Romeoville's Bailey opens some eyes

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Romeoville's Bailey opens some eyes

He was referred to as "the other Bailey" until he staged a spectacular coming-out party at the Proving Ground combine for underclassmen prior to the first Semper Fidelis All-American Football Classic last week in Phoenix, Arizona. Now everybody who is anybody in the recruiting business knows about Caleb Bailey.

Before the 6-foot-2, 207-pound linebacker from Romeoville showed up in Phoenix, he was confused with the more celebrated Bailey in town, Bolingbrook's Aaron Bailey, who quarterbacked his team to the Class 8A championship in November. Caleb was looking for exposure and an opportunity to build his reputation.

It didn't take long before Tom Lemming of CBS Sports Network and every other recruiting analyst and every college recruiter was asking: "Who is that guy?"

"He looked very good at the combine. He showed good speed and instincts, definitely Big 10 ability. He will be a rising star," Lemming said. "There were 300 kids at the combine and Bailey was one of the most impressive of all. Toledo already has offered a scholarship. But that's only the beginning. He'll get Big 10 offers, too."

How impressive was Bailey? Even though he tweaked a hamstring while working out in preparation for the combine and wasn't able to show off his 4.5 speed in the 40-yard dash trials, he demonstrated enough talent and potential to earn one of only 15 invitations to next year's Semper Fidelis all-star game.

"I feel good about myself now," Bailey said. "I definitely felt going in (to the combine) that I had to do a good job, hurt or not. If you do well, I said to myself, you'll get invited back to play in the bowl game as a senior. That was one of my goals and I achieved that.

"My next goal? Just to get better in any way possible, improving my grades, getting recruited by major Division I schools. I see other players around the area, guys who have bigger reputations than me at this point, guys like (Joliet Catholic's) Ty Isaac and (Bolingbrook's) Aaron Bailey, and I want to be recognized like they are."

Bailey started behind the proverbial eight ball. "He never played football until his freshman hear. And he was nobody going into his junior year because of an injury as a sophomore. He had surgery for a ruptured testicle and played only one game on the varsity. So he was off the charts coming into last season," said Romeoville coach Jeff Kuna.

Born and raised in southern California, Bailey and his family moved to Harrisburg, Illinois, when he was seven-years-old, then moved to Romeoville before his freshman year. He was a three-sport athlete until he realized that football was his calling. He didn't get serious about the game until last season.

"He is probably the best pure linebacker I have coached in 17 years," Kuna said. "His change of direction is so good. He plays in a ready position at all times. He is one guy that nobody can juke out in the open field. He has great quickness and balance. He comes off the edge so well. No offensive tackle or running back can handle him."

Bailey had a good-but-not-great junior season. Playing for a 3-6 team that finished seventh among eight schools in the Southwest Prairie Conference, he was credited with 66 tackles, 25 tackles for loss and seven sacks. He was his team's defensive MVP and was an all-conference selection.

In his view, however, that wasn't good enough.

"I wanted people to know me. I worked hard for my junior year. I was all-conference. But I wanted more than that," he said. "I wanted to be All-Area and All-State. I kept up with other people's statistics to try to beat them. A lot of people didn't know about me."

Bailey was invited to attend Tom Lemming's banquet in December. After talking to Lemming, he was invited to the Proving Ground combine. Knowing it would be a showcase event that would give me enormous exposure to college recruiters, he began training as if it was an NFL combine.

"I was making sure I could do as well as I could. I wanted to do everything at the combine," he said. "One of the biggest parts of my game is speed. But I tweaked my hamstring working out in the 40 and didn't get timed at the combine because I didn't want to risk running slower than 4.5.

"So I concentrated on being more physical and doing as well as I could and trying to impress people in the linebacker and one-on-one drills. People said I did a good job. I felt I opened some eyes. Under the circumstances, I felt I became more of a top player. Obviously, if I hadn't done well, I wouldn't have been invited to play in the Semper Fidelis game."

The recruiting process has only begun for Bailey. Toledo offered after coach Tim Beckman left for Illinois. He has taken an unofficial visit to Vanderbilt. Northern Illinois is interested. But Lemming predicts Bailey's performance at the combine will trigger more interest from more big-time programs, including Big 10 schools.

"My dream school is USC," Bailey said. "Ever since I can remember, I always heard about USC when I was growing up, the way they built the program, how (coach) Pete Carroll was a legend. I like the aura of USC...Reggie Bush and the linebackers who played my position, Clay Matthews and Brian Cushing. I hope I get a chance to consider them."

Just like he had a game plan for the Proving Ground combine, Bailey has a game plan as he prepares for the 2012 season. He works out and lifts weights at more than one facility during the week and on weekends. His goal is to get bigger and stronger and more explosive while maintaining his 4.5 speed. He hopes to weight 215 to 220 pounds as a senior and wants to improve his bench-press from 245 to 300 pounds and his squat from 465 pounds to 515.

"This year is my coming-out year. Before, I wasn't out there like some of the other players like Ty Isaac and Aaron Bailey," he said. "When recruiting starts, I want to attract recruiters from the great schools, the recognized schools that have winning traditions."

Ex-Bear Brandon Marshall an early favorite at NFL owners meetings

Ex-Bear Brandon Marshall an early favorite at NFL owners meetings

PHOENIX – Brandon Marshall never needed a whole lot of encouragement to step before a microphone but the NFL, which sometimes wished he'd put a sock in it, has now invited the former Bears wide receiver to speak up.
 
