Urlacher or Butkus? How about Urlacher and Butkus?

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Urlacher or Butkus? How about Urlacher and Butkus?

Brian Urlacher has heard enough detractors in his time, including one national publication declaring him the most overrated player in the NFL based on its poll.

A number of other very, very credible sources hold a decidedly different opinion.

Urlacher has emerged at No. 5 in ESPNs list of 20 current players who would be forces in any era, not just this one. None other than Jim Brown, the Cleveland legend, says of Urlacher: Brian Urlacher plays an intelligent game but is also very physical and very tough. He can apply his physicality with a mentality that fits into the game plan. His mental toughness is as good as it gets.

The list has a couple of seriously interesting aspects, and a couple of utterly bizarre ones that throw the whole thing into more than a little question.

Tim Tebow (yes, that Tim Tebow) came in at No. 19. Peyton Manning was No. 20. Go figure.

Urlacher finished well up on the list ahead of Tom Brady (No. 11), James Harrison (No. 10) and Aaron Rodgers (No. 9).

What makes the list doubly interesting is looking at it in reverse.

The panel of selectors included Brown, Mike Ditka, John Randle, Jerry Rice and more than a dozen other Hall of Fame players. Think Brown, 232 pounds, 6-foot-2, could play in the current era? How about Ditka, 6-foot-3, 235?

Or how about Butkus? 6-foot-3, 245, fast and in the Ray Lewis mold (or vice versa)? Critics are fond of denigrating Butkus and players like him, probably because they were white (actually they still are), just like the experts of that era didnt think African Americans could play quarterback, center or middle linebacker.

But thats another issue for another time. All you need to know is that John Randle was 6-foot-1, 270 pounds, an undrafted runt defensive tackle, and he did play in this era of road-grader guards.

When you look at the so-called eras, look past the superficials and look at the players. Like Brown. Like Urlacher.

Bears Talk Podcast: Breaking down camp competition at wide receiver

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Bears Talk Podcast: Breaking down camp competition at wide receiver

On this week’s Bears Talk Podcast, we hear from Markus Wheaton as Chris Boden and JJ Stankevitz discuss the training camp competition at slot receiver.

Boden and Stankevitz also weigh in on PFF ranking the Bears’ starting lineup 18th in the NFL, answer listener questions and add another layer of Aaron Rodgers envy.

Listen to the latest Bears Talk Podcast right here:

Can Leonard Floyd break out in 2017? The Bears like the early signs

Can Leonard Floyd break out in 2017? The Bears like the early signs

The Bears believe Leonard Floyd will make the leap from being a promising rookie to a breakout second-year player, the kind who can be a centerpiece of a defense as soon as this fall.  

The Bears in 2016 totaled 37 sacks —12th in the NFL — despite dealing with a rash of injuries and not having a standout player in terms of getting to the quarterback. Willie Young led the team with 7 1/2 sacks, which tied him for 31st in the league last year, while Floyd and Akiem Hicks each had seven. 

Sixteen players recorded double-digit sacks last year. That’s not the end-all benchmark for Floyd in 2017, but for a former top-10 pick with elite skills and, as his coaches and teammate said, the right mentality, it’s not out of the question. 

“With most players, you go from your freshman year to sophomore or rookie to second year, … it slows down, they understand it, they're not thinking, they're reacting,” coach John Fox said. “And so I'd expect that and I've seen that already even in the off-season.”

Floyd, earlier this month, talked about how much more comfortable he feels after a full year of practicing and playing at the NFL level. 

“Everything was just fast when I got here last year,” Floyd said. “This year’s it’s way slower and I feel like I’m doing pretty good this year.”

There are two issues with Floyd that won’t go away until he proves they’re not problems in the regular season, though: His weight and his concussions. 

The weight issue is one Floyd has heard for a while, joking with reporters during veteran minicamp that he was surprised it wasn’t the first thing he was asked during his session with the media. He said he “definitely gained some weight” without revealing how much he’s put on, only saying he feels like he’s in much better shape now than he was as a rookie.

“It’s like night and day compared to last year,” Floyd said. 

The concessions are a far more serious — and scary — issue given it took Floyd two months to fully recover from the second concussion he suffered in 2016. 

The Bears believe Floyd’s concussion issues are correctable, though, given they were the product of poor tackling form made worse by collisions with Hicks. The crown of Floyd’s helmet was too low, so he and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio worked with tackling dummies and sled machines in an effort to fix that issue. 

The hope is that Floyd can stay healthy and marry his skills with a better knowledge of the game to put together a breakout year in 2017. His teammates sounded confident during the offseason program that everything was falling into place for the former ninth overall pick. 

“He’s a great competitor,” Hicks said. “Great energy, fast, athletic, he’s everything you want in an outside linebacker, right? Nonstop motor — I can give you all the cliche terms, but I just feel like as far as the defensive line or an outside linebacker, another year under his belt is only going to make him better.”

Added linebacker Jerrell Freeman: “That guy is going to be good for a while.”