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.

A history of the Bears who served during World War II

A history of the Bears who served during World War II

Six eventual members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the franchise's all-time leader in touchdown receptions.  

Those are among some 45 Bears from the past who served this country during wartime, one of whom made the ultimate sacrifice as we, as a nation, take some time to remember those whose lives were taken protecting our freedom.

Former LSU quarterback Young Bussey played just one year for the Bears, but was part of the 1941 Championship team, contributing two interceptions while playing in 10 of the 13 games. But teammate George McAfee was attributed as saying he was "difficult to coach," and perhaps that's why he left the NFL for the Navy in 1942 after playing for the Bears in a 34-24 win over the Chicago Cardinals on December 7, 1941, the day Pearl Harbor was bombed.

Bussey earned his way to Lieutenant, but while serving in the Phillipines during the Japanese occupation, was killed in the line of duty in 1945. He was 27.

As we should also remember every November on Veteran's Day to the many men and women who've served, the Bears had several great players, not to mention George Halas, commit to duty, as the organization captured its sixth and seventh world championships in 1943, and then when they got everyone back in 1946.

Halas was a Navy ensign at Great Lakes Naval Training Station in 1918 during World War I, then served in the Pacific Ocean for 20 months during WWII as Lieutenant Commander, released from his duties as a captain in 1946, receiving a Bronze Star, and received the highest recognition the Navy can give a civilian, the Distinguished Citizens Award.

Quarterback Sid Luckman began serving after the 1943 season, volunteering stateside as a U.S. Merchant Marine ensign. During the 1944 and 1945 seasons, the Hall of Famer would be gone during the week but granted permission to play in games on weekends. But Luckman was on his way from Britain to France when the Allied Invasion of Normandy took place on June 6, 1944.

Two key members of the franchise's war-interrupted glory days were Hall of Fame linemen. Tackle Joe Stydahar served in the Navy in 1943 and 1944. Guard Danny Fortmann served in the Pacific for the Navy the last two years of WWII. And the aforementioned Turner played in just two games for the Bears in 1945, serving stateside as an Air Force physical training instructor.

The one Bears Hall of Famer who truly lost the prime of his career to serve was George McAfee. After two stellar seasons in 1940 and 1941, he missed what would've been his next three seasons and most of a fourth while in the Navy.

Ken Kavanaugh still holds the franchise record with 50 touchdown receptions. He ran 30 bombardment missions over Europe as an Air Force pilot and captain from 1942 through 1944.

Those are the most prominent of the Bears who served but there are more than three dozen others who did as well, surviving their time, and returning home in helping protect our nation.  Halas' son-in-law Ed McCaskey, longtime Bears executive and the late husband of Virginia, won a Bronze Star, serving in the Army during World War II. And the branches of the military tree reach out to your more modern-day Bears. Head coach John Fox's dad was a Navy SEAL, and more recent players like Charles Tillman, Tommie Harris, and Jason McKie all come from military families.

Then there's the building the Bears have called home since 1971. Whatever criticisms one may have of the organization, the decision by them and the Chicago Park District not to place a sponsor's name on Soldier Field for a big payday must be respected and appreciated. "Doughboy" was the informal name given members of the Army or Marines during the first two world wars, and there's a Doughboy statue at Gate O. There's also a Medal of Honor Tribute on the south concourse, and after the renovation, a Memorial Water Wall on the north side, recognizing all who have lost their lives on duty for our country.

We're all connected, somehow, to brave family or friends who've taken it upon themselves to be ready to make the ultimate sacrifice, if called upon. On this last Monday of May, amidst the family time, the cookouts, and probably even some sports talk or sports watching that comes with it, it's also a time to remember part of the reason we're still here.

Good or better? Why offseason moves are making 2017 Bears better

Good or better? Why offseason moves are making 2017 Bears better

Improvement typically comes in incremental steps, not leaps. And the Bears of 2017, based on what they have done at a handful of positions, the latest being Thursday’s signing of wide receiver Victor Cruz, fit that template.

The clear organizational commitment is to build through the draft, even if injuries have undermined some otherwise apparent upgrades to starting lineups on both sides of the football. But if there is a “theme” to what GM Ryan Pace is doing to muscle up a sluggish roster, it is that the Bears are willing to take flyers on veteran players – with additions like four veteran wide receivers with injury and issue histories – that arguably point to a win-now mindset while draft picks develop and contribute.

Jaye Howard and John Jenkins. Make the defensive line “better?” Than Jonathan Bullard and Will Sutton, probably. But “good?” Mmmmm…..

The game-one tight ends last year were Zach Miller-Logan Paulsen-Gregg Scruggs. Now they’re Miller-Dion Sims-Adam Shaheen (based on a second-round draft choice). “Good?” Maybe, maybe not. “Better?” Obviously, based on Sims alone.

Mike Glennon-Mark Sanchez-Mitch Trubisky. Bears “better” at quarterback? Than Jay Cutler-Brian Hoyer-Matt Barkley, probably. “Good?” Mmmmmm…..

The decisions to sign Glennon and Sanchez to the quarterback depth chart have sparked their shares of understandable cynical skepticism. But Kirk Cousins and Jimmy Garoppolo were not available in trade, so the Pace decision was to gamble on upside with Glennon over the known quantity of Brian Hoyer (the preference of some coaches) and certainly Jay Cutler, for whom “potential” and “upside” no longer applied.

Add in the aggressive draft of Trubisky and the result was three possibilities of hits on a quarterback (Sanchez and Connor Shaw being combined here as a pair entry in the hit-possibility scenarios). All three were deemed an improvement over Cutler and/or Barkley.

The results may not vault the Bears all the way up to “good” at the pivotal position for any franchise. But “better” is sometimes all you can realistically manage.

Taking a wider-screen look at wide receiver in this context… .

Coach John Fox has cited the need for the Bears to establish the ability to get yardage in bigger chunks. Accordingly, all four of the veteran wideout signings this offseason – Cruz, Rueben Randle, Markus Wheaton, Kendall Wright –  have posted yards-per-catch seasons of 14 or longer.

All four won’t be on the opening-day roster, but all four offer the promise of major impact. Cruz, Randle and Wright have had seasons of 70 or more receptions, and Wheaton topped out at 53 in 2015 with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Randy Moss, Terrell Owens and Jerry Rice weren’t available, so “good” was hard to achieve in an offseason in which Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal were expected departures long before their exits. But are Cruz, Randle, Wheaton and Wright, with Kevin White and Cameron Meredith, a “better” starting point than Jeffery, Royal, White, Bellamy, etc. of a year ago?

Obviously. But players with even moderately established NFL “names” (like Cruz, Randle, etal.) are typically available for a reason; teams do not routinely give up on talent. And none of the four come without significant shadows on their NFL resumes, whether for injury or other questions.

Cruz missed most of 2014 and all of the 2015 season, and hasn’t played a full season since his Pro Bowl year of 2012.

Randle was described as a head case by scouts and was so bad that he was let go in the Eagles’ cutdown to 75 last year, followed by disparaging comments from those in and around the organization.

Wheaton flashed promise in his 2014-15 opportunities as a part-time starter but played just three games before a shoulder injury landed him on IR last season.

The Tennessee Titans thought enough of Wright, their 2012 first-round draft choice, to pick up his fifth-year option going into las season. But by week 14 he was benched for tardiness and was a healthy DNP in game 16, announcing after the game that he already knew he was not in the Titans’ plans for 2017.

The prospect of the Bears going from 3-13 to “good” borders on fantasy. But if being among the NFL’s busiest this offseason hasn’t propelled the Bears to that level, the results point to “better.” At this point, that’s something,.