Chicago Cubs

Trumpy remains confident he'll start again for Wildcats

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Trumpy remains confident he'll start again for Wildcats

Northwestern running back Mike Trumpy tuned into Game 1 of the NBA Playoffs like any other Bulls fan expecting a deep playoff run.

But when Derrick Rose, Trumpys favorite athlete to watch, collapsed to the floor in the fourth quarter, it brought back particularly difficult memories for the Wheaton native and his family.

My mom told me that she immediately started crying when she found out, Trumpy said. She felt the connection because the two of us (Trumpy and Rose) tore our ACLs.

Although his injury had occurred seven months earlier, the agonizing memories of the day were, and still are, fresh in Trumpy's mind.

It came during Northwesterns Big Ten opener at Illinois on Oct. 1 when he was the teams starting running back. In the second quarter, he tore the lateral meniscus in his right