The NFL extended an invitation for Marshall, whose time in Chicago ended in some measure because of his insistence on pursuing the media portion of his career, to address the league higher-up's ostensibly as part of a communications bridge-building. Marshall jumped at the chance.
 
"They thought it was important for a player to come up and give a player's perspective and talk about the relationship between owners and players," Marshall said on Monday at the outset of the NFL owners meetings. "I think it's evident that our relationship could be so much better."
 
Marshall has been part of Showtime's "Inside the NFL" in recent years, flying to New York to participate in taping the show, and ultimately accepting a trade from the Bears to the Jets in 2015, which obviously cut down on his commute. The Jets released Marshall earlier this month, after which Marshall signed on with the Giants.
 
He told owners this week, "If we want our game to continue to be on that [positive] track, that it's on being super successful and being a pillar in our community and being a thread in our community, we have to make sure our relationship as players and owners is good."

[VIVID SEATS: Get your Bears tickets right here!]
 
The immediate response was more than a little positive: Per San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York:

https://twitter.com/JedYork/status/846400103472480256
 
Marshall predictably welcomed the forum and wants to see it expanded.

"I'd like to see more players be more involved in our owners meetings," Marshall said. "And not only at the owners meetings, but any time we're talking football, we should have players at the table. Commissioner Goodell is always open-minded. He always has that open-door policy. So I think he'll continue to listen and continue to evolve this part of our business."

Raiders-to-Vegas the latest in long line of NFL relocation drama, some of which included the Bears

Raiders-to-Vegas the latest in long line of NFL relocation drama, some of which included the Bears

PHOENIX — The Bears next play a team named "Raiders" in 2019, having just played them in 2015 at Soldier Field. Whether the Bears' schedule of opponents will say Oakland Raiders or Las Vegas Raiders is still fluid, but the Raiders are leaving Oakland sometime in the next several years after the expected vote Monday at the NFL owners' meetings.

Leaving a press conference at which NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, Raiders owner Mark Davis and a couple other league figures formally announced the foregone conclusion of the Raiders moving from Oakland to Las Vegas, a Cleveland media counterpart fell in beside me and remarked, "Well, at least that's one story you won't have to worry about covering in Chicago."

Maybe yes, maybe no.

The NFL game presents endless spurts of the byzantine and bizarre, so my colleague — who saw his Browns bolt from their lakefront to Baltimore one dark upon-a-time — might be premature with his effort at comfort. Besides, nobody to my knowledge ever took the temperature of Decaturites when their town lost the Staleys to Chicago (at least the Bears kept a Staley as a mascot). And a deal had been worked out, later abandoned, to move the Bears to Hoffman Estates in the mid 1990s, something that had been preceded by then-chairman Michael McCaskey shopping the franchise to various suburbs, low-lighted by a flirtation with Gary, Ind., to something that concept drawings labeled "Planet Park."

Hizzone Da Mare once told George Halas that if Papa Bear took his team out of the city, the "Chicago" part of its name wasn't going with it. And son Richie blustered regarding Gary, "Let them move to Alaska."

Well, I mean, then again, hey, if Juneau or Fairbanks can come up with the requisite relocation fees.

And you can only wonder how many members of Raider Nation are feeling that way about the Raiduhs, that they can go to Alaska (or Gary) for all they care.

The vote approving the Raiders' move to Las Vegas (presumably the league toned down any anti-gambling rhetoric for the day) was believed to be 31-1, with only the Miami Dolphins saying nay. But the side issues were everywhere and somewhat more entertaining, given that the deal was a fait accompli ever since the city of Oakland failed to deliver enough of a stadium package to keep its Raiders where they'd begun under Al Davis when the AFL was formed in 1960.

It was difficult not to chuckle as Mark Davis opined that he thought his late father "would be proud" of moving the team to the self-appointed entertainment capital of the world. True that; Al moved the Raiders to Los Angeles in 1982, to a second location in that market subsequently, and then back to Oakland in 1995. Definitely a legacy to be proud of.

And one for Goodell, too, who summarized, "You know that our goal is to have 32 stable franchises for each of those teams and the league," meaning stable financially, not necessarily geographically. "We're all disappointed for Oakland and their fans," Goodell managed to say.

The Raiders do have one-year options on their lease in Oakland for the 2017 and 2018 seasons, and Davis said that if their Las Vegas facility isn't completed for the Bears' 2019 visit (OK, he didn't say "Bears," that was me), an extension might be in order.

Some observers are waiting for a reaction statement from jilted Oakland mayor Libby Shaaf, who got a thanks-but-no-thanks public letter from Goodell this weekend and sent a last-minute one for the league to delay its vote on the Las Vegas move, which the league didn't do. Somehow the thought of the Raiders asking Oakland to do something for them in their time of need is something worth buying a ticket to.

In the meantime, the move proceeds as expected, adding another mystery to the NFL firmament: moving a team to a significantly smaller sports market from the one it already occupied; moving not one but two teams into the Los Angeles market that had been abandoned by the Rams, Raiders and even Chargers (one of the teams now returning there); those sort of things.

How viable the Las Vegas market is for NFL football is something that'll play out over the next number of years. For now, good seats still available ... in Oakland.