View from the Moon: No news is good news for CBA

376451.jpg

View from the Moon: No news is good news for CBA

Monday, Feb. 21, 2011Posted: 11:15 PM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

The presence of a mediator in the middle between the NFL and the players association is ostensibly a cause for some optimism. Anytime neither side is walking away from a negotiation and both are showing up to talk, it is something worth noting. The 20 hours of talks over the weekend are scheduled to be followed by another seven hours Tuesday after more conversations on Monday.

If the situation isnt necessarily moving up, at least the rate of descent arguably has slowed a little. The lack of public comments from either side might be a sign that at last theyve all finally agreed on something. Were still not seeing white smoke from the conclave but were not hearing shots of invective. Ill take that as a win for now.

But players contacted by CSNChicago.com still believe that the owners want to follow through with the lockout as of Mar. 4, so any real optimism is premature at this point, mediator or no.

The players are clear that they would be happy staying with the current deal. The owners were clear that they werent when they exercised their opt-out in 2008. The players indicate that they will look at a different owner idea but would also like a look, whether through independent verifier or whatever device, at the books that owners maintain are in need of concessions. Not something the owners side has shown any willingness to grant.

The owners arent building cred when they proceed with contract extensions to head coaches (like the one coming for Lovie Smith) while furloughing employees (not the Bears, but other teams) and flirting with a collusion charge by doing little beyond exercising a few franchise tags to take care of players futures.

Lovie dealin

Nothing is ever done until its done but whispers are growing a little louder that Lovie Smiths new contract may well be in place within the next two weeks, CSNChicago.com was told Monday.

The extension, forecast here for some time dating back into last season, is expected to add two years and give Smith a modest pay bump from the approximately 4.8 million he made in 2010 and stay in the range of his estimated 5.5 million for 2011.

It will leave him short of the 6 million-plus that Bill Belichick in New England, Mike Shanahan in Washington and Pete Carroll in Seattle collect. But they have him securely in the top 10 range along with New Orleans Sean Payton and Arizonas Ken Whisenhunt and ahead of first-timer Jim Harbaughs 5 million per season.

The market has been settling with the three-year extension worth 12 million given to John Harbaugh by the Baltimore Ravens and the 15 million for three additional years accorded Mike McCarthy by the Green Bay Packers in the wake of their Super Bowl victory.

Smith has guided his teams into two of the last five NFC Championship games and the playoffs in three of the last six seasons, with three different starting quarterbacks. Not someone this organization can afford to lose.

And it is looking progressively more likely that they wont, at least not after 2011.

Jay-birding

The fallout from Jay Cutlers knee injury probably goes on until he and the Bears play through to a Super Bowl. But Im not sure some of the Bears will ever get fully past the backstabbing that they saw Cutler take from so-called members of the fraternity, the Twitter-trashing and second-guessing that fellow and former players heaped on Cutler afterwards, particularly ones knowing nothing about his actual condition.

Sitting with Israel Idonije at the March of Dimes Comcast SportsNet awards event recently, that abuse was still a very, very sore point with at least one Cutler teammate and clearly with others. And Cutlers coach hasnt lost any of the edginess either when Cutlers toughness, leadership and whatever else are questioned.

ProFootballTalk.coms Michael David Smith covers Lovie Smiths answers to fans questions on the team website and Smith hasnt moved a millimeter from his Jay is our quarterback position.

Dont take that lightly. One of the things that players like and respect about Smith is that he has his players backs in public. Idonije mentioned that about him, and Izzy also laughed and said Cutler is different, just like wide receivers and kickers, but in the locker room he is one of the guys.

Whatever Cutlers public persona is, the one that matters most is with Smith and teammates and if theres any second-guessing there, Im not finding it.

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.

