Players bought into the motivation

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Players bought into the motivation

The news of the New Orleans Saints having a 'bounty system' that paid bonuses for injuring players on opposing teams shocked the NFL world on Friday. Former Saints' defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and the team could be facing major penalties by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

Former NFL safety and CSNChicago.com Contributor Matt Bowen played for two seasons with the Washington Redskins under Williams and checked in on SportsNet Central on Saturday to discuss this issue with Chris Boden.

"I was involved in it and I'm not saying it's right, but I also know how it works. It's going to get a little embellished over the next couple days, couple of weeks.

Bowen continued: It's a practice that's been going on for a long time. I would say if you question all 32 teams you would find a little of this in every NFL city."

Bowen talked about the players deserving the blame just as much as the coaches.

"It was mostly player run. I'll take the heat myself as a player. It was something we organized mostly ourselves. I don't think it's a good practice, but I bought into it. It was a motivational tool, all those things are motivational tools; try to get a pick, try to get a big hit and you got rewards for that on the field."

Boden brought up a good point and asked Bowen: If Greg Williams was a great motivator than why were bounties even necessary?

"The bottom line here is I think we all bought into the motivation. From coaching to the players, we all thought about it as more as a way to get more production on the field. Whether that was that big hit, a game changing interception, whatever it was. We used it that way and we kind of advanced the motivation ourselves."

With concussions and season-ending injuries running rampant in the NFL, Bowen explained how violent the game is and how everyone's jobs are the line.

"I don't think it has any place in youth football, high school or college. Defensive football, whatever level you're playing at, you have equipment on. You're going to go after people. You tackle hard, you hit hard, you finish ball carriers to the ground, that's how you play and if you got a little extra incentive in the NFL, so be it. That's how it works."

"Live I've said many times before. This isn't a very nice game. It's a violent game, it's controlled violence, but there are those situations where as a player you kind of toe that line a little bit because it's the business of winning. That's what it is. This isn't everyone gets a trophy, this is win or you lose your job, coaching staffs lose their job as well."

In Week 2 against the Saints, the Bears saw Earl Bennett leave the game with a chest injury. Bennett would go on to miss the next five weeks. In that same game, Gabe Carimi was lost to a season-ending injury. Bowen gave his input on if he thought New Orleans targeted any of the Bears' players.

"No, because I wasn't down in New Orleans. I don't know if they were still doing it or not. Now I do. Now I look back, I'm sure there were guys that were targeted. Target wide receivers, go after Jay Cutler a little bit."

Finally, Bowen was asked if he had any idea what the punishment for Williams, former teams and current players that participated would be.

"I think the NFL is going to come down hard and I agree with them. Coach Williams is going to have to stand up and take the punishment. You might see a loss of draft pick, suspension, fine, whatever it may be, the NFL is going to try to make an example of it and I don't blame them. They need to correct this and this a good way to do it."
Do you agree with Bowen's comments? What do you think the punishments for the Saints and Gregg Williams should be? Let us know in the comment box below.

View from the Moon: Bears make statement in taking tight end while passing on defensive backs

View from the Moon: Bears make statement in taking tight end while passing on defensive backs

With their second pick in the 2017 draft, the Bears addressed offense and did it in a way that, when coupled with one of their main offseason moves, makes for some very interesting what-ifs for the upcoming season.

The choice at No. 45 was tight end Adam Shaheen, who at 6-foot-6 and 278 pounds becomes the second significant addition at the position following the signing of Dion Sims (6-foot-4, 270 pounds) to a three-year deal. In a sometimes over-specialized NFL, the Bears have brought in not one but two every-down tight ends.

“Yeah, that’s accurate,” general manager Ryan Pace said. “So it opens up a lot of possibilities for our offense.”

The acquisitions of Shaheen and Sims hold some intrigue, if only because of sheer bulk, because the inescapable conclusion with the commitments to big tight ends is that the Bears might be serious about running the football. They ran 28.4 percent of their 2016 plays in personnel packages of two or three tight ends or with a tight end and fullback.

Under coordinator Dowell Loggains the Bears ran the football just 39.3 percent of the time in 2016. Head coach John Fox and Loggains cite the Bears’ frequent need to play catch-up as the reason why, though in 12 of the 16 games the Bears were tied, led or were within seven points at halftime. In fairness to Fox and Loggains, the Bears in fact arguably did not have the physical firepower at tight end to sustain a smash-mouth base of operations.

