Gould: Rule change may not reduce returns

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Gould: Rule change may not reduce returns

Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Posted: 8:56 a.m. Updated: 10:33 a.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Robbie Gould likes some of the proposed rules changes affecting the kickoff element of the game as theyre being discussed at the current NFL owners meetings. Cutting down on wedges of any kind, for instance, should reduce helmet-to-helmet collisions and the concussions that come along with those.

But the Bears kicker had an amusing angle, a couple actually, to the prospect of moving kickoffs from the 30-yard line out to the 35. That may not necessarily reduce the number of returns at all for some teams.

WORD ON THE STREET: Bears against kickoff rule changes

For one thing, itll help more older kickers keep their jobs longer, Robbie observed. The kick that was going to the goal line is now going five yards deep. And I think the wedge rules are great ideas as far as keeping guys healthier.

Aaah, but theres a catch. Because kicks are coming from the 35 now, the norm will be blasting away and drilling the ball out of the back of the end zone. Hang time? Whats that?

Hammering balls deeper means lower kicks that will be getting to the likes of Devin Hester, Ted Ginn and Percy Harvin faster than ever, so guys will be getting the ball faster before the coverage teams can get there, Robbie envisioned. More teams may take the chance and bring the ball out of the end zone.

Its a great point. Bears special teams coordinator Dave Toub has given Hester license to return punts from just about anywhere if the ball has gotten there well ahead of the opposing coverage team. Does anyone think Hester (or Danieal Manning) isnt going to be looking at every line-drive kickoff as a return opp, particularly with a receiving unit absolutely dedicated to making history every time a team is misguided enough to put the ball in Hesters hands?

Not surprisingly, the rules changes have a touch of the bittersweet for Robbie, the player rep who is now a player advocate since the players decertified as a union and are now a trade association.

Theyre really focusing on one play that affects player safety, he notes. And if one play makes all that much difference, how it it that the NFL in previous negotiations wanted an extra two games without offering extra pay and health benefits?

Tough sell

Also not surprisingly, there is some pushback from coaches in particular on the proposed rules changes for kickoffs. Colleague Tom Curran of CSNNE.com caught up with Bill Belichick and Coach Hoodie represents a powerful voice on any NFL issue.

Sports Illustrateds Don Banks on SI.com notes that coaches (and others) cite kickoff returns for touchdowns as being among the games most exciting plays. No argument there. But Rich McKay on the Competition Committee isnt buying that as a reason to leave the high-risk play untouched when there are ways to increase player safety. And Don is spot on when he notes that player safety is a hot button right now, making it difficult to go against it, at least publicly.

Matters will be coming to a vote sooner rather than later, and dont rule out a rule out or two.

Miller not in favor of changes

Comcast SportsNet colleague and former Bears quarterback Jim Miller took his share of NFL hits during a solid career that included getting the Bears to the 2001 playoffs. But he is not in favor of the changes in kickoff rules on any basis of injury reduction.

Who wants to see a touchback? Jim tweeted on @15miller today. May as well eliminate the KO completely if youre kicking from the 35 yard line.

Jim notes that Bears President Ted Phillips is on record stating hell vote against the changes, and Jim cites a possible-simple unstated reason: because Hester is dynamic and makes the organization a lot of money. Ouch. But Jims general take is that owners will most likely vote for it because now it is one less player they will have to pay.

And not to over-simplify here, but Jim gets it. As Deep Throat once told Bob Woodward: Follow the money. Justfollow the money.

Clarification needed

Gould wants some clarity with respect to who is dealing with the NFL at this point. Its not the players association as a union; it is a trade association and the Bears kicker is rankled at figures on the owners side of the table continuing to refer to the players as a union.

On his Twitter account @RobbieGould09 on Tuesday, Robbie is emphatic: Can I have everyone retweet the words TRADE ASSOCIATION so maybe the owners and Jeff Pash can stop lying during every interview.

Not to take a side here but this shouldnt be trivialized. If the players respond to comments addressing them as a union, that may contribute to the impression that the move to de-certify is merely a procedural ploy, which is neither the case nor what players would like courts to be thinking as judges deliberate on injunctions and other matters in the situation.

Check it out

CSNNE.com Insider Tom Curran will visit with Mike Florio on Pro Football Talk Live. Mike's show starts at 11 a.m. Always good chats with the newsmakers.

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.

Players drafted by NFL head coach who led team at Senior Bowl

Players drafted by NFL head coach who led team at Senior Bowl

The Bears coaching staff will get a close look at some of the draft's top prospects when they head to Mobile to coach the 2017 Reese's Senior Bowl on Jan. 28.

John Fox and his staff will spend a week in Mobile getting to evaluate and work one-on-one with players from the North team, leading up to All-Star game.