Three Bears necessities to lay a broom on the Lions

Three Bears necessities to lay a broom on the Lions

If the Lions beat the Bears in Detroit, it'd be a recent rarity. No, not the Bears losing, but in this long series that reaches 175 games Sunday. One team or the other has swept the season series 11 of the last 12 years (the lone exception being 2011). The 17-14 Bears win Oct. 2 ended a string of six consecutive losses to their division rivals. At that point, both clubs were 1-3. The Bears have remained at that pace since, while the Lions have taken off, winning seven of eight.

It was Brian Hoyer's steady hand that guided that win, while a Vic Fangio defense missing Eddie Goldman, Pernell McPhee and Danny Trevathan forced Matthew Stafford into easily his worst game of the season.

1. STAY COMMITTED

That first meeting was Jordan Howard's first start, and his first 100-yard game, and the rook ran it 23 times for the first of five 100-yard rushing efforts (113). And since the two Bears touchdowns were scored by a couple of players who won't suit up Sunday (Eddie Royal and Zach Miller, from a quarterback who also won't be suiting up), keep feeding the beast. He's 117 yards from reaching the 1,000-yard mark (after just a dozen carries the first three games), and another 100-yard effort would give him the most for a rookie in Bears franchise history.

2. A FASTER START FOR MATT

...meaning Barkley, not Stafford. The Bears want to avoid a faster start by Stafford and the home offense, which was held to just one first down and 14 total plays on their first four possessions back in October. As Barkley makes his first NFL road start in a dome, he and his offensive teammates need to get out of the gate quicker than they have the last two home games. Before they got things rolling on the final drive of the first half against the San Francisco 49ers, they had four possessions that totaled 14 plays, 27 net yards and two first downs. In Barkley's first start two weeks ago against the Tennessee Titans, they surrounded one 13-play touchdown drive in the opening half with five possessions, totaling 16 plays, 108 yards, three first downs, and an interception.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

3. HOO-RATIO

The Bears have lost the turnover battle in eight of their 12 games, and just twice have they won it. One of those instances was in Week 4. For a team that has just five interceptions all year, against a quarterback who's thrown just five picks, two came in the first meeting on the lakefront. And those picks were by (....wait for it....) Deiondre Hall (the rookie who'll play for the first time since that game), and Jacoby Glenn, who's now back on the practice squad. Now, yes, Stafford is a different beast in his den, and there's a completely different confidence level now for the NFC North leaders. But what if the defense can pull an encore? And can Leonard Floyd and Akiem Hicks pick up where they left off against another mobile quarterback? The Bears had just two sacks in the first meeting, registered by (....wait for it....) Mitch Unrein and Cornelius Washington.

** Finish up your snow removal by 11 a.m. Plop yourself in front of CSN, and watch ex-Bears Lance Briggs, Jim Miller and Alex Brown join Chris for Bears Pregame Live. Then as soon as the second quarter ends on CBS, log on here to CSNChicago.com as Jim and Chris break down the first 30 minutes and go over second half adjustments on Bears Halftime Live. Finally, as soon as the team's start sharing handshakes, flip back to CSN as the three ex-Bears and Chris provide 90 minutes of reaction, analysis, press conferences and locker room interviews from Detroit on Bears Postgame Live. **

Complete Bears-Lions coverage on CSN

Complete Bears-Lions coverage on CSN

The Bears and Detroit Lions square off Sunday at noon and CSN Chicago has you covered along the way.

Check out a schedule of Sunday's events:

— Meijer Bears Pregame Live with Chris Boden, Lance Briggs, Alex Brown and Jim Miller airs at 11 a.m. on CSN.

— Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois Bears Halftime Live streaming live on CSNChicago.com and ChicagoBears.com.

— State Farm Bears Postgame Live airing immediately after the game on CSN.

Important Twitter follows:

— John "Moon" Mullin (@CSNMoonMullin), CSNChicago

— Bears Talk (@CSNBears), CSNChicago

— Kip Lewis (@CSNKipLewis), CSNChicago

— Chris Boden (@CSNBoden), CSNChicago