That said, both Shaheen and Sims also have a fully formed receiver side to their games, which is where the bigger-picture interest lies. Shaheen had 122 receptions over his last two seasons at Ashland. Sims caught 36, 25 and 35 passes in his final three years with the Miami Dolphins. Both Shaheen and Sims were high school basketball standouts; Shaheen played a year of basketball at the University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown, while Sims was dual-recruited for football and basketball at Michigan State after finishing fourth in voting for Mr. Basketball in Michigan in 2009.

“I definitely think (the basketball stuff) helps,” Pace said. “Half the time, it’s like these tight ends are going up for a rebound and boxing out. And (Shaheen) definitely has it. When we talk about body control and catching radius, the ball is not always going to be on target. And Adam has the ability to do that. We confirmed that through the tape, and Frank (Smith, tight ends coach) was able to confirm it during the workout.”

Why not take a defensive back?

During the NFL owners meetings this spring, Pace said that the draft's depth of talented options was a factor in free-agency decisions as well as the draft. So his willingness to trade down in the second round of this draft was expected, given that it has been rated as one of the best-ever drafts for quality and depth at defensive back.

Of course, these were the same experts’ analyses that concluded that no quarterback would be drafted before the middle of the first round, when in reality three went in the first 12 picks after teams traded up, so ... oh, never mind.

The NFL collective seems to agree with the take on defensive backs: Of the 107 players selected through three completed rounds, 29 (27.1 percent) have been defensive backs (18 cornerbacks and 11 safeties). Meaning more than one-fourth of the 2017 draft picks have been defensive backs.

What wasn’t expected was Pace then making no move at either cornerback or safety even after the trade-down that recovered much of the draft capital expended to deal up to No. 2 for Mitch Trubisky. When the Bears’ pick at No. 45 came around, the Bears instead chose a smaller-college tight end.

First thoughts were that Pace agreed with thinking that said starter-grade corners in particular could be had as late as the fourth round — he reacquired a fourth-round pick in the trade with Arizona, giving him two (Nos. 117 and 119) — or that he had been outflanked by a sudden minor run on defensive backs. In the eight picks from No. 36 (the Bears’ original second-round slot) to No. 43, four defensive backs were snatched up, three of them safeties.

That clearly didn’t bother Pace, though the Bears ended Friday with a plan to take a revised look in the defensive back direction.

“Yeah, we’re going to have to kind of sort through it tonight and we’ll be here late tonight and early in the morning,” Pace said. “Kind of resetting our board and going through it again. We’re going to take best player available, and if it ends up being offensive players, that’s what it is.”

Adam Shaheen travels a different path to being the Bears’ second-round pick

Adam Shaheen travels a different path to being the Bears’ second-round pick

Adam Shaheen was a couple of things coming out of high school in Galena, Ohio: He was 6-foot-4 and weighed about 195 pounds, and was headed to Division II Pittsburgh-Johnstown to play basketball. 

Four years later, the Bears on Friday made the now 6-foot-6, 278 pound tight end their second-round draft pick. He was the fifth tight end selected, behind first-rounders O.J. Howard (Tampa Bay, No. 19), Evan Engram (New York Giants, No. 23), David Njoku (Cleveland, No. 29) and Gerald Everett (Los Angeles Rams, No. 44). 

Shaheen said he missed football after a year of playing basketball (he played football at Big Walnut High School in Ohio), with 2013’s memorable Ohio State-Wisconsin game giving him the itch to return to the sport. He wasn’t big enough to play football when he came out of high school, but coaches at D-II Ashland University saw something in him following his freshman hoops year and brought him into the program.

Then the weight gain began. Shaheen, initially weighing 225 pounds, was Ashland’s No. 3 tight end in 2014. And he continued to grow in his final two years there. 

Shaheen described how he bulked up last month at the scouting combine in Indianapolis:

“A lot of Chipotle burritos,” Shaheen said. “A lot of burritos. No, it all honestly it was a lot of burritos.” 

It wasn’t as easy a process as housing burritos would seem, though. 

“It was just a grind,” Shaheen said Friday. “You know, to put on that kind of weight and still maintain my athleticism, it was a good grind for two years.”

Shaheen went from catching two passes in nine games in 2014 to totaling 122 receptions for 1,670 yards and 26 touchdowns in his final two years at Ashland. Few players at the D-II level have the opportunity to pass up a final year of eligibility — Shaheen could’ve been a fifth-year senior in 2017 — to turn pro, but there wasn’t anything left for him to accomplish. 

“I did all I could really do to help my draft stock there,” Shaheen said. “Another year at that level — I didn’t think after discussing it with my family and friends and stuff it was really going to increase my draft stock if I did similar to what I did the previous two years.”