Chicago Bears

Te'o remains a longshot for Heisman Trophy

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Te'o remains a longshot for Heisman Trophy

Two secondary consequences of Kansas State and Oregon's losses Saturday night were the blows to the Heisman candidacies of Collin Klein and Kenjon Barner, both of whom struggled in their respective defeats.

Manti Te'o secured a trip to New York as a Heisman finalist after securing Notre Dame's win over Oklahoma with a fourth-quarter interception. But his chances of winning it remain low, despite Klein and Barner falling off a bit.

Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel looks like favorite to win the Heisman at this point, while neither Klein nor Barner should be counted out. But as long as there's a quarterback putting up gaudy numbers -- Manziel has thrown for 3,047 yards and 21 touchdowns while rushing for 1,114 yards and 17 touchdowns -- Te'o's chances are slim.

His coach, though, will campaign for him as long as Notre Dame wins Nov. 24 against USC.

"I think he should win the Heisman Trophy, provided we continue to win," Brian Kelly said Sunday. "... He doesn't talk much about it. He's not focused on those things, he's focused on the things that we all know that are important to him, and that is his team and how we play on Saturday.

"I'll push for him. I think he should win the Heisman. But he's not really focused on that."

There's an argument to be made that the physical and emotional leader of one of the nation's best defenses deserves the honor reserved for the best player on college football. But Te'o's impact is far more difficult to quantify than that of Manziel, who is the first freshman in NCAA history to throw for over 3,000 yards and rush for over 1,000.

At the least, there's a good chance Te'o winds up at the Heisman ceremony in New York as a finalist -- a rarity for a defense-only player. And it won't be the only award ceremony Te'o will be attending -- he's a finalist for the Nagurski Trophy (best defensive player), Lombardi Award (best linebackerlineman), Campbell Trophy (top scholar athlete) and Senior CLASS Award (top student athlete), as well as a semifinalist for the Bednarik Award (best defensive player), Butkus Award (best linebacker), Walter Camp Award (player of the year), Lott Trophy (best playerstudentcommunity member) and Maxwell Award (player of the year).

"The only thing we talked about is that he's going to be with me after the USC game quite a bit because we've got a lot of banquets and awards shows to be at," Kelly said. "So the only thing that I've talked to him about is that we have a hope that we'll be in New York together in a couple of weeks."

Kevin White is starting small to answer the big question: Can he break out in 2017?

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USA Today Sports Images

Kevin White is starting small to answer the big question: Can he break out in 2017?

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. — Kevin White isn’t taking his ability to play football for granted anymore, not after missing 28 of the Bears’ 32 games since he was drafted seventh overall in 2015. This is supposed to be fun, White said, even though these last two years couldn’t have been much fun for him.  

So with training camp underway at Olivet Nazarene University, White isn’t putting any added pressure on himself in a year that could determine whether or not he gets labeled a bust. 

“I don’t look at this as a job,” White said. “I think it takes the fun away from it. So I would just look at it as it’s a game. I love to play it, just getting paid to do it. But it was fun to be back out there with the guys and rallying together and going out there to compete.”

White looked solid in the Bears’ first training camp practice of 2017, which was a promising start for the 6-foot-3, 216 pound West Virginia product. But that’s a small step that won’t hold much significance unless White can string a few good practices together, and then eventually turn those practices into productive games. 

The good news is the Bears don’t have any restrictions on White and aren’t planning on giving him any additional rest days during training camp.

“He’s ready to go,” general manager Ryan Pace said. “He’s had a great summer, a great offseason, so he’s ready to go. You can just feel his confidence gaining, knowledge of the offense and just being comfortable with his body. He’s pretty much unleashed.”

The bad news is until White proves he can play a full season, questions will remain about his durability. Since being drafted, White has dealt with a fractured left tibia and a severe ankle sprain that resulted in a spiral fracture of his fibula. Those two severe injuries mean we don’t really know what White can do — the four games he played last year were perhaps nothing more than an incomplete glimpse. 