If you're a Bears fan, you'll want to take a close look at the North roster because if past history is any indication, at least one of those prospects will likely be a member of the Bears in 2017.

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CSN stats guru Chris Kamka compiled a list of players drafted by the NFL head coach who led their team at the Senior Bowl (2000-16).

Check out the full list below:

2000 - Carolina Panthers (George Seifert)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
1st (23rd) Rashard Anderson DB Jackson St.
3rd (82nd) Leander Jordan T Indiana (PA)
6th (182nd) Jeno James G Auburn
7th (221st) Lester Towns LB Washington

2000 - Kansas City Chiefs (Gunther Cunningham)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
1st (21st) Sylvester Morris WR Jackson St.
2nd (54th) William Bartee DB Oklahoma
6th (188th) Darnell Alford G Boston College

2001 - Pittsburgh Steelers (Bill Cowher)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
2nd (39th) Kendrell Bell LB Georgia

2001 - Green Bay Packers (Mike Sherman)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
3rd (71st) Bhawoh Jue DB Penn St.
3rd (72nd) Torrance Marshall LB Oklahoma

2002 - Arizona Cardinals (Dave McGinnis)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
3rd (81st) Josh McCown QB Sam Houston St.
4th (113th) Nate Dwyer DT Kansas 
5th (149th) Jason McAddley WR Alabama

2002 - Seattle Seahawks (Mike Holmgren)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
5th (171st) Matt Hill T Boise St.

2003 - Detroit Lions (Marty Mornhinweg)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
4th (99th) Artose Pinner RB Kentucky
5th (137th) Terrence Holt DB North Carolina St.
7th (216th) Ben Johnson T Wisconsin

2003 - Houston Texans (Dom Capers)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
2nd (41st) Bennie Joppru TE Michigan
3rd (75th) Seth Wand T NW Missouri St.
3rd (88th) Dave Ragone QB Louisville
4th (101st) Domanick Williams RB LSU

2004 - Cincinnati Bengals (Marvin Lewis)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
2nd (49th) Keiwan Ratliff DB Florida
2nd (56th) Madieu Williams DB Maryland
6th (183rd) Greg Brooks DB Southern Mississippi

2004 - San Diego Chargers (Marty Schottenheimer)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
3rd (65th) Nate Kaeding K Iowa
3rd (66th) Nick Hardwick C Purdue
4th (98th) Shaun Phillips DE Purdue
5th (133rd) Dave Ball DE UCLA
5th (154th) Michael Turner RB Northern Illinois
7th (209th) Shane Olivea T Ohio St.

2005 - Oakland Raiders (Norv Turner)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
3rd (78th) Kirk Morrison LB San Diego St.
6th (175th) Anttaj Hawthorne DT Wisconsin

2005 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Jon Gruden)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
1st (5th) Cadillac Williams RB Auburn
2nd (36th) Barrett Ruud LB Nebraska
3rd (71st) Alex Smith TE Stanford
4th (107th) Dan Buenning G Wisconsin
6th (178th) Anthony Bryant DT Alabama

2006 - San Francisco 49ers (Mike Nolan)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
1st (22nd) Manny Lawson DE North Carolina St.
4th (100th) Michael Robinson WR Penn St.
5th (140th) Parys Haralson DE Tennessee
6th (192nd) Marcus Hudson DB North Carolina St.

2006 - Tennessee Titans (Jeff Fisher)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
5th (169th) Jesse Mahelona DT Tennessee

2007 - San Francisco 49ers (Mike Nolan)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
1st (11th) Patrick Willis LB Mississippi
1st (28th) Joe Staley T Central Michigan
3rd (76th) Jason Hill WR Washington St.
3rd (97th) Ray McDonald DE Florida
4th (104th) Jay Moore DE Nebraska
6th (186th) Thomas Clayton RB Kansas St.

2007 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Jon Gruden)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
2nd (35th) Aaron Sears G Tennessee
4th (106th) Tanard Jackson DB Syracuse
7th (246th) Kenneth Darby RB Alabama

2008 - San Francisco 49ers (Mike Nolan)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
1st (29th) Kentwan Balmer DT North Carolina
4th (107th) Cody Wallace C Texas A&M

2008 - Oakland Raiders (Lane Kiffin)

No players selected.

2009 - Cincinnati Bengals (Marvin Lewis)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
2nd (38th) Rey Maualuga LB USC
4th (106th) Jonathan Luigs C Arkansas
5th (142nd) Kevin Huber P Cincinnati
6th (179th) Morgan Trent DB Michigan

2009 - Jacksonville Jaguars (Jack Del Rio)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
4th (107th) Mike Thomas WR Arizona
7th (250th) Rashad Jennings RB Liberty

2010 - Miami Dolphins (Tony Sparano)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
1st (28th) Jared Odrick DE Penn St.
2nd (40th) Koa Misi LB Utah
3rd (73rd) John Jerry T Mississippi
4th (119th) A.J. Edds LB Iowa

2010 - Detroit Lions (Jim Schwartz)

No players selected.

