Bears in good shape with Rodgers in Minnesota

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Bears in good shape with Rodgers in Minnesota

The Bears will need to take care of business first, but if they can get past the Lions in their season finale Sunday afternoon they stand a better than decent chance of making the playoffs.
That's because the second half of their "needs-to-happen scenario" involves Aaron Rodgers playing at 3:25 in Minnesota, where he has played as well as any venue, Lambeau Field included, the last three seasons.
Rodgers, who quietly is putting together an MVP-caliber season, leads the NFL in passer rating (106.2), is second in touchdown passes (35) and ninth in passing yards (3,930) despite being sacked an NFC-high 46 times.
He is 6-3 as a starter against the Vikings, including wins in the last five meetings; he's also gone on the road to beat Minnesota in each of the last two seasons. And in the last three contests against his division foe to the north, Rodgers has averaged 340 yards on 73 percent passing and nine touchdowns to just one interception, good for a scorching passer rating of 133.0.
The Packers have averaged 29 points in those three games, and it's Rodgers' poise and ability to exploit defenses on a fast surface that has led the way. In fact, Rodgers has played 17 games indoors in his eight-year career and has a passer rating of 114.7, more than 12 points higher than his passer rating outdoors (101.9).
Earlier this year, the Packers' defense forced two red zone turnovers against Christian Ponder to help them hang on to a 23-14 home win. The Vikings will grab the NFC's No. 6 seed with a win, while the Bears (assuming a win over Detroit) would earn the seed if Rodgers takes care of business.
The Packers have a stake in Sunday's game as well. With a win or a 49ers loss, Green Bay would secure the No. 2 seed in the NFC and a bye to the Divisonal Round. San Francisco also plays late (vs. Arizona), so the Packers won't know whether they have their seeding locked up when they take the Metrodome field. The Packers and Bears can not play until the NFC Championship game.
Lovie Smith and the Bears have noted all week that they are solely focused on their own matchup, and rightfully so. The Packers-Vikings result won't mean anything if the Bears can't shut down Calvin Johnson and co. on the road. But if they do pick up a road win and move to 10-6, the last game they need to fall right will be led by a red-hot Rodgers playing in one of his most successful venues.

Can Deiondre' Hall overcome on- and off-field hurdles to make an impact with Bears?

Can Deiondre' Hall overcome on- and off-field hurdles to make an impact with Bears?

Rookie Deiondre' Hall flashed in the preseason a year ago, leading the Bears coaching staff and fans to believe they found something amidst their trio of 2016 fourth round draft picks. 

He’s hoping to do the same this August after overcoming one physical hurdle, while waiting to see if he can get past a legal hurdle he created for himself.

Let’s start on the field, where, just days after his first NFL interception in the fourth game last season, he sustained an ankle injury in practice, sidelining him for two months. Once his walking boot and scooter were finally put away, he was active for the final four games. But what progress he’d been making on the field was difficult to recapture.

“Just coming off the injury, there was a little rust here and there, but the training staff here’s great and I had to push through it,” Hall said at last week’s minicamp in Lake Forest after he was one of numerous Bears hit by the injury bug, but not one of the 19 who wound up on Injured Reserve. “(I was) getting comfortable with the defense and in myself playing with those guys out there, getting the opportunity in the red zone and making plays. But the injury kinda sucked because I haven’t really had an opportunity to play since Week 5, so I’m not necessarily starting fresh.”

As the offseason unfolded, Hall was informed the coaching staff was going to try him at safety, if not permanently, then as an option for the 6-foot-2, 201-pound Northern Iowa product. 

But Hall’s not totally foreign to the position. He was a free safety his first year in college, then transitioned to outside linebacker/nickel as a sophomore, moved to cornerback as a junior before breaking his hand his senior year, playing through it back where he started at safety. So the decision wasn’t a big deal, especially if it enhances his chances to get on the field. But his preference?

“Defense. Opportunity,” Hall responded. “You get in where you fit in and the more you can do, the better it is for the team. If opportunity presents itself at corner, then I’m at corner. But right now at safety, I’m making strides (there) and keep pushing for that.”

“We’re gonna float him back and forth,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said last month, after the Bears signed free agent cornerbacks Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper in the off-season, while Bryce Callahan and Cre’Von LeBlanc are expected to battle for slot duty and former first-rounder Kyle Fuller and veterans Johnthan Banks and B.W. Webb hope to impress. “He (Hall) had some experience there in college. When it comes down to picking your team and you’re taking nine or 10 DBs, if someone’s got versatility to play both of those spots, that helps, so we’re gonna see if he’s one of those guys.”

But before Hall gets back to work in Bourbonnais, he’ll find out if he has some other dues to pay. Hall was back at his alma mater’s Cedar Falls campus March 26th when he and a former UNI teammate were arrested outside a bar called Sharky’s. Police had responded to a call, and by the time all was said and done, Hall needed to be tased before being arrested on charges of public intoxication, interference (with an arrest), and disorderly conduct. 

The case was continued late last month and Hall’s jury trial is scheduled for July 11th. Pending the outcome, he could face disciplinary action from the team and the NFL. He’s told his side of the story to Bears management and while expressing remorse for putting himself in the situation, Hall says it wasn’t in character and feels confident in what the outcome will be.

“People make mistakes and the truth always comes out,” the 23-year-old said, adding the situation isn’t weighing on his mind or affected his preparation in off-season workouts. “You gotta let people make their own mistakes. I won’t shed light but the truth always comes out, and (I’ve learned) just don’t take anything for granted.”

“My main focus is football and keep pushing to make strides to become good, and great.”

Bears announce training camp schedule

Bears announce training camp schedule

The Bears released their official training camp schedule Thursday morning. After reporting to Olivet Nazarene on Wednesday, July 26, the first of ten practices open to the public will take place the following day. The Bears will be based out of Bourbonnais for the 16th straight season. Training camp will go through Sunday, Aug. 13 before the Bears break camp and finish the preseason in Lake Forest. 

All practices are tentatively scheduled to start at various times during the 11 a.m. hour with the exception of Saturday, Aug. 13, which starts at 12:05 p.m. Those times are subject to change based on weather, and a varying set of schedules that John Fox and his coaching staff have set up, as they adjust to player and training staff preferences in hopes of reducing injuries. 

Also, new this season, fans wanting to attend practices must order free tickets in advance through the Bears website. Fans will not be allowed in without a ticket, and the first 1,000 fans each day will be given various souvenirs. The practice campus will be open to the public with tickets from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Here is the full training camp schedule: