Kickoff rule change would greatly impact Bears

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Kickoff rule change would greatly impact Bears

Thursday, March 17, 2011
Posted: 11:13 a.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

The Bears stand to take a hit this offseason and thats with everything right now at an official standstill.

The NFL and NFLPA are stalled on making changes to the collective bargaining agreement but the league is going ahead with a couple other needed changes, a couple of them particularly interesting.

Once upon a time NFL teams kicked off from the 40-yard lines. Not too many years ago, in an effort to inject more excitement into the game, the league moved kickoffs back to the 30. The league also took footballs out of the hands (literally) of kickers and instituted the K balls, kept in their wrappers and away from creative equipment managing, in order to keep balls from being booted as far. The express intent was to reduce the number of touchbacks.

Now the league is intent on giving the pendulum a healthy shove back the other direction.

At their meetings next week in New Orleans, a proposal to move kickoffs up to the 35-yard line will be voted upon, expressly to reduce the number of kickoffs. The feeling is that kickoff returns are a source of serious injuries, which they are. Along with that, receiving teams will be given the ball at the 25-yard line instead of the 20, making it less enticing for returners to bring a ball out of the end zone.

The Bears wont take it personally but this all hits them as hard as any team in the NFL.

The Bears had 10 kickoff returns of 40 yards or longer in 2010, most in the NFL. And they have three returners capable of and delivering these field-position gems: Devin Hester (five), Danieal Manning (four) and Johnny Knox (one).

Hesters 35.6-yard return average was highest in the NFL among players with at least 10 returns.

Mannings 17 returns of 40 or more yards since 2008 are No. 1 in the NFL over that span.

It gets worse.

The Bears ranked No. 1 in the NFL in starting field position for a receiving team, with an average start at the 31.5.

Seven teams (San Diego, Kansas City, Houston, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Dallas and San Francisco) posted average starting field positions of no better than the 25. Wonder how theyll vote on the bring-it-out-to-the-25 proposal?

Mike speaks

FOXSports Mike Pereira, formerly the NFLs vice president of officiating and now one of the top rules analysts in the game, is slated for a visit with Dan on The Dan Patrick Show tomorrow (Friday) on Comcast SportsNet.

Mikes got a great in-depth analysis of the rules changes, including the non-change expected to the Calvin Johnson Rule that saved the Bears in game one last season. Hes got a vote on each of the proposed changes and the best guess is that hell elaborate on each tomorrow with Dan.

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: