Cutler and Smith: The head cases

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Cutler and Smith: The head cases

Players just know, often better than coaches. So I went privately, no pen or recorder operating, to several offensive players to get some sense of what they might have seen in Jay Cutler that would have hinted at a concussion.

Nothing. And these are people I trust, some of the same ones who told me after the NFC Championship game, with the furor over whether Cutler really had a knee injury, that Cutlers knee was wobbling visibly while he was just standing in the huddle calling plays. They were bewildered and irate at questions, particularly ones from players, over Cutlers toughness,

So it was telling that three different members of the offense told CSNChicago.com that they were genuinely surprised when word came the Jason Campbell would take over for Cutler after halftime in the wake of the Tim Dobbins hit.

All of which lent unintended credibility to coach Lovie Smiths account that Cutler exhibited no symptoms of head injury before the team was in the locker room at halftime. The same was not the case with Shea McClellin when the rookie defensive end jogged groggily off the field one play into the Houston game with a concussion of his own.

The Bears and even the NFL could be called on failure to properly handle a concussion situation. Right now that doesnt appear to have been the case, based on eyewitness accounts from up close.

Should Cutler have been pulled after the Dobbins blow and Cutlers staying down for some moments after the hit? Based on what? That he was hit hard? That could mean pulling any player slow to get up after a play. A gray area for sure but it always is where gray matter is concerned.

Different town, same tune

Jim Harbaugh was entertaining some of the same questions posed to Smith when the San Francisco coach and former Bears quarterback talked Monday about the condition of quarterback Alex Smith.

Smith was pulled after suffering a concussion, signs of which included blurred vision. Smith was still showing positive concussion symptoms on Monday, making him an early longshot to play against the Bears next Monday.

Smith said that he had the blurred vision after he got up from a quarterback sneak, which was maybe two possessions after the hit to the back of the head believed to be the blow responsible, and that was a good-sized hit, Harbaugh said. Our doctors were good. They were very proactive on that hit. They watched it on the monitors and Alex had no symptoms after that hit. He was cleared to play. So I think our doctors handled it very well.

The Kyle Schwarber reboot begins Monday in Iowa

The Kyle Schwarber reboot begins Monday in Iowa

MIAMI – This isn’t a Tommy La Stella situation. The Cubs purposely told Kyle Schwarber to take a few days off to decompress before reporting to Triple-A Iowa. The reboot will begin Monday in Des Moines.

“We’re doing it to hopefully reset him, get him back up with a fresh start,” manager Joe Maddon said. “As you would expect, he was very professional about it, understood it entirely.

“There’s no actual timetable. I don’t anticipate it to be long. But we’ll see how it plays out, give him a little bit of room to get things right and then move it forward from there.”

The Cubs broke the news to Schwarber after Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to the San Diego Padres at Wrigley Field, where the entire lineup went 1-for-27 outside of rookie Ian Happ’s two-run homer. It left Schwarber hitting .171 with a .673 OPS, not enough to justify his 12 home runs and suspect outfield defense. The Iowa Cubs are in the middle of a four-game series this weekend in Round Rock, Texas.

The Cubs hope Schwarber can regain his confidence and almost become a trade-deadline addition, reenergizing the team the way he did in 2015, when he blasted 16 homers in 69 games and five more in the playoffs.

Under entirely different circumstances in 2012, future All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo used 70 games with Iowa to rework his swing and make adjustments after bombing his audition with the Padres.

“He’s going to go down and be able to exhale a little bit,” Rizzo said. “Hopefully, he can smooth things out. We’re all confident he will. Just do the best down there to get back up here and to be the Kyle Schwarber that we all know and love.”

Niklas Hjalmarsson reflects on time with Blackhawks: 'I had the best time in Chicago'

Niklas Hjalmarsson reflects on time with Blackhawks: 'I had the best time in Chicago'

Niklas Hjalmarsson heard some of the rumors, but not to a large degree. The former Blackhawks defenseman wasn’t spending a lot of time on the internet reading up on his potential fate. He figured he’d still stay put in Chicago.

“But when my agent called me about the 10-team list, I understood it was serious. Stan [Bowman] wouldn’t ask for that unless they made up their mind already,” Hjalmarsson said via conference call on Saturday. “That’s when it hit me that I’m probably not going to put the Hawks jersey on anymore.”

Indeed, Hjalmarsson’s next jersey will be that of the Arizona Coyotes, who acquired him in exchange for defenseman Connor Murphy on Friday. Hjalmarsson’s departure marks the end of the line for another Blackhawks core player, and this one is jarring in how it will change the team’s defense.

Speaking of change, Hjalmarsson faces a lot of it himself now. Sure, there’s the obvious change for a guy who’s played his entire career in one place. It’s new surroundings and a new team, on which he knows former Blackhawks teammate Antti Raanta and fellow countryman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

But the Coyotes have dealt with a lot of upheaval lately. Goaltender Mike Smith is gone. So is veteran Shane Doan. On Thursday, head coach Dave Tippett and the Coyotes parted ways.

“They’re on a rebuild, a lot of new faces, lot of changes,” Hjalmarsson said. “It’s tough to know what to expect but I think they’re a hungry organization that wants to win like other teams. I’m looking forward to try to contribute with playing my game, just try to get the organization back in the playoffs.”

Hjalmarsson should find chemistry with Ekman-Larsson – the two were teammates in the Winter Olympics in Sochi – and Hjalmarsson will likely play a bigger role with the Coyotes. Arizona will probably look to Hjalmarsson a lot during its rebuild, given his Cup-winning history.

The first 24 hours were full of mixed emotions of Hjalmarsson. With his limited no-move clause, he was always a likely candidate to be moved from a Blackhawks team laden will full no-move clauses. He’s turning a page, but he won’t forget his time in Chicago anytime soon.

“I’m trying to always be a positive guy,” Hjalmarsson said. “I spent my whole 20s in Chicago, 10 unbelievable years. I didn’t think I’d win three Cups. Hopefully I can get one more before my career is over. I had the best time in Chicago, enjoyed every single year, playing in front of the best fans in the league. I’ve been spoiled. Now it’s time for me and my family to move on and seize the opportunity in Arizona and create some new fond memories.”