Dent honorary captain; Harris: I'm playing

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Dent honorary captain; Harris: I'm playing

Friday, Jan. 21, 2011
Posted: 12:47 p.m. Updated: 5:08 p.m.
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Former Chicago Bears defensive end Richard Dent, the team's all-time sack leader, MVP of Super Bowl XX and Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2011 finalist, will serve as the team's honorary captain for Sunday's NFC Championship at Soldier Field.

In two stints spanning 12 years with the Bears, Dent recorded a franchise record 124.5 sacks. He recorded a Chicago single-season record and career-high 17.5 sacks in 1984. Dent totaled eight double-digit sack seasons as a Bear while leading the team in sacks eight times.

Dent played professional football for a total of 15 years, also earning a Super Bowl ring with San Francisco in 1994, finishing with 137.5 career sacks, tied for sixth all-time in the NFL.

Im playing

He may not be taking all the practice reps yet but safety Chris Harris was firm Friday: He is playing against the Green Bay Packers Sunday.

Harris hip pointer kept him out of practice Wednesday and Thursday but I feel a lot better than I did previous days, Harris said after practice Friday. Im playing. Im definitely playing.

A hip pointer can be painful and coaches may face a decision on whether he at his current level or Craig Steltz, on the inactive list seven games this season, makes more sense against a Green Bay offense that averages 24.3 points per game (10th in the NFL).

The Bears defense, whether in Cover-2 mode or other, requires strong safety play and decision-making and Harris is not going to create a problem just so he can be on the field.

If it happens to bother me, I will definitely come out of the game, Harris said.

Love the matchup classic vs. classic

Lovie Smith has had to defend (well, not really defend) his Cover-2 defensive scheme from critics who havent always had a real grasp of what he and coordinator Rod Marinelli actually do run and when.

The unit has been a top-10 defense in myriad areas in multiple years and with different personnel. Which makes you wonder Does Mike McCarthy up in Green Bay have to keep defending use of the West Coast offense?

Obvious answer: no. The reality is that the reason the West Coast system has worked well and for a long, long time by NFL standards is because it has been adapted by its various practitioners. Just as Smith has created his own version of the defense he learned under Tony Dungy.

You do have to love this matchup within the matchup: West Coast system vs. Cover-2.

For the record, the Bears handled Andy Reids version of the West Coast in their win over the Philadelphia Eagles. They allowed no more than 17 points in the Green Bay games (17 and 10) and Mike Shanahans Washington version only put up 17 and that was with one of DeAngelo Halls four interceptions going 92 yards the other way for 7 points.

Matt Hasselbeck is pure West Coast from his years with Mike Holmgren in Green Bay and Seattle. The Seahawks nicked the Bears in their regular-season meeting with help from the old Mike Martz offense calling 47 pass plays, 12 runs and controlling the ball less than 26 minutes.

Well throw out the divisional game just because of the injury to tight end John Carlson, a big part of Hasselbecks West Coast base. But the Seahawks did only total 96 yards and zero points in the first half before the Bears took their feet off the gas defensively.

Sometimes ya gotta love the classics.

James who?

Green Bay lost its running game opening day when tailback Ryan Grant was lost to an ankle injury for the year. It seemed to get it back when James Starks came of the physically unable to perform list, got in several late-season games, including one against the Bears, and then stunned the Philadelphia Eagles with 123 yards on 23 carries in the wild-card game.

The Bears rank 2nd in the NFL in rushing defense, allowing 90 yards per game. The Giants Ahmad Bradshaw (129) and Washingtons Ryan Torain (125) have been the only backs to gain 100 yards on the Bears this season and they dont exactly expect Starks to become the third.

As far as what makes Starks tough to bring down, linebacker Brian Urlacher wasnt sure the question even pertained to the Bears.

Tough, for other teams? Urlacher said. The point isnt Starks; its the Bears. We run to the football. Thats what we do really well. We get a lot of guys to the football. We havent missed a lot of tackles this year, but when we do we have guys running to the football to get him down so well keep doing that.

Distant rivalry

The Bear-Packer rivalry is certainly a competition of long standing. But it rarely has extended into the postseason.

Not only is this just the second time the two teams have faced each other in the playoffs. It also is only the fourth time the two teams have even been in the playoffs in the same year. Its difficult to have a true rivalry when one side of the situation is good and the other is bad, which was the case for too many seasons.

Besides the 1941 one-game playoff to decide the Western Conference, both reached the 1994 playoffs as wild cards. Both won in that round but lost big to other opponents in the divisional round.

The Bears won the division in 2001, Green Bay qualified and won a round as a wild card, but both lost big again in the divisional round.

This year, things were different.

Rivalry perspective

For many Bears the single most important aspect of Sundays game is not that its against Green Bay. Its that the game is the final step to the Super Bowl.

Same in Green Bay. As far as added significance to the game, For me personally, not really, said linebacker Clay Matthews. Obviously you want to beat them with everything that goes on between Chicago and Green Bay and the historic organizations that we both have.

I think the fans, Chicago would like to beat Green Bay that much more and Green Bay to Chicago, so like Urlacher said, its an NFC Championship game. You have to understand that no matter who youre playing, you better bring youre A-game because youre one game away from making the Super Bowl. You need to show up, and you wouldnt be in the position you are if you hadnt been.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

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: