NFLPA executive director will tell free agents not to sign with Bears if Illinois workers' comp bill passes

NFLPA executive director will tell free agents not to sign with Bears if Illinois workers' comp bill passes

Equipped with nearly $63 million in available salary cap space this offseason, the Bears should have no problem getting free agents to sign on the dotted line come March 9, right?

Not if NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith has any say in the matter.

Smith made an appearance on the Spiegel and Parkins Show on WSCR-AM 670 on Friday afternoon, saying that he will tell free agents not to sign with the Bears if the new Illinois workers' comp bill is passed. 

"I will tell you from the bottom of my heart that this union will tell every potential free agent player, if this bill passes, to not come to the Bears," Smith told WSCR. 

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

The bill, which is being pushed by the McCaskey family, would put an end to health care for all injured workers beginning at the age of 35, including professional athletes in Illinois.

"This bill being sponsored by (senate Republican minority leader Christine Radogno) is being designed to target professional athletes and take away their right to health care that every worker in the state of Illinois is entitled to," Smith told WSCR. "The Bears’ owners are behind it as well, to beat the expense of the players who actually do all the work. They’re pushing the bill."

The Bears released the following statement via Chris Emma of 670 The Score:

"We join the four other major professional Chicago teams in monitoring and supporting changes to the system that protect athletes’ rights under the workers’ compensation system while acknowledging athletes are not competing professionally until age 67. Nothing in the wage differential language under consideration impacts the right for any athlete to receive just compensation for partial or permanent injury, medical benefits or to file a claim itself."

Fore more information on the bill, visit Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How many wins will it take for John Fox and Ryan Pace to keep their jobs?

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How many wins will it take for John Fox and Ryan Pace to keep their jobs?

On the latest installment of the SportsTalk Live Podcast, David Kaplan is joined by David Haugh (Chicago Tribune) and Hub Arkush (670 The Score/Pro Football Weekly) to react to the Bears' year-end press conference. 

The panel debates how many wins it will take for John Fox and Ryan Pace to keep their jobs. Plus, they discuss George McCaskey's unwillingness to sell the team. 

Finally, one report says the that the Bulls are shopping Jimmy Butler. The guys break down the Bulls' options. 

Listen to the SportsTalk Live Podcast below. 

CSN goes 1-on-1 with Bears chairman George McCaskey: 'Keep the faith, go Bears and go Giants'

CSN goes 1-on-1 with Bears chairman George McCaskey: 'Keep the faith, go Bears and go Giants'

When I asked George McCaskey in wrapping up a sitdown interview Wednesday if he had one final message for Bears fans, the chairman responded: “Keep the faith. Go Bears. And go Giants.”

Well, naturally there’s nothing unusual about rooting for whomever is playing the Packers. But before removing his microphone, McCaskey drew a comparison about keeping patient, as he and management have decided to do with Ryan Pace and John Fox, despite winning half as many games in year two of this regime compared to its first season.

“When they were 4-6, someone in the media said they need to fire somebody just to fire somebody. And they didn’t,” McCaskey told us. “They believed in their people. They stayed the course. The quarterback talked about running the table, but they approached each game as a must-win situation and put themselves in a good situation. I tip my cap to them.”

[MORE: CSN goes 1-on-1 with Bears GM Ryan Pace]

Laying the groundwork in hopes of sustained success is why the Packers have controlled the division since the early 90s. They’re already there, a well-run machine, with the help of a second straight great starting quarterback. That’s what McCaskey is expecting from Pace and Fox, even if the Phil Emery-Marc Trestman duo won four more games over their two seasons together before being fired two years ago.

“I don’t think there’s anything to be gained by comparing regimes. We’re in the here-and-now. We’re assessing Ryan and John and their performance. We haven’t seen the results that anyone has wanted, and that’s disappointing, but we’re excited about the future.”

As his mother Virginia McCaskey turns 94-years-old on Thursday, George had to gather his composure for a moment in front of a group of reporters he’d earlier taken questions from. In a perfect world, he’d love nothing more than to have his mom accept the Lombardi Trophy one more time, if time and a successful rebuilding of the roster allows.

“People are surprised when I tell them mom goes to every game, home and away. And the players make way for her as she wheels herself up the stairs to the plane,” said McCaskey. “They want to win for her. But it can’t be just about one person. They want to win for each other, and they want to win for this great city and their great fans.”

As for the general manager he hired two years ago, he likes how Pace hasn’t let a disappointing, step-back season deter the vision with patience even the chairman would find hard to muster.

“He’s a steadying influence. I like the type of players he’s acquiring. Now we just need more “better” players.”

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

In his group Q-&-A with the media Wednesday, McCaskey shared the mostly positive face-to-face feedback he gets from the fans, but was challenged about what’s believed to be a growing tune-out factor, anger, even apathy. But in following up with him, McCaskey isn’t naive enough to think it doesn’t exist among some diehards after his team missed the playoffs for a ninth time in ten years since Super Bowl XLI.

“We understand that. It’s not to say that everybody is happy in the stands. That’s certainly not the case. We understand that people are disappointed in their Bears. The way I can best describe it is, Bears fans’ relationship with the team ... like when a loved one disappoints you, the disappointment is more profound because you expect so much. We understand that we’ve fallen short of their expectations. We’ve fallen short of our expectations. Bears fans deserve a winner.

“In some cases, we may have to win people back. But most of the people I’ve been talking to have been saying, `Hang in there. We know you’re on the right track. We know you have the right plan, and we know you’ve got the right people.’”