Chicago Bears

Why Jaye Howard is joining the Bears with 'a chip on my shoulder'

Why Jaye Howard is joining the Bears with 'a chip on my shoulder'

Before signing in Chicago a month ago, most Bears fans were probably most familiar with Jaye Howard for the baptism he gave center Hroniss Grasu in his first NFL start.

It was October 11, 2015, at Arrowhead Stadium when a big, heavy Chiefs defensive front paired with their talented linebacking corps to give the rookie all he could handle in the chaos and noise of Kansas City's home field. Grasu was in the middle of it, one week after Will Montgomery's season-ending leg injury. Howard released off the snap with the the Bears offense backed up near its own goal line, pulled off a stunt to confuse and occupy Grasu, and crushed Jay Cutler in the end zone for a sack, knocking the ball loose for Ramik Wilson to pounce on it for an early Chiefs touchdown.

"Oh not yet," Howard chuckled when asked Tuesday whether he's brought that memory, or nightmare, up with Grasu. "That's past me and I'm with these guys now. That's old and I'm just looking to make some big plays here."

His new teammates and coaches hope so. He made his share in four seasons in Kansas City, starting 23 games in 2014 and 2015, the latter registering 5.5 sacks, including the one against the Bears. But after signing a lucrative two year deal a year and a half ago, he missed the last half of 2016 following hip surgery.

"Bone spurs. It was just one of those things where I just woke up and was walking funny," Howard said. "It was hard to play through and eventually it was just time to shut it down."

And with the Chiefs having difficulty maneuvering a salary cap crunch, he was let go as they were preparing for the NFL draft. Technically, they announced Howard failed a physical, but it was strictly about money. He visited the Bears and a couple of other teams, actually leaving Halas Hall after his original visit without a contract. He then came back and signed a couple days later.

"There were other possibilities but I ended up staying (in town) after I left to just clear my mind, prayed about it and felt like this was the best opportunity for me," he said. "To come in, be able to contribute and be wanted, that was the opportunity that was presented and I couldn't pass on it. I'm embracing this opportunity."

The Bears' long list of "ifs" on the health front includes a potentially solid combination in the 3-4 base defense - if Akiem Hicks, if Eddie Goldman, and if Howard himself can stay together most of the season.

"I'm definitely coming out here with a chip on my shoulder," said Howard, who's been doing individual work during OTAs but is expected to be full-go physically when training camp begins. "Me and Hicks are already pushing each other. We're looking to have a big year and hopefully we can stay here together. Just watching him on film last year and what Jay Rodgers was able to do with him (career-high seven sacks), I'm hoping I can take my game to that next level as well."

He was part of a Chiefs defense in those 2014 and 2015 seasons that ranked seventh overall both years, playing with the likes of Dontari Poe, Justin Houston, Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson, Allen Bailey and an outstanding secondary. He hopes to contribute to similar success here under Vic Fangio, with a little luck on the health front.

"It's a good group of guys all around, us and the linebackers, and our guys in the secondary are stepping up.  I really see that we can be a good front."

With return to Tennessee looming, football is fun again for Kendall Wright

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USA Today Sports Images

With return to Tennessee looming, football is fun again for Kendall Wright

Sunday will mark Kendall Wright’s first trip back to Nashville since he not-so-amicably split with the Tennessee Titans after the 2016 season. 

Wright has said he doesn’t want to talk about his time in Tennessee, where injuries and clashes with coaches led to a steady decline in targets and production after a standout 2013 season (139 targets, 94 receptions, 1,079 yards). But it’s easy to compare how he feels practicing with the Bears to how he felt toward the end of his days with the Titans. 

“A fresh start is good,” Wright said. “Football is fun again. 

“If you don’t have fun playing the game, what the use of you playing? And I didn’t really have too much fun the past few years. But when you’re out here playing and doing what you love to do, it’s fun. So you just gotta keep the game fun.”

Wright was a little more forceful earlier this year. 

“What motivates me the most is I probably was the best receiver on the Titans roster last year and I was playing, like, 10 plays a game,” Wright said during OTAs in June. 

But while this weekend’s game against the Titans could seem to be an opportunity for revenge, Wright is more approaching it for what it is — another preseason game to continue to improve with the rest of the first team offense. 

Wright caught a touchdown from  Glennon Saturday night in Arizona (he also was the target on Glennon’s interception, though that looked to be more on the quarterback than the receiver). And he seems to be clearly ahead of Victor Cruz to be the team’s No. 1 slot receiver — Cruz wasn’t targeted against Arizona, while Wright received three targets. 

If the Glennon-led first-team offense is going to have success in the regular season, it needs improvements from every unit — quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end and offensive line — based on what we’ve seen during the preseason. Perhaps a motivated, fun-having Wright, playing for the same offensive coordinator under which he had his best season, can be a part of that. 

“The game of football is supposed to be fun,” Wright said. “Don’t take the fun out of it. You just gotta go out there and have fun and make plays. When you’re making plays, it’s even more fun.” 

SportsTalk Live Podcast: John Fox hasn't decided who will get first-team QB reps on Sunday

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: John Fox hasn't decided who will get first-team QB reps on Sunday

David Haugh (Chicago Tribune), Phil Rogers (MLB.com) and Anthony Herron (670 The Score) join Kap on the panel. 

John Fox hasn’t decided who will get reps with the first-team in Sunday’s all-important third preseason game? Could Mitch Trubisky get a look with the ones?

Javy Baez hustles and scores the winning run for the Cubs. Is his the most entertaining athlete in Chicago? Plus will Nicky Delmonico still be on the White Sox in a few years when they are ready to contend for the postseason?

Listen to the full epidsode here