Moon: Packers game critical step towards a big goal

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Moon: Packers game critical step towards a big goal

Sunday, Jan. 2, 2011
11:50 a.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

They were the new guys back in 2006, the young guys, and it came almost too easily.

And now, Devin Hester and Danieal Manning, rookies in 2006, and Chris Harris, who went to the playoffs as a rookie in 2005 and a Super Bowl the next year, are in a position to do what many of the greats of the game, including many, many Bears never did: return to a Super Bowl.

Dan Marino went in his second, lost and never went again. Wilber Marshall and Ron Rivera went to playoffs as rookies, a Super Bowl in their second year, and never got back there.

Its tough, Harris said. You have some guys with great careers, Hall of Fame players, who never played in a Super Bowl.

Hester didnt think getting to a Super Bowl was necessarily easy but I didnt think it would go like that, he said, shaking his head at the memory and at the thought of not even getting back to the playoffs since then. The team we had the Super Bowl I thought would be good for a long time.

Its a long season and every year something happens, every year it seems like theres a different team.

Julius Peppers, Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman, Olin Kreutz, Tommie Harris all know what it means to reach a Super Bowl and lose there.

And they are part of the reason why the Bears are unlikely to make the mistake of not treating the Green Bay game and the two weeks that follow as critical steps toward a goal that will never be taken for granted.

Its a long journey for this team, Hester said. This year, weve been doing pretty good. The record is looking pretty good right now. The bye, and everything is starting to show up. Our team is starting to do some great things, as far as offense, defense and special teams. We got a good shot.

Arguably the single most important player in the Bears playoff saga, Jay Cutler, has never been in uniform for a playoff game. He has never had the experience of anything beyond regular-season playing speed.

But his motivation should be perhaps greater even than for his teammates who have been there but lost.

I dont think anybody in that locker room is gonna be satisfied until we win a Super Bowl, Cutler said. So theres a lot to be done yet. But weve got to keep getting better. Weve got to keep working. Weve got to keep coming to work. Keep the drive.

That makes Sunday in Green Bay important. If the Bears lose the drive, they will lose before they ever make the Super Bowl that some thought would have come again by now.

Gone but

If the Bears were hoping to see more of Juaquin Iglesias in the future, theyll likely have their wish after the 2009 third-round pick was signed off the Bears practice squad Saturday by the Minnesota Vikings. Iglesias showed flashes back in training camp but was unable to demonstrate enough consistent playmaker ability to warrant a spot of the regular roster. Iglesias was inactive for all but one game in his rookie season.

Iglesias joins fellow No. 3 pick Jarron Gilbert on the former-Bears list, leaving the Bears with neither of their top 2009 picks. Its unlikely the organization is going to have serious laments on a bad draft, however.

Henry Melton (fourth round) is a force in the defensive-line rotation and possible successor to Tommie Harris as the three-technique in the Bears scheme. D.J. Moore, the Bears second pick in the fourth round, is the No. 1 nickel back and has 4 interceptions. Johnny Knox (fifth round) needs just 40 yards Sunday to pass 1,000. Guard Lance Louis has settled into a backup role but has shown some promise.

And the Bears No. 1 and first No. 3 picks of that draft? They went for Jay Cutler, who has begun to look every bit like the franchise quarterback the trade was intended to secure.

And one more thing.

I didnt make a call on this game earlier because I really didnt know how much the Bears would put into it, in terms of effort, personnel and both. The Bears really dont have anything to play for except what really matters, that being playoff preparations.

They have a quarterback who has never played beyond a regular season since high school and needs to not only stay sharp, but also needs to be better than he has been, because thats what playoffs are about quarterback play. The only player close to a starter that the Bears made inactive was receiver Earl Bennett and that because of an injury.

The other thing that playoffs are about is play on defense, and the Bears group has played progressively worse into this fourth quarter of the season. The Bears kept linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa active despite his chronic knee issues, if thats any indication of intent. The Bears had their usual list of inactives: defensive backs Craig Steltz and Joshua Moore; running back Khalil Bell; offensive linemen Herman Johnson and Edwin Williams; and defensive lineman Marcus Harrison.

The Bears will definitely take this game seriously, at least through the first half. But I dont think thatll be enough to beat a resurgent and overall very good Green Bay team.
Packers 27 Bears 21

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 sign Willie Young to two-year contract extension

Bears sign Willie Young to two-year contract extension

Watch out Bass Pro Shops: Willie Young may be stopping in with a bag full of money.

The Bears announced Saturday morning they have agreed to a two-year contract extension with the veteran outside linebacker.

Young, who was heading into his final season of a three-year deal he inked with the Bears in 2014, is now signed with the team through the 2018 season.

[SHOP: Gear up for the 2016 season, Bears fans!

The 30-year-old Young finished second on the Bears last season with 6.5 sacks after switching from defensive end to outside linebacker in Vic Fangio's base 3-4 defense. Young notched a career-high in sacks with 10 during the 2014 season.