White had the third-lowest average yards per target (5.19) among receivers with at least 35 targets last year, which couldn’t have been what the Bears envisioned when they invested a top-10 pick in him. This is a guy who had 1,447 yards and 10 touchdowns in his final year at West Virginia, after all. 

The Bears still believe White can be a go-to target opposite the budding Cam Meredith and in conjunction with the trio of veterans (Markus Wheaton, Kendall Wright, Victor Cruz) they signed in the spring. 

“We all can do whatever the coaches put us in position to do,” White said. “I do have a lot of confidence (in) us.”

But from a larger view, the Bears need White succeed so they won’t have to re-draft a player at his position, or at least be tempted to deviate from their best-player-available strategy. Doing so would be a blow to Pace’s efforts to build through the draft, a process that’s also, notably, seen the additions of Cody Whitehair, Jordan Howard, Mitch Trubisky and Adam Shaheen on offense. 

For White to fulfill those big-picture hopes, though, he’ll have to start small — like with Thursday’s practice. Saturday’s practice will be the first time White will take contact since Week 4 of the 2016 season, and the Aug. 10 preseason opener will be his first game action since then, too. 

“It’s hard to get better at something if you don’t practice it,” coach John Fox said. “So getting a string of practices, getting him out there and developing his skill set. He’s got plenty of athletic ability. That’s why he was picked where he was. Now it’s just getting out there and improving (his) skillset.”

White’s love of the game wasn’t marred by the frustration of his first two years in Chicago, though. In fact, the opposite happened. 

“You get something taken away from you a little bit, you enjoy it more,” White said. 

Aaron Bummer on what it's like to get called up to the majors

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USA TODAY

Aaron Bummer on what it's like to get called up to the majors

For Aaron Bummer, Thursday was far from a bummer.

While experience continues to pour out the door of the White Sox clubhouse, new opportunities arise with those exits. For the White Sox, openings seem to be arriving every other day and Bummer is the latest to get a chance after Dan Jennings was traded was the Tampa Bay Rays for minor-leaguer Casey Gillaspie on Thursday morning. Jennings is the sixth player traded by the White Sox since July 13 and the fourth reliever.

A left-handed reliever, Bummer started 2017 at Advanced-A Winston-Salem and on Thursday received his third promotion of the season, joining the White Sox before the finale of the Crosstown Cup. Bummer, who missed all of 2015 after he had Tommy John surgery, couldn’t quite believe he was standing in the White Sox clubhouse.

“It’s been kind of a crazy 15 months because about 12 months ago is when I made my debut back from TJ,” Bummer said. “Twelve months ago I was in rookie ball so it’s kind of a crazy turn of events. Could I have ever imagined this, absolutely not.

“To be here right now is unbelievable and an awesome feeling.”

The No. 28 prospect in the White Sox farm system, Bummer posted a 3.31 ERA with 54 strikeouts in 49 innings between Winston-Salem, Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte. Bummer’s fastball grades at 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale, sitting between 95-97 mph and touching 99, according to MLBPipeline.com. He also features a 55-grade slider.

The one area that scouts suggest Bummer needs to answer is control as he’s walked 20 batters this season.

“You have to allow them to be who they are,” manager Rick Renteria said. “It’s still 90 feet to the bases, 60 feet, 6 inches to the bases. It’s kind of a cliché, the Hoosiers rule, it’s the same. “You have to go out and execute pitches and trust the skillset and do it.”

Bummer’s great experience began when he learned the news of his promotion late Wednesday. He awoke his parents, who flew in to Chicago on Thursday, with the news and also told his girlfriend he was headed for the majors.

“it was a whole bundle of emotions for all of us,” Bummer said. “I’ve never been in something like this. I know a lot of these guys since Spring Training. And kind of had that bond and that vibes we are all together and these guys are all good teammates and everybody is pulling for each other. At the end of the day we are all here to win games and hopefully we can do that.”