2011 - Buffalo Bills (Chan Gailey)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
3rd (68th) Kelvin Sheppard LB LSU
4th (100th) Da'Norris Searcy DB North Carolina
6th (169th) Chris White LB Mississippi St.

2011 - Cincinnati Bengals (Marvin Lewis)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
2nd (35th) Andy Dalton QB TCU
4th (101st) Clint Boling G Georgia

2012 - Minnesota Vikings (Leslie Frazier)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
1st (29th) Harrison Smith DB Notre Dame
7th (210th) Audie Cole LB North Carolina St.

2012 - Washington Redskins (Mike Shanahan)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
4th (102nd) Kirk Cousins QB Michigan St.
4th (119th) Keenan Robinson LB Texas
6th (173rd) Alfred Morris RB Florida Atlantic

2013 - Detroit Lions (Jim Schwartz)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
1st (5th) Ezekiel Ansah DE BYU
3rd (65th) Larry Warford G Kentucky
7th (211st) Michael Williams TE Alabama

2013 - Oakland Raiders (Dennis Allen)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
3rd (66th) Sio Moore LB Connecticut
4th (112th) Tyler Wilson QB Arkansas
6th (172nd) Nick Kasa TE Colorado
6th (184th) Mychal Rivera TE Tennessee

2014 - Atlanta Falcons (Mike Smith)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
2nd (37th) Ra'Shede Hageman DT Minnesota
3rd (68th) Dezmen Southward DB Wisconsin

2014 - Jacksonville Jaguars (Gus Bradley)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
3rd (93rd) Brandon Linder OL Miami (FL)
4th (114th) Aaron Colvin DB Oklahoma
5th (144th) Telvin Smith LB Florida St.
5th (159th) Chris Smith DE Arkansas

2015 - Jacksonville Jaguars (Gus Bradley)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
7th (229th) Ben Koyack TE Notre Dame

2015 - Tennessee Titans (Ken Whisenhunt)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
4th (108th) Jalston Fowler FB Alabama
5th (138th) David Cobb RB Minnesota

2016 - Jacksonville Jaguars (Gus Bradley)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
4th (103rd) Sheldon Day DT Notre Dame
6th (201st) Brandon Allen QB Arkansas

2016 - Dallas Cowboys (Jason Garrett)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
4th (101st) Charles Tapper DE Oklahoma
4th (135th) Dak Prescott QB Mississippi St.

Pro Football Focus gives Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman historical 2016 grade

Pro Football Focus gives Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman historical 2016 grade

Bears GM Ryan Pace struck gold with his signing of Jerrell Freeman last offseason.

Freeman, who signed a three-year, $12 million contract with the Bears last March, was graded as the NFL's No. 1 inside linebacker in 2016, according to Pro Football Focus.

Freeman's 93.8 overall grade was PFF's third-highest defensive grade behind Los Angeles Rams All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald (95.6) and Oakland Raiders standout edge rusher Khalil Mack (93.9). 

Here's what PFF's Mike Renner had to say about Freeman's historic 2016 season:

One of the most impressive pure statistics any player amassed this season came from Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman. He made 40 tackles in coverage while missing only one tackle attempt. That ratio is insane, and it’s the best we’ve recorded since 2012. That’s about the only exciting stat, though, as the Bears’ front-seven desperately missed a fully-healthy Pernell McPhee for a good portion of the year.

Despite Freeman's outstanding season, he was left off of PFF's All-Pro Team for 2016. Although he was ranked ahead of Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner (91.6) and Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly (92.9), PFF likely omitted Freeman due to him missing four games with a PED suspension.

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In his first season with the Bears, the 30-year-old Freeman led the team with 110 tackles (the next highest total was Harold Jones-Quartey's 78). Freeman also finished with a team-high 7 tackles for a loss. 

Check out a snapshot below of Freeman's PFF metrics from last season:

If there's any doubt about Freeman's play falling off after serving a suspension, he put that theory to rest. Freeman's second-best game grade came in Week 17 against the Minnesota Vikings (3.5). Freeman also had a positive grade (1.4) in his first game coming off the suspension against the Washington Redskins in Week 16.

"People know me," Freeman told the media after returning from suspension. "People know who I am. People know what I'm about. I wouldn't do that on purpose. I made a mistake and that's what it is. It's not like I was going out of my way to do something (illegal). But it happened. It's my fault and I take responsibility for it."