No separation in Notre Dame quarterback battle

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No separation in Notre Dame quarterback battle

SOUTH BEND -- Everett Golson has thought about the scene. A packed Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland on Sept. 1, trotting out for Notre Dame's first offensive possession of the season as the team's starting quarterback.

"Honestly, I've had dreams about it, kinda seeing visions of it," Golson said after practice Wednesday, Notre Dame's fifth of fall camp. "Me being out there, the crowd and everything. But that's what motivates me just to keep going, keep driving and learn as much as I can."

With junior Tommy Rees suspended for the Navy game, whoever takes the ball for Notre Dame in just over three weeks will be inexperienced. Andrew Hendrix has in-game experience at the NCAA level, but it's limited, and Golson has never taken a snap in a college game.

Less than a week into camp, the Irish quarterback battle has been defined as Hendrix against Golson -- both players have been splitting reps with the first and second team, while freshman Gunner Kiel has seen limited reps, coming exclusively with the third team.

While it seemed as if Golson took more first-team reps in Wednesday's practice, Notre Dame players and coaches dismissed anything but a 50-50 split in reps between Golson and Hendrix. But even if the first-team reps lean toward one player, Hendrix doesn't see it as a roadblock to the other earning the starting job.

"It's the same work you get with the ones and the twos, I think, because it's the same reads and the timing's almost the same," Hendrix said. "Really, it's when you're in, focusing on the defense and just making the right reads off that."

Kiel, a true freshman who came to Notre Dame a semester early, didn't appear too bothered by his likely No. 3 spot on the depth chart.

"Whatever the coaches want me to do, that's all I can say," Kiel said. "They're there, and they're going to teach us. If Andrew and Everett are going to get more reps than I am, that's fine. I'm going to be the best player I'm going to be for the team and do whatever I can to make the team better."

After a turnover-plagued 2011, limiting mistakes has been the mantra from head coach Brian Kelly and first-year offensive coordinator Chuck Martin since the beginning of spring camp. While Kelly preached attention to detail and zero as a positive play last year, those talking points never materialized into results.

But it's a new year, and Notre Dame's quarterbacks don't expect the same issues to pop back up.

"Our team is so good around us, the quarterback position, we don't have to win the games, we just have to get the ball to our horses and let the playmakers do their job and just minimize mistakes," Hendrix said. "We moved backwards sometimes last year, and as long as we're always moving forward, never having negatives plays, we're going to be a very good football team."

Both Hendrix and Golson aren't getting caught up in their position in the competition, which has been labeled as 1A and 1B early in camp. There's still plenty of time for separation, but until a starter is named, neither are paying much attention to what their standing may be, or what others are saying their standing may be.

"I try to stay as far away from that as possible," Golson said. "You don't really want to get too high, you don't want to get too low. You have to keep that medium. The best way to do that is to stay away from it and let people just talk."

But there does exist the possibility that either Golson or Hendrix won't be named the starter for the Navy game. And that's not anything against them -- instead, if there's no separation between the two, both could receive their fair share of playing time in the season opener.

"We'll know if we get to game time that both of them have to play," Kelly said. "Obviously they both have ability to be starters. I can't say that I wouldn't be comfortable. I'd prefer one quarterback, but at least I have some experience in balancing two if we ever have to do that. "

While there appears to be some genuine camaraderie between Golson, Hendrix, Kiel and Rees -- whose fellow quarterbacks have lauded for his attitude while not taking any reps, at least in Wednesday's practice -- at the end of the day, it's a competition, and most likely one player will emerge at the end.

"I really just focus on myself. That's the only way you can focus on it," Hendrix said. "I think you just gotta keep your own head down, keep chopping wood and at the end of the day, coach Kelly's going to make the decision that's best for the football team. I can only control what I do, and that's all I focus on."

With mysterious injury behind him, Kyle Hendricks has returned to the Cubs and brought jokes

With mysterious injury behind him, Kyle Hendricks has returned to the Cubs and brought jokes

Kyle Hendricks has returned at the turn of the tide for the Cubs and he brought his sense of humor.

Hendricks hasn't pitched since June 4 and is slated to return to the Cubs rotation Monday against the White Sox after missing the last seven weeks with inflammation in his pitching hand.

Basically, his middle finger hurt every time he threw certain pitches.

"That's probably the problem — flipping the bird to people," he joked. "Maybe it's too much driving in Chicago, I don't know."

Joe Maddon cracked up when he found out his stoic pitcher delivered a joke.

"He didn't say that. He did? That's very tongue-in-cheek, Dartmouth-in-cheek, right?" Maddon said. "He's like the most mild-mannered, wonderful fellow. It's just such an awkward injury to get and come back from.

"Right now, he's feeling great. [Cubs trainer PJ Mainville] feels really good about it, also. I think his velocity was up a bit also in the minor leagues in a couple starts. All that are good indicators. An unusual injury, but we're happy to have him back."

Kris Bryant injured his finger diving into third base Wednesday, but only missed one full game, using his freakish healing powers to do what Hendricks struggled to do in a month.

"100 percent [wish I could heal like Bryant]," Hendricks said with a smile. "I wish it wasn't the middle finger. If it was another finger, maybe it would've been easier. But a lot of things you wish, I guess, at the outset.

