Separated at birth: Bill Belichick and Lovie Smith?

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Separated at birth: Bill Belichick and Lovie Smith?

Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010
5:39 PM
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Fresh from his sold-out run at Zanies, the Bears coach paused from watching horror films starring Tom Brady just long enough Thursday to have fun with a question about similarities between himself and the New England Patriots head coach.

Just looking at me, you see quite a few, don't you? Smith said with a slight smile.

That Smith can manage humor in the days before going against the No. 1 scoring offense in the NFL and a three-time Super Bowl champion coach may speak to both Smith's and his team's state of mind.

With Smith down in their pre-practice drills, defensive backs were delivering loud whoops every time one of their number intercepted a lollypop practice pass.

When the subject was brought up about his healthy competition with fellow linebacker Brian Urlacher for the team lead in tackles, Lance Briggs made sure to point out his two missed games with an ankle injury: You have to remember, since we're talking about a healthy competition: I've missed two games, two games, so for me that'll always be in the back of the mind, if people say, Lance, why didn't you have more tackles?

For his part, Urlacher ran through the requisite superlatives about Brady, then added a subtle reference to an embarrassing feint Brady put on him during the Patriots' 2006 win over the Bears. And he runs fast, too, Urlacher deadpanned, then laughed. I remember he's really fast. Good runner.

If the Bears were feeling any tension facing the Patriots, it has been nowhere to be found this week, perhaps a carryover from the collective mood after the Detroit game: It's starting to get fun for us, quarterback Jay Cutler said of his offense but might have been speaking for his entire team.

On the mend

Linebacker Nick Roach (hip) was able to practice on a limited basis Thursday but starter Pisa Tinoisamoa (knee), after dressing and going through some early drills, was not able to practice. The Bears have ruled neither player in or out for Sunday.

Running back Chester Taylor (knee) returned to practice but was also limited in certain sessions. The Bears were also without defensive tackle Marcus Harrison, excused from practice because of illness.

Brady continues to be limited in practice by shoulder and foot injuries and nose tackle Myron Pryor by back problems. Safety Patrick Chung and linebacker Brandon Spikes did not practice for non-football issues. Cornerback Jonathan Wilhite (hip) also was out.

Bear weather?

The Bear weather mystique is a questionable asset for the home team. Frigid temperatures have been in no way a guarantee of success on the lakefront. Far from it.

The Bears are 8-4 in games with the wind chill at zero or below. They bagged their 1963 NFL championship in minus-3 conditions and they smacked around the New York Giants in the 1985 playoffs with wind chill at zero. (In case you're wondering, the following week was the 24-0 annihilation of the Los Angeles Rams in the snow, temperature at a balmy 39, wind chill 28).

But the Ditka Bears twice saw dream seasons die in the cold: against Washington after the 14-2 season of 1986, and against San Francisco in the 1988 NFC Championship game.

(Thanks to Bears media relations for some superb digging on the numbers.)

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.

Bullard a prime example of how, why and where Bears can improve

Bullard a prime example of how, why and where Bears can improve

This Bears rebuild has taken longer than expected. Ideally, in year three of a GM/head coach tandem, they should be contending for the playoffs. 

That’s not to say the 2017 Bears can’t. It’s just unlikely. They don’t have enough players opponents have to gameplan for. They don’t have the depth to overcome key injuries. When franchises get on a winning roll, it’s when they have enough of those studs on both sides of the ball, and have the depth to avoid as many emergencies as possible. And that happens when second- and third-year players make a jump in their play.

Offensively, we saw an impressive jump by Cam Meredith, but another left leg injury still have us wondering exactly what Kevin White is, and how good he can be. Jeremy Langford’s growth was stunted by his ankle injury. Second-year center Hroniss Grasu missed the entire year. On the defensive side, we never got to see if Kyle Fuller could’ve proven his first-round status in his third year. Safety Adrian Amos started another full season, but is now in a battle to do the same a third straight year. We can see star qualities in Eddie Goldman, but how much of a difference-maker can he be by remaining on the field? We’ll learn the same about Leonard Floyd if he can do that this fall. And there are a handful of other second-year players we’ll be watching, from Deon Bush to Deiondre Hall to Cre’Von LeBlanc. There’s also 2016 third-round pick Jonathan Bullard, who learned what it took to become a 3-4 defensive end in the NFL.

“It was okay. I got about 17 snaps a game,” Bullard said of his rookie season during last month’s minicamp. “That’s not what I wanted coming in. But it is what is. I want to move on to the next year and hopefully be able to help this team in a big way.”

Rookie seasons for every player lay the groundwork. How high their ceiling goes starts to get established in year two, between the player’s effort, and getting coached-up correctly.

“They asked me to gain a few pounds. I was like 282 last year, and right now I’m at 296, so hopefully that helps me, said Bullard. “I’m just trying to make all this solid and not lose my burst that got me here. So I’m looking forward to it. I got a year under my belt now, I know what they expect. I’m gonna be ready.”

Part of Bullard taking things upon himself was hooking up with a former defensive end, from the same alma mater, who happens to be fourth in franchise history in sacks (albeit in a 4-3 scheme): CSN’s very own Bears analyst, Alex Brown.

“We saw each other at the Florida spring game and we kind of linked up and put in some work at his facility down the road,” Bullard explained. “We’ve met up quite a few times, just working on little things. He’s just trying to give me a better understanding of the game, and some of the veteran things he knows that I want to incorporate into my game.”

So what kind of a teacher is Alex?

“He’s alright. I make him him jump in there. I tell him he’s not that old.”

And while Pace didn’t make the big splash in free agency as he tries to match up salary with his grades for players, Bullard has to prove he’s now better than last year’s starter, Mitch Unrein, as well as a hungry fellow former Gator, Jaye Howard, who was brought in on a “prove it” one-year deal after being cut just before the draft by Kansas City.

“As far as him being a Gator, it’s exciting. But it’s a competition. He’s gonna come in and try to win the starting job, and I’m gonna do the same. It’s just gonna have to be a friendly competition when training camp comes, and may the best man win.”

Let this, and many other Bourbonnais battles, begin.

Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman saved a man's life at an airport

Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman saved a man's life at an airport

Jerrell Freeman played hero at an Austin airport on Sunday.

The Bears linebacker was grabbing a bite to eat before his flight to head back to Chicago for training camp when he noticed a man choking.

Freeman said an older lady tried to perform the Heimlich maneuver on the man but didn't have enough strength. That's when Freeman stepped in, and after a couple attempts, saved his life.

“I grabbed him and tried to squeeze the life out of him,” Freeman told the Chicago Tribune. “You’ve got to push in and up. So I did that and he started throwing up what he was choking on. I asked him if he was all right and he shook his head like ‘No!’

“I grabbed him again and hit him again with it. And when I put him down the second time, his eyes got big. He was like, ‘Oh, my god! I think you just saved my life, man!’ It was crazy.”

Freeman tweeted a picture after it happened:

Freeman, 31, said he had never done the Heimlich maneuver before, but his mom is a nurse and had talked to him about it. He just did what he heard, and thankfully it worked.