Word on the Street: TCF Bank Stadium 'unplayable'?

Word on the Street: TCF Bank Stadium 'unplayable'?

Sunday, Dec. 19, 2010
CSNChicago.com
Vikings' Kluwe: TCF Bank Stadium 'unplayable'

The Minnesota Vikings got the first look at TCF Bank Stadium on Sunday when they held a walk-through at the stadium on the University of Minnesota campus.

Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, who was critical of the decision to play there during the week, called the field "unplayable" on his personal Twitter account. At this point, however, it's unknown what, if anything can be done about the situation. Kluwe added that he has been muzzled, asked not to talk about the field on his Twitter account that has the handle chriswarcraft.

"Serious time -- All respect to the people that cleared the field and got it ready, you did an amazing job. That being said, it's unplayable," Kluwe wrote on his Twitter account," (ChicagoBreakingSports).
Has Gibson lost his starting job?
Taj Gibson suffered a concussion Saturday night in his first start as the replacement center for the injured Joakim Noah. But, even though he played just 10 minutes, could Gibson have lost the opportunity to start, especially going up against the 7-foot-1 Spencer Hawes of the 76ers Tuesday (Gibson is only 6-foot-9)? (Chicago Tribune)
Former Bear Grossman throws 4 TDs Sunday

Rex Grossman, who was drafted by the Bears to be the quarterback of the future, got his first chance to start with another team Sunday and made the most of it. After getting promoted to first string for the Washington Redskins (over Donovan McNabb), Grossman engineered his team to 30 points, albeit in a 33-30 loss. Grossman had a career-high 4 TDs and was 25-of-43 for 322 yards. He also threw two interceptions and was sacked five times. (Chicago Tribune)
Favre ruled out against Bears

Vikings quarterback Brett Favre has officially been ruled out of Monday night's game against the Bears with a shoulder injury.

Favre didn't have much to say as he walked around the locker room Saturday afternoon but interim coach Leslie Frazier said the quarterback will sit for the second straight week, (ChicagoBreakingSports).

Former Cubs MVP Cavaretta dies

Phil Cavaretta, who won the NL MVP with the Chicago Cubs in 1945, passed away Saturday at the age of 94. Cavaretta, who also attended Lane Tech, led the Cubs to their last World Series appearance in that same season while playing first base and outfield. He also played the final 77 games of his career for the Chicago White Sox. He was also believed to be the last living person to have played against Babe Ruth, which he did so in 1935. (Chicago Tribune)

Buehrle's flip named Defensive Play of the Year
The 2010 GIBBY for Defensive Play of the Year goes to the White Sox Mark Buehrle. The GIBBY (Greatest in Baseball Yearly) Awards were handed out on Friday based on This Year in Baseball voting on MLB.com.

The White Sox held a four-run lead over the Indians at U.S. Cellular Field in the fifth inning with one out when catcher Lou Marson hit a shot back toward the mound. Buehrle stuck out his left foot in an attempt to stop the ground ball, only to have it strike his left shin and roll toward the first-base line.

Buehrle raced after the ricochet, avoided colliding with Marson and grabbed the ball with his glove. Then the play just became ridiculous.

Buehrle flipped the ball with his glove between his legs -- sort of like one of those remarkable Roger Federer winners on the tennis court, (MLB.com).
Fehr chosen to lead hockey players' association

Don Fehr is the new executive director of the National Hockey League Players' Association.

The union made the announcement Saturday. It said the players voted overwhelmingly to appoint Fehr after the executive board's endorsement.

He will start in his new position immediately. The collective bargaining agreement between the union and league is set to expire in September 2012, (ChicagoBreakingSports).

Bears to practice at Northwestern

In possibly the strongest indication yet that their game with the Minnesota Vikings will indeed be played at the University of Minnesotas TCF Bank Field on Monday, the Bears will hold a closed practice outside on Saturday but theyll do it on the artificial turf of Northwestern Universitys practice field in Evanston, (CSNChicago.com).

Did Santo's passing influence Wood to return?

CSNChicago.com's Patrick Mooney said after Ron Santo's funeral service, Kerry Wood and his wife began discussing the possibility of returning to the North Side. Did Santo help in the final decision?

Are Bears better than Texans, Broncos, Dolphins and others? Pro Football Focus says yes

Are Bears better than Texans, Broncos, Dolphins and others? Pro Football Focus says yes

Pro Football Focus has more than its share of both supporters and detractors of how it goes about grading NFL players. They break down every snap for every player, and while there are general agreements on what's seen by naked, untrained eyes who don't put the time and investment into its system that PFF does, there are other evaluations that seem to come out of the blue. While there's occasional guesswork on a player's particular assignment on a given play within its scheme, those of us who've watched and studied nuances of the game, or those who've played it, can usually identify how many jobs were done correctly.