"But you just have to look at it — it was what it was and I'm done with it now. Now just go play."

The finger/hand injury is still largely a mystery to both Hendricks and the Cubs. They don't know how it popped up, beyond just excessive throwing (including pitching into November last season). 

He said he felt the issue pop up right before he went to the disabled list and it affected him every time he threw his curveball or sinker, because he used his middle finger more on those pitches. But with his changeup and four-seamer, there was next to no pain.

Moving forward, Hendricks will still throw the curve and sinker just as much in bullpens, but he will cut back on how much he throws overall in between starts, etc. It's too early to address the offseason, but Hendricks — who likes to throw a lot during the winter — will likely have to fine-tune that as well.

Hendricks returns right as the Cubs have appeared to turn their season around. They won the first six games coming out of the All-Star Break and after a rough loss against the Cardinals Friday, pulled off an epic, 2016-esque comeback Saturday vs. St. Louis.

The Cubs trotted out Jose Quintana Sunday and will do the same with Hendricks Monday, making it back-to-back starts from guys who weren't a factor in the Cubs rotation for most of June and July.

"I understand the cliche, but it's actually true this time [that players coming off the DL gives a team a boost]," Maddon said. "To get these two guys coming on board at this time in the season. 

"Getting Kyle back with this particular group is really interesting to watch right now. I think that's also gonna be a shot in the arm with the group, just like Jose in Baltimore. You definitely could feel the difference in attitude and I think when Kyle takes the mound, you're gonna feel the same thing, too."

Immediately after hitting the DL, Hendricks had to endure weeks of doing nothing and waiting around until the inflammation subsided. Then he spent the next few weeks building his arm strength back up after going so long without throwing. 

"It's just an obstacle and you have to look at it as positive in a way," he said. "I used it to get my body in shape, get my cardio going, get my shoulder work and my arm strong. Just try to take every positive out of it that I could. 

"Take a little breather in a way, too. Get away from it. But now, I'm ready to go. Mentally, definitely need this, need to be back and need to have baseball back in my life."

Hendricks and the Cubs are also optimistic his time off could mean he's strong for the stretch run.

Maddon and Co. had been looking for ways to bring the starting pitchers along slowly this season after pitching so many innings so deep into last fall.

The starters were held back in spring training, have been held under 100 pitches in most outings this season and get an extra day off whenever possible.

"The guys are all grinding it out while I'm sitting here getting healthy," Hendricks said. "They're wearing down a little bit, so the guys that are healthy by the end of the year, they can provide a little extra for us."

Bears training camp preview: 3 burning questions for coaching staff

Bears training camp preview: 3 burning questions for coaching staff

With Bears players reporting for training camp Wednesday, CSN Chicago’s Chris Boden and JJ Stankevitz have been spending the last two weeks looking at three burning questions at each position group. The series concludes with Boden’ s look at the coaching staff.

1. Can John Fox find a balance between necessary snaps, and staying healthy?

Unless he’s practicing this team every day (he’s not) and hitting every day (he’s not doing that, either), a coach really can’t be blamed for injuries. That out-of-his-hands factor has kept his first two years from a true evaluation, yet every team has to deal with them. He and Ryan Pace have been particularly hamstrung (pun intended) by the fact so many key, high draft picks/building blocks and impact free agent signings (see Pernell McPhee, Danny Trevathan, Eddie Royal) have spent significant time on the sidelines. 

Fox tweaked the workout schedule in Bourbonnais with more consistent start times (all in the 11 a.m. hour), mixing in off-days and walk-throughs. Yet there are heavy competitions to sift through, particularly at wide receiver, cornerback, and safety, and projected starters must learn to get used to each other (and the offense get used to Mike Glennon) so that miscommunication is at a minimum. The Falcons, Buccaneers, Steelers and Packers won’t wait for them to get on the same page over the first 19 days of the regular season.

2. How does Dowell Loggains divide up quarterback snaps?

His starting quarterback basically hasn’t played since 2014 and is trying to master a new system, working with new receivers. All while Mike Glennon tries to be “all systems go”-ready on Sept. 10. Loggains is also in charge of developing the quarterback of the future, who never previously worked under center or called a huddle. If Mitch Trubisky isn’t the backup to start the season, Mark Sanchez, who missed all of minicamp with a knee injury, has to gain enough of a comfort level with the playbook and his receivers to slide in in the event of an emergency. These practices usually top out at about two hours, maybe a bit longer. Will there basically be two practices going on at the same time? If so, how can Loggains and the offensive assistants not overdo it for those at other positions?

3. Are Vic Fangio and Leonard Floyd tied at the hip?

The defensive coordinator still oversees all the position groups, but will focus particularly on the oustide linebackers and the prized pupil, Leonard Floyd. Fangio says he liked what he’s seen of the 2016 first-round pick this off-season, once he recovered from his second concussion. But he said all the bumps, bruises, strains, pulls, and bell-ringing didn’t mean anything more than an incomplete rookie grade. At this point, he’d probably like to be joined to Floyd’s hip in Bourbonnais, because that means he’ll be staying on the practice field, learning. “3b” in this category would be Ed Donatell sorting through a long list of young defensive backs to find the right pieces to keep for the present and future, in addition to finding four starters who’ll take the ball away a lot better than they’ve done the past two seasons.