Kickoff changes would reflect reversal of trend

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Kickoff changes would reflect reversal of trend

Friday, March 18, 2011
Posted: 10:07 a.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

If youd like a vague feel-good about the prospects for a 2011 NFL season, heres one ( a little one): The NFL is proceeding with rules changes just like they always do this time of year when there is a season looming.

This is the normal time that rules would be passed, Mike Pereira said Friday on The Dan Patrick Show on Comcast SportsNet. NFL owners have got to look as business-as-usual going forward.

Pereira, formerly the NFLs vice president of officiating and now one of the top rules analysts in the game in his post with FOXSports, does think the rules affecting kickoffs and kickoff returns in particular will pass. But they do reflect a near-reversal of a previous trend for the league.

Kickoffs, once moved back to the 30-yard line to increase the number of returns, now would be moved to the 35 to cut down on them. Touchbacks would be brought out to the 25-yard line instead of the 20, providing a five-yard incentive to take a knee.

And coverage teams will be limited to a five-yard running start, which might be the biggest change in terms of physics. Force is equal to mass times speed-squared, so if you trim some speed at the front end, you reduce the potential impact at the other end. Throw in a total ban on wedge-blocking of any kind and you have at least theoretically dialed down the chance for injuries on coverage teams, which in fact do suffer more of them than the receiving team.

Its got to be clearly for safety, Mike said. This is a complete shift for the competition committee. Now they are clearly going to take the returnout of the game.

Dan asked Mike if in fact you can make kickoffs safe. You cant make it safe, Mike explained. You can slow it down.

The 25-yard-line provision seemed to Mike to be the one to watch. The average return of a kickoff is 22.5 yards, he said, so If you catch a ball in the end zone, guess what Youre going to take a knee and get the ball at the 25.

Mike cited players like Devin Hester, for whom the Bears gave a No. 2 draft choice (2006). And a valid question is how much teams will value returners now.

Mike suggested a very simple reason why he sees the measures passing when they come to a vote at the upcoming meetings in New Orleans. Owners traditionally do not vote against safety proposals, he said.

The Charles Johnson Rule, where a catch must be clearly completed to be a catch, will not be revised, although itd be nice to get the rules consistent with how everyone visualizes the game, Mike concluded.

Ooops

A pretty good day for the Moon Bracket, except for one huge setback. Youd think that a school that gave the Bears about 10 percent of their roster would be a little kinder to a Chicago guy but Vanderbilt took the pipe against Richmond, and I had the Commoduds all the way through to the Elite Eight. Ooooops.

But Butler took care of Old Dominion, which was nice, and Gonzaga handled St. Johns, which was very nice. So Ive got 15 of my final 16 still doing business but I do need Texas A&M to dispatch Notre Dame a round from now.

See the things you pay close attention to when theres no NFL to speak (or write) of some days?

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.

Bears defensive backs using off-field bonds to improve on-field ones

Bears defensive backs using off-field bonds to improve on-field ones

Every Thursday night, Bears defensive backs try to all get together at Tracy Porter’s house for dinner. But it’s not about the food.

"None of us can cook," said cornerback Bryce Callahan, laughing.

At the risk of channeling some inner Marc Trestman, it’s about the get-together itself, which always involves popping on some game film and doing extra study beyond the time at Halas Hall. And it’s also building something off the field that they believe they can take onto it.

One of the keys to excellence in any working group is the individuals connecting in ways that make the whole greater than just the sum of the parts. That’s the point ultimately, taking some personal connections onto the field and making the entire defensive backfield collectively better.

Relationships among players have never been recorded as intercepting or even deflecting an NFL pass.

"For me it starts off the field, getting to know one another, how that person is," said cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc, familiar with a similar internal chemistry from his time with the New England Patriots.

"You get that feeling for every individual, and you take that on the field. It creates a close bond, and we’ve got that bond. We try to look through each other’s eyes, communicate what you were thinking and he was thinking on this play or that, and that’s the biggest thing."

Offensive lines are generally thought of as the group most benefited by camaraderie and closeness. They typically have an O-line dinner most weeks, with checks for the meal not uncommonly reaching into four-figures.

"Those boys can EAT," LeBlanc marveled. "We stick to wings or ribs."

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

But the secondary consists of four individuals rotating coverages the way a line moves with different protections or assignments. Double-teams in the defensive backfield require the same cohesion and familiarity as ones on the other side of the football.

The Bears have started the same base four defensive backs in all three games — Porter and Jacoby Glenn at the corners, Adrian Amos and Harold Jones-Quartey at the safeties — but the Bears are working in multiple rookies, and Callahan (hamstring) has been inactive along with Kyle Fuller, projected to be the starter at right corner but now on IR. Rookie safety Deon Bush was inactive the first two weeks, then played at Dallas. Rookie corner Deiondre’ Hall was pressed into action on defense for 18 plays at Houston and 28 against Philadelphia.

With the in-game mixes-and-matches necessitated by injuries, the familiarity among secondary members is looked at as nothing short of vital. Comments, right or wrong, from a friend can be taken better/more constructively than ones from a relative stranger.

"Just more of being ready to pick each other up, be ready," Amos said. "It just shows you how quick you can go from scout team to on the field, so everybody has to be talking together.

"The closer we are on and off the field, the better we are together."

LeBlanc agrees.

"We talk to each other like friends, in a unit, trying to dissect a play right after it happens, rewind and see how we can to it better.

"You can’t be out here trying to communicate and you don’t even really know the guy next to you."

Bears facing Lions with Jay Cutler likely out, Alshon Jeffery dealing with hamstring issue

Bears facing Lions with Jay Cutler likely out, Alshon Jeffery dealing with hamstring issue

The official injury designation is “doubtful” but Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is unofficially expected to be out of Sunday’s game with the Detroit Lions after not practicing on Thursday or Friday due to his injured right thumb.

“It is a pretty critical area on the quarterback, especially when it's your right thumb and you're a right handed quarterback,” Bears head coach John Fox said. “So you know we're going to get him healthy and that's our main objective and we'll see if he's any further along [Saturday].”

The designation — “questionable” — was brighter for wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, except for the mild surprise that he was limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday with a knee issue and then was limited on Friday because of a hamstring.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Jeffery missed six games last season, two separate instances, because of hamstring problems.

Besides Cutler, running backs Ka’Deem Carey (hamstring) and Jeremy Langford (ankle), nose tackle Eddie Goldman (ankle) and linebacker Danny Trevathan (thumb) also did not practice and are listed as doubtful. Carey, Cutler, Goldman and Trevathan all were inactive in Dallas, and Langford suffered his ankle sprain against the Cowboys.

Limited but listed as questionable: guard Josh Sitton (shoulder), outside linebacker Willie Young (knee); and defensive backs Sherrick McManis (hamstring), Tracy Porter (knee) and Harold Jones-Quartey (concussion, cleared).