Head cases: Are field conditions affecting Bears?

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Head cases: Are field conditions affecting Bears?

Friday, Dec. 17, 2010
2:47 PM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

The state of TCF Bank Field is looking more and more like there will be football in the great north on Monday night, according to individuals at the University of Minnesota.

But the issue of whether or not the Bears will play the Minnesota Vikings there now may be working in the Vikings favor, possibly to a significant degree.

The growing sense around the Bears is that this whole mess is in the heads of the players, and that is a potential disaster for a team possibly one victory away from a division championship. It may be in Vikings heads as well but the Bears are the ones with something to lose Monday night besides their health.

It isnt the number of media queries directed at players feelings on the situation. It isnt that players answer the questions; they do that, usually very accommodatingly. Its literally the length of the answers that is troubling.

Normally players, and anyone for that matter, are short and dismissive of non-issues or things not worth the attention. But the safety concern with this game and it is absolutely warranted is in peoples heads almost the way you might expect an opponent would want to be after delivering a blow intended to intimidate.

Man, its like a huge fight, a big ordeal all year about concussions and the NFL saying, What can we do to protect the players: Lets send them out to Minnesota on the potentially frozen surface, linebacker Lance Briggs said with more than a touch of disgust. Some things make me want to scratch my head all the time...

But whats the point of playing there if Adrian Peterson goes down with a career-ending injury? Hes a running back. Guys are going to be sliding all over the place. You never know. It could cost you in a bunch of different ways."

Hes not alone.

This is the year were cracking down on players safety and concussions and stuff like that, cornerback Charles Tillman added. You want to fine guys 75,000 for blows to the head, but are we going to play on this frozen field? I dont know. It doesnt really make too much sense to me.

Make no mistake: These are not soft people. They are some of the voices who have spoken about the realities of this sport, that it is rough and people do get hurt. But this situation is getting to even them.

I dont want people to get the wrong idea that guys dont want to play outdoors, said safety Chris Harris. We play outdoors here. We just played in 6 inches of snow Sunday. So guys dont have a problem playing outdoors dont have a problem with the weather, with the wind, with snow, with any of it.

We dont care about weather, we really dont. We can play in zero-degree weather; it doesnt hurt us. Its more the playing surface than the actual weather.

But the issue is safety. Thats a field thats not equipped Minnesotas not equipped for playing outdoor games. A stadium thats been under snow for a month in those temperatures its been minus-degree weather up there. The field will be icy. It just doesnt make for a safe environment.

And Harris, like Tillman, Briggs and others, goes on extensively about their concerns, without a whole lot of prodding from anyone. If the Bears are talking about this in the locker room and not as much about the Vikings, that is when a bad slip and fall could definitely occur.

I mean, Im talking about it now, and when we get out there obviously were going to check it out, Briggs said. But once the whistle blows, its time to play football.

That would be a good thing.

Stupid consideration

The one truly inane element filtering through various discussions of venue for the Bears-Vikings game is Minnesotas concern that playing in Detroit or Indianapolis or St. Louis renders this too much of a home game for the Bears. Those cities are too easy for Bears fans to reach and turn support into an advantage.

Suggestions ranging from Atlanta to New Orleans to wherever have taken this to a different level of stupid.

So the idea is that the Vikings, if they cant have the game in front their home fans would rather have it at a neutral site where no one in the host city cares about the two teams? If the NFL stands by and allows that logic to enter into the discussion, then it deserves even more criticism than it is getting already for letting the decision (and misguided work) on TCF Bank Stadium drag on and on and on.

The Bears already have been distracted and inconvenienced enough by a situation brought on through zero fault of their own. To make any decision based on keeping the game away from a huge pool of interested fans would simply make the situation just a little more ridiculous than it already is.

Backup QBs rule

While the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers turn to reserve quarterbacks out of necessity brought on by injuries, the Washington Redskins reportedly are benching starter Donovan McNabbb for the rest of the season and turning to Rex Grossman as their starter.

