Hines Ward as a Bear this one is worth considering

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Hines Ward as a Bear this one is worth considering

The Bears-related frenzy surrounding every wide receiver with even a faint football Q factor runs a bit amok much of the time. Terrell Owens and Randy Moss would be two.

Now comes Hines Ward, being released by the Pittsburgh Steelers. And while CSNChicago.com generally prefers to stay away from personnel endorsements beyond reporting relevant information, Ward is worth more than a casual look, particularly as part of a coordinated plan at wide receiver.

The Steelers have Mike Wallace as their clear choice as franchise receiver, with good reason, although they are not expected to protect him with a franchise tag by next Monday, according to ESPNs Adam Schefter.

But Ward was let go despite the option of taking a pay cut, according to a report from longtime Steelers scribe Ed Bouchette at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The math of the situation is that Ward now can be had for the price of 925,000, the minimum for a 10-year veteran (Ward has played 14 years), of which only 540,000 counts against a teams cap.

I do feel I have more football left in me and I am looking forward to playing in the NFL again, this season, Ward said as part of a statement he and his attorneymanager released.

It is truly the end of an era in Pittsburgh, where Ward won Super Bowls and caught 1,000 passes, 46 passes even last season when he was demoted below Wallace, Antonio Brown and one-year-signee Jerricho Cotchery.

Ward turns 36 in a week but he was mentored by and remains friends with Bears receivers coach Darryl Drake. He is a proven leader and role model as a professional. At even the veteran minimum, not an insignificant amount, Ward would step in as a clear step up as the No. 3 receiver after Earl Bennett and a free agent (or draft choice) to be named later.

The Bears would not be getting the Hines Ward who as a Super Bowl MVP or four-time Pro Bowl selection. They would, however, be getting a veteran with huge intangible benefits and something still left, if his 46 catches as a part-timer in 2011 are any indication.

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:

After historically low turnover total in 2016, what can Bears do to get more takeaways?

After historically low turnover total in 2016, what can Bears do to get more takeaways?

Quintin Demps set a career high in interceptions last year by not doing anything different. And that’s the message he’s sending a defense that generated only 11 takeaways in 2016, tied for the lowest single-season total in NFL history. 

Demps went from picking off four passes in both 2013 with the Kansas City Chiefs and 2014 with the New York Giants to notching just one interception with the Houston Texans in 2015. In 2016, though, Demps intercepted six passes, broke up nine more and totaled 38 tackles. 

“Turnovers are like, it’s not something that you go get, it’s something you let come to you by doing your job first and then helping out,” Demps said. “And then you’d be surprised how they come to you by doing your job and being aware of when you can help somebody out. A lot of times when you get help is when you get picks and turnovers.”

The danger for a defense coming off a historically bad takeaway is sort of a whiplash effect, where there’s an over-emphasis on creating turnovers and not enough attention paid to, as Demps said, “doing your job.” There’s a fine line between being opportunistic and undisciplined.

“I tell my safeties all the time, we gotta tackle first,” Demps said. “Tackle first, don’t miss any tackles and then the picks are going to come. I promise you that.”

The Bears felt positively after signs of being more opportunistic as a defense during shorts-and-helmets practices in May and June, though if that was because of any real improvements or because the defense is usually ahead of the offense is hard to tell at this stage of the year. 

The offseason program was valuable for the Bears’ secondary in growing trust within a group that had — no pun intended — plenty of turnover after the 2016 season. The hope is that the offseason additions of Demps, Prince Amukamara, Marcus Cooper and Eddie Jackson will solidify the secondary and lead to something better than last year’s historically-low turnover total. 

“We’re still trying to build something, but the actual, real building happens in training camp because I think then you start to see the group start to get formed and yo know who’s going to go with the one’s, who’s going to go with the two’s, stuff like that,” Amukamara said. “So I think that starts to get formed. But I think with a lot of guys now, I think what that creates is competition and guys trying their hardest to make the team.”