capable of being a successful starting quarterback. That process begins in earnest this week. 

2. Mitch Trubisky

While it remains unlikely that Trubisky will be the Bears’ Week 1 starter, if he proves to be better than Glennon at the end of August…why would he not be the starter? It’s not a simple yes or no question, given Trubisky has to learn a largely different offense than the one he ran in college (unlike Philadelphia’s No. 2 pick, Carson Wentz, a year ago) and only started 13 games since leaving high school in Mentor, Ohio. But it’s the job of John Fox and his coaching staff to win games, and if they come to a consensus that Trubisky gives them a better chance of winning, then it would make sense for him to start. What’s more likely in reach for Trubisky during training camp is showing enough to the coaching staff to lay the foundation for him to play in 2017, either as a substitute or as a starter later in the season. 

3. Kevin White

Aside from the quarterbacks, it’s hard to think of a player with more to prove than White. It’s too early to label White a bust, given those two leg injuries limited him four games in his first two years, but the Bears at least need him to be healthy this year to start to figure out what they have in the former seventh overall pick. White was targeted 36 times before suffering his season-ending injury last year and averaged 5.19 yards per target, which was the third-lowest average among receivers with at least 35 targets in 2016. That's surprising for a guy who was drafted with such good speed, so not only will White have to prove he can stay healthy, but he'll have to prove he can be more productive within the Bears' offense. 

4. Leonard Floyd

While White may have the most to prove, Floyd probably has the highest expectations placed upon him in 2017. Floyd’s 7 1/2 sacks last year were promising, and he appears to be past the scary post-concussion malaise he suffered in January and February. If Floyd grows into a double-digit sack guy for the Bears this year, he could be the catalyst for some significant improvements for the entire defense (a better pass rush begets more opportunities for interceptions, etc.). But he’ll also have to prove the issues that led to those two concussions last year — chiefly, poor tackling form — are a thing of the past, and that he’s able to make that Year 1 to Year 2 leap the Bears think he can. 

5. Kyle Fuller

Fuller faces an uphill climb to make the Bears’ 53-man roster, so what he’s trying to prove may be of more value to finding a post-Chicago landing spot. Vic Fangio’s pointed comments about Fuller’s willingness (or lack thereof) to play last year cast doubt on his future, but he’s still still here after being neither cut nor traded in the offseason. The Bears declined Fuller's fifth-year option earlier this year, though, so training camp may be Fuller's last chance at sticking in the NFL, either with the Bears or elsewhere. 

Bullard a prime example of how, why and where Bears can improve

Bullard a prime example of how, why and where Bears can improve

This Bears rebuild has taken longer than expected. Ideally, in year three of a GM/head coach tandem, they should be contending for the playoffs. 

That’s not to say the 2017 Bears can’t. It’s just unlikely. They don’t have enough players opponents have to gameplan for. They don’t have the depth to overcome key injuries. When franchises get on a winning roll, it’s when they have enough of those studs on both sides of the ball, and have the depth to avoid as many emergencies as possible. And that happens when second- and third-year players make a jump in their play.

Offensively, we saw an impressive jump by Cam Meredith, but another left leg injury still have us wondering exactly what Kevin White is, and how good he can be. Jeremy Langford’s growth was stunted by his ankle injury. Second-year center Hroniss Grasu missed the entire year. On the defensive side, we never got to see if Kyle Fuller could’ve proven his first-round status in his third year. Safety Adrian Amos started another full season, but is now in a battle to do the same a third straight year. We can see star qualities in Eddie Goldman, but how much of a difference-maker can he be by remaining on the field? We’ll learn the same about Leonard Floyd if he can do that this fall. And there are a handful of other second-year players we’ll be watching, from Deon Bush to Deiondre Hall to Cre’Von LeBlanc. There’s also 2016 third-round pick Jonathan Bullard, who learned what it took to become a 3-4 defensive end in the NFL.

“It was okay. I got about 17 snaps a game,” Bullard said of his rookie season during last month’s minicamp. “That’s not what I wanted coming in. But it is what is. I want to move on to the next year and hopefully be able to help this team in a big way.”

Rookie seasons for every player lay the groundwork. How high their ceiling goes starts to get established in year two, between the player’s effort, and getting coached-up correctly.

“They asked me to gain a few pounds. I was like 282 last year, and right now I’m at 296, so hopefully that helps me, said Bullard. “I’m just trying to make all this solid and not lose my burst that got me here. So I’m looking forward to it. I got a year under my belt now, I know what they expect. I’m gonna be ready.”

Part of Bullard taking things upon himself was hooking up with a former defensive end, from the same alma mater, who happens to be fourth in franchise history in sacks (albeit in a 4-3 scheme): CSN’s very own Bears analyst, Alex Brown.

“We saw each other at the Florida spring game and we kind of linked up and put in some work at his facility down the road,” Bullard explained. “We’ve met up quite a few times, just working on little things. He’s just trying to give me a better understanding of the game, and some of the veteran things he knows that I want to incorporate into my game.”

So what kind of a teacher is Alex?

“He’s alright. I make him him jump in there. I tell him he’s not that old.”

And while Pace didn’t make the big splash in free agency as he tries to match up salary with his grades for players, Bullard has to prove he’s now better than last year’s starter, Mitch Unrein, as well as a hungry fellow former Gator, Jaye Howard, who was brought in on a “prove it” one-year deal after being cut just before the draft by Kansas City.

“As far as him being a Gator, it’s exciting. But it’s a competition. He’s gonna come in and try to win the starting job, and I’m gonna do the same. It’s just gonna have to be a friendly competition when training camp comes, and may the best man win.”

Let this, and many other Bourbonnais battles, begin.