Urgency building in Bears coaching search

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Urgency building in Bears coaching search

It was nine years ago Tuesday that the Bears hired Lovie Smith to coach their team. They are unlikely to hit that date this time but perhaps not by much.

The divisional playoff round was not a great weekend for four candidates in the Bears search for Smiths successor. But the Bears and several NFL teams may not have been entirely unhappy with Denver, Green Bay, Houston and Seattle losing in divisional-round playoff games because it unlocked several doors.

The Bears have the offensive coordinators for all four teams and those individuals are now free for second interviews with Phil Emery if the Bears GM has them on his finalist list. Emery said that his search would include college coaches but none have been among the 13 reported candidates.

The only still-unavailable known candidate interviewed by Emery is Atlanta special-teams coach Keith Armstrong, who is not widely considered one of the leading prospects. Montreal Alouettes coach Marc Trestman and Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan are believed to be among the top candidates so far but Emerys final list was still unfinished as of Sunday night.

Emery said on Jan. 1 that his ideal would be to have his new coach standing with him watching this months college all-star games and he may yet get his wish. Some of his competitors hope he does.

Indeed, at least one other NFL team is privately irritated at the pace of the Bears search because it wants to know if it needs to replace its offensive coordinator. That decision could be coming within a week based on Emery narrowing his finalist choices to 2-3 as planned, those candidates meeting with Chairman George McCaskey and President Ted Phillips, and a deal being reached.

Urgency rising

A note of urgency does in fact enter the process now because several of the Bears candidates are high on other teams lists.

Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, interviewed by Emery last week, is set to interview now with San Diego, is on the Philadelphia Eagles list, and has met with and impressed the Arizona Cardinals.

Houston offensive coordinator Rick Dennison and Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell have met with Emery and have been linked to other teams as well. Bruce Arians was on Emerys Sunday interview list and also is a candidate with the Chargers.

Looking for assistants

The need for prompt action concerns more than just the top spot. The organization still has Smith's assistant coaches under contract, giving the incoming coach a ready selection of coaches familiar with Bears personnel but no coach retains the full former staff and each hiring around the league sets in motion the search for assistants.

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: