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?

Bears DL Akiem Hicks making the most of a chance the Saints never gave him

Bears DL Akiem Hicks making the most of a chance the Saints never gave him

Living well is indeed the best revenge, and sometimes nothing feels sweeter than proving doubters wrong. Akiem Hicks is savoring that exact feeling.

When the New Orleans Saints made Hicks their third-round pick in the 2013 draft, they typecast their big (6-5, 318 pounds) young defensive lineman as a one-trick pony.

“There were people in New Orleans that said, ‘You can’t rush the passer,’” Hicks recalled after the Bears’ win Sunday over the San Francisco 49ers. “They told me from my rookie year, ‘You’re going to be a run-stopper.’”

This despite Hicks collecting 6.5 sacks and 3 pass breakups as a senior at Regina in Canada. The Saints forced Hicks into the slot they’d decided he fit – nose tackle – then eventually grew disenchanted with him and traded him to New England last year – where he collect 3 sacks in spot duty.

Interestingly, Bears GM Ryan Pace was part of the Saints’ personnel operation. Whether Pace agreed with coaches’ handling of Hicks then isn’t known, but when Pace had the chance to bring Hicks to Chicago for a role different than the one the Saints forced Hicks into, Pace made it happen.

Pace likely saw those New England sacks as a foreshadowing or a sign that the New Orleans staff had miscast Hicks. The Bears defensive end now is under consideration for NFC defensive player of the week after his 10-tackle performance against San Francisco. Signing with the Bears last March 13 as a free agent was the career break Hicks has craved. For him it was a career lifeline.

“They have given me the ability to go rush the passer,” Hicks said. “So I love this organization – [GM] Ryan Pace, coach Fox, Vic [Fangio, defensive coordinator] – for just giving a guy the capability to put it out there and do what you feel like you can do.”

[MORE BEARS: Back from scary concussion, Leonard Floyd playing like franchise pass rusher Bears craved]

Hicks has been showing what he can do, to quarterbacks. For him the best part of win over the 49ers was the two third-quarter sacks of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Those sacks gave the massive lineman, who the Saints said couldn’t rush the passer, 6 sacks for the season – more than any member of the Saints defense this season. It has been a classic instance of putting a player in position to maximize his skills, not jam someone into a bad fit.

“Akiem has been in a couple of different types of packages before with New Orleans and New England,” said coach John Fox. The Patriots switched from a long-time 3-4 scheme to a 4-3 but “we’re more of a New England-type style. But we’re playing him more at end; he played mostly a nose tackle [in New Orleans]. He’s fit really well for us as far as his physical stature.

"But he does have pass rush ability. It shows a little about his athleticism. So he’s got a combination of both.”

That “combination” has been allowed to flourish at a new level, and the Bears’ plan for Hicks was the foundation of why he wanted to sign in Chicago as a free agent. The Bears do not play their defensive linemen in a clear one-gap, get-upfield-fast scheme tailored to speed players. Nor do they play a classic two-gap, linemen-control-blockers scheme typically built on three massive space-eaters on the defensive line.

They play what one player has called a “gap and a half” system, which requires being stout as well as nimble.

One Hicks rush on Kaepernick featured a deft spin move out of a block, not the norm for 336-pound linemen. He got one sack with a quick slide out of a double-team.

“I’m not freelancing,” Hicks said. “But I’m rushing ‘fast.’ There’s a portion of the defense where you have the [run] responsibility and don’t have the freedom or liberty [to rush]. It’s a great system for me and I love what they’ve let me do.”

Bears In-Foe: Matt Barkley about to get a different type of test

Bears In-Foe: Matt Barkley about to get a different type of test

If the Lions can intercept Drew Brees three times in the Superdome, and keep him without a touchdown pass in his home digs for the first time in seven years, what does that mean for Matt Barkley in his third NFL start, and first on the road?

Teryl Austin's unit held its sixth straight opponent to 20 points or less without its leading tackler, middle linebacker Tahir Whitehead (knee). The reason Whitehead's stepped up is due to the absence of stud linebacker DeAndre Levy, who's practicing, but has yet to play since the opener, due to leg injuries. This on the heels of playing just 17 snaps a year ago. 

It's remarkable what Austin's been able to do with a taped-together defense (sound familiar?) that was rocked by the loss of Ndamukong Suh a year ago (much less Levy's health issues).

[SHOP: Get your Bears gear right here] 

Who's stepped up? Undrafted fire hydrant lineman Kerry Hyder (seven sacks). Devin Taylor (heard of him?) has 4.5 sacks. How about Armonty Bryant (3.0 sacks)? This as Ezekiel Ansah, who came into the season with 30 sacks in 46 NFL games (14.5 last season) has ZERO so far this season. He missed the first meeting with the Bears, which helped in a 17-14 win. 

Haloti Ngata is the linchpin along the line, the 32-year-old rebounding from an injury-plagued 2015. Second-round rookie A'Shawn Robinson and Tyrunn Walker also rotate in effectively.

With their linebacker health woes, they've loaded up on three-safety setups, and will throw in a fourth to serve as undersized help on the second level. Glover Quin and Tavon Wilson are the listed "starters" but Rafael Bush and 6-foot-2 rookie "hitter" Miles Killebrew roll into their packages.

[RELATED: Bears In-Foe: Since last meeting, Lions roar restored]

Opponents tend to stay away from shutdown corner Darius Slay, who approached that status (and four-year, $48 million July payday) last season, and whose late Thanksgiving pick vs. Minnesota set up a game-winning field goal. Nevin Lawson may be "just" 5-foot-9, plays physical and fast on the opposite side, but the Lions may face a dilemma at what to do in their nickel package after Quandre Diggs reportedly suffered a season-ending pectoral injury Sunday in NOLA.

Special teams

Matt Prater kicked the longest field goal in NFL history for John Fox in Denver back in 2013 (64 yards in Mile High altitude), but still consistently connects from distance. He's 5-of-5 from 50-plus this season in going 26-for-29 overall (while missing two extra points).

Andre Roberts handles both kickoff and punt return duties. His 14.6-yard average on the latter leads the league, courtesy of two touchdown returns. The Lions also rank seventh in punt coverage and 10th in kickoff coverage.

Their "Teams" overall? Special.