And just noodling here, but before the talk goes much further on how lucky the Bears are to be facing backup quarterbacks this season, its possibly worth remembering that Michael Vick was a backup coming into this season. So was Tom Brady in 2001. So was Brett Favre in 1992. So was Matt Cassel. So was Lou Gehrig.

Joe Webb probably isnt the next name to go on that list. But backups are dangerous because they know the value of opportunities when they arent handed to them.

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.

Complete Bears-49ers coverage on CSN

Complete Bears-49ers coverage on CSN

The Bears try to get a third win in 2016 when they host the 49ers, and CSN has you covered.

Check out a schedule of Sunday's events:

— Meijer Bears Pregame Live with Lance Briggs, Alex Brown, Jim Miller and Chris Boden airs at 11 a.m. on CSN.

— Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois Bears Halftime Live streaming live on CSNChicago.com and ChicagoBears.com.

— State Farm Bears Postgame Live airing immediately after the game on CSN.

Important Twitter follows:

— John "Moon" Mullin (@CSNMoonMullin), CSNChicago

— Bears Talk (@CSNBears), CSNChicago

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The 3 Bears necessities for win No. 3

The 3 Bears necessities for win No. 3

Insert title of this "Bowl" game here...

Two teams. Three wins combined. December. So much for holiday cheer. The snow may provide a certain Christmas element on the lakefront Sunday. But something different has to happen for the Bears defensively. In their spirit of giving, the 49ers have allowed a league-high 76 points off their turnovers. Problem is, the Bears have just eight of them in eleven games. If that San Francisco generosity doesn't change – either by Vic Fangio's defense finally making plays despite the core of their defense missing, or by the visitors finding a way to protect the ball in those conditions after practicing in Orlando all week – it's a golden chance for the Bears to gain a smidge of momentum before becoming a factor in the division race (because they face all three other NFC North contenders in their final four games).

1. Read zone read

Colin Kaepernick has grown much more comfortable with time in Chip Kelly's offense. He had the Dolphins hanging on for dear life until the clock struck zero last week. He became just the sixth quarterback in league history to pass for three touchdowns in a game while rushing for over 100 (no, Bobby Douglass isn't one). The challenge becomes greater minus the talented inside linebacker tandem of Danny Trevathan (injury) and Jerrell Freeman (suspension). It becomes even greater if Leonard Floyd's quickness and speed is taken away as a shadowing option as he recovers from being carried off the field on a flat board two weeks ago. He's listed as questionable. So that makes it imperative for inside replacements John Timu and Nick Kwiatkowski to find a way to be instinctive while remaining disciplined enough to contain the league's best rushing quarterback by yards per attempt (8.1).

2. Don't stray from the run

Give this Niners defense without NoVorro Bowman and Eric Reid enough opportunities to be gashed, and they'll let you. Too many times the pregame formula has been for Jordan Howard to get the ball, only to find reasons not to – whether it's looking at the clock while trailing by double digits, too much traffic at the line of scrimmage or panic after injuries up front (to name a few). The 172 rushing yards per game allowed by San Francisco is the worst in eight years (Detroit).  Howard's 5.14 average gain per attempt is fifth in the NFL. Enough said.

3. Catch the ball!!!

Okay, Marquess, Josh and Deonte. Okay, Cam, Jordan and Jeremy. Okay Daniel (and/or Eddie?). We know conditions might be a little slick if it's snowing/sleeting/raining. You're supposed to be among the best in the world at what you do, even if you're down the original depth chart. Can you get your mitts on the football and hang on to it this week? Help your guy Matt out a little bit? After all, if you cut last week's nightmare in half, and maybe you're shooting for (oooh!) a fourth win Sunday, not a third.

Get set for Sunday's noon kickoff at 11 a.m. on CSN as ex-Bears Jim Miller, Lance Briggs and Alex Brown join Chris on "Bears Preagme Live." Then as soon as the second quarter ends, come back here to CSNChicago.com, where Jim and Chris break down the first 30 minutes and go over second half adjustments. And finally, when the game goes final on Fox, switch immediately back to CSN as Chris and the three former Bears give you 90 minutes of reaction, analysis, live press conferences and locker room interviews on "Bears Postgame Live."