Young, originally a seventh-round selection in the 2010 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions, has amassed 97 tackles and 22.5 sacks in 141 career games.

Bears Camp Shorts: Kyle Long out, 'The Interceptor' is in the house

Bears Camp Shorts: Kyle Long out, 'The Interceptor' is in the house

BOURBONNAIS — As expected, right guard Kyle Long was absent from practice on Friday, nursing a calf strain that the Bears will handle conservatively and not rush their Pro Bowl offensive lineman back onto the field.

Long strained his left calf late in Thursday’s practice and Friday saw veteran Ted Larsen step in at right guard with the No. 1 line, as the Bears leave rookie Cody Whitehair in place as the starting left guard for now.

- Additionally, rookie outside linebacker Leonard Floyd was able to make his way through lunch but not onto the practice field after leaving due to ongoing illness Thursday.

[MORE: Bears wide receivers give defense a taste of its own medicine]

- Former Bears cornerback Nathan “The Interceptor” Vasher is in camp as a defensive intern, and the Bears also have brought in former New York Jets center Kevin Mawae to work with the offensive line and young center Hroniss Grasu. Vasher is part of the NFL’s internship program while Mawae is in as a guest instructor, something routinely done for stretches of training camp and preseason.

Vasher earned his nickname in 2005 when he was a Pro Bowl and All-NFL selection after collecting eight interceptions — the Bears combined total for all of 2015 — for Lovie Smith’s first playoff team.

“The league instituted [the internship program] a while ago,” Bears head coach John Fox said. “Have had a lot of guys that were ex-players that are now coaching in the league. I think everybody kind of searches for what they want to do when they retire at a very young age from the game, so I think some guys have coaching in them, some don't. I think Kevin was a very smart player in his career; he can help in the NFL in the coaching profession."

- The Bears secondary could use a little dose of “Interceptor” right about now. Demontre Hurst managed an interception of a Brian Hoyer pass on Friday, but that represents the lone takeaway by the defense through two days of practice. The lack of takeaways proved lethal to the Bears last season, with the lowest full-season total (17) in franchise history.

[SHOP: Gear up for the 2016 season, Bears fans!

- Thursday’s rains appeared to leave the Olivet Nazarene University fields healthy but apparently a little treacherous, as a number of Bears had their feet slip out from under them through Friday’s practice.

- Officials were on hand to “work” the Bears’ practice on Friday, throwing flags where warranted and drawing occasional sharp disagreements with certain Bears coaches.

“You know, you try to simulate as well as you can a real game and they're out there in games,” Fox said. “These aren't NFL officials; they'll be here next week as we prepare for our Fan Fest at Soldier Field to build towards getting ready for games, but obviously it's helpful. They get to monitor the players and kind of do's and don't's and I think it's good simulated football.”

Bears wide receivers give defense a taste of its own medicine

Bears wide receivers give defense a taste of its own medicine

BOURBONNAIS — For much of this offseason’s practices, the Bears’ offense has had to put up with spirited mouthiness from a feisty Bears defense. On Friday, the day before the Bears get into full pads for the first time in nearly seven months, a touch of the smack flowed the other way, set in motion by one of the smallest players on the roster.

Wide receiver Daniel Braverman, the diminutive (5-9, 185) seventh-round pick of the Bears in this year’s draft, outfought fellow rookie Deiondre' Hall (6-2, 201) for a contested ball across the middle, bounced up and let out with a yell to confirm exactly which side of the ball came away with it.

The catch was the first of many by Braverman, whose day was mirrored by starting wideout Kevin White also making repeated, sometimes acrobatic catches against what until now was a defense firmly holding the upper hand this offseason.

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“I think [Braverman] is a guy who was very productive in college, our scouting department really liked him, that's why we drafted him,” said coach John Fox. “I think you know he caught our eyes as far as putting it all together in the offseason and he's continued on that so far this camp.”

Running back Jeremy Langford added several long bursts on runs through the interior, and various receivers added to the day that belonged in large measure to the offense despite missing starting right guard Kyle Long (calf injury).

The defense did have its highlights. Defensive lineman Akiem Hicks generated a pair of dominating pass rushes that produced a simulated sack of Jay Cutler and a throwaway, Willie Young blew up a pass play coming clean on a blitz, and safety Harold Jones-Quartey threw Langford to the ground on a non-tackle tackle after the latter had ripped off one of his gashes through the defense.

[SHOP: Gear up for the 2016 season, Bears fans!

Braverman also has been worked on kickoff return and will have myriad chances to be a roster surprise, given the four preseason games and handful of practices in New England with the Patriots.

“These coaches preach every day how important special teams is, and that's something I have to learn to get adjusted to because I was just a returner,” Braverman said. “But now here you have to be a ‘gunner’ and and R2, L2, [position] stuff on kickoffs. It's just getting one day better in every little detail and aspect you can possible in 24 hours of a day.”