Tuesday, PFF released its rankings of all 32 NFL rosters but in essence focused on the quality of each team's starting lineup, listing the Bears — are you sitting down? — 18th in the league. That's ahead of the likes of the Ravens, Saints, Texans, Dolphins, a Jaguars franchise that's had tons of high draft picks in recent years, as well as the Broncos and Lions (whom they rank 28th). The top five are the Falcons, Patriots, Titans, Packers and Steelers (the Bears play three of those teams in September alone). Among other Bears opponents, they rank the Panthers 10th, Vikings 12th, Buccaneers 13th and Eagles 15th.

[BEARS TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

Their evaluation is based on each player's final score from last season, "elite" and "good" being the top two levels, followed by "average" and "below average" to "poor." The only Bear earning elite status was inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman. Another nine Bears finished with good grades: Jordan Howard, Zach Miller, Josh Sitton, Cody Whitehair, Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Danny Trevathan, Adrian Amos and Quintin Demps (who earned his grade in Houston).

Those earning average grades were Cam Meredith, Kendall Wright, Kyle Long, Charles Leno, Jr., Pernell McPhee and Prince Amukamara. Below average: Mike Glennon (in mop-up duty in Tampa Bay), Kevin White, Bobby Massie, Leonard Floyd and Jaye Howard. The only Bear earning a poor grade among projected starters was tight end Dion Sims (with Miami). The other potential flaw is that PFF lists Kyle Fuller (no grade) and Bryce Callahan (average) as starters when Marcus Cooper and Cre'Von LeBlanc likely have the inside track to start at cornerback and nickel back, respectively.

How did the Bears get to 18th, above three playoff teams and another that won the Super Bowl two years ago? Well, all of those other teams have more elite players at certain positions, but it's offset by a number of spots occupied by more players with poor or below average grades. The Broncos (25th) for instance, had four elite players, just another four falling under the good grade, but five players listed as poor.

Jordan Howard wants to lead Bears... and lead the league

Jordan Howard wants to lead Bears... and lead the league

So Jordan Howard finished second in the NFL in rushing in his rookie season, despite just a dozen carries in the first three games. The fifth-round pick joined the man who beat him out for the rushing title, Ezekiel Elliott, as one of just five rookies in history to average five or more yards per carry on over 250 carries. And he set the Bears' rookie rushing record with his 1,313 yards while becoming just the fourth in franchise history to rush for that many yards in a season.

Sounds pretty hard to top, like we might be set up for the dreaded sophomore slump.

But...

"Things are a lot different this year because I know what to expect," Howard said during the team's minicamp two weeks ago. "I know all the plays and things like that. I’m not out there thinking, so I can just play free and fast.

"I definitely feel like a veteran 'cause I know what to expect and can help the young guys on the plays that they're not understanding. I’m just more comfortable and want to be a leader."

One of the other things we learned about Howard last year is he's low-key, a man of few words. So the Indiana product by way of UAB will make his points verbally when needed, but his actions will speak louder.

"He was a rookie a year ago and didn't even go in trying to be a leader, telling a five-year guy what was up," said head coach John Fox. "I think with time, and obviously with production like he had, I think it's a role he can fall in to. We're in a performance-based business and even in that locker room, what they do on Sundays gives them some credibility."

One of the concerns about Howard coming out of college was durability, but he answered the bell once he became the starter in week four against Detroit. And he probably wasn't used nearly as much as he should have. The good news about that is he was subject to less wear and tear, averaging just 18 carries per game from that Lions game on.

But besides taking more of a leadership role, Howard wanted to work on his speed without sacrificing the strong base that, paired with keen vision and work by the offensive line, allowed him to hit holes quickly and charge toward the second level of opposing defenses.

"Just improving on the little things – my conditioning, my weight, catching passes. And looking for ways to finish runs better," says Howard. "I feel like I’m in much better shape than I was at this time last year, a little more toned-up."

"It's just training," said Fox. "When you get to that it's more like track speed than football speed and I think he proved pretty worthy of that a year ago as a rookie. Y'know we all can improve on things, and that's the expectation. He's trained hard.

"This time of year last year he wasn’t even practicing," Fox remembered. "I like where we are, we’ve brought in more competition, and he’s better for it. He’s kind of gotten used to an NFL season, he’s come back ready to roll, but he still has work to do before we get to training camp."  

Oh, and the 22-year-old has a couple of other goals he didn't mind sharing, besides being a leader and getting a little faster.

"First off, make the playoffs. Be the leading rusher, and just help the team in any way I can and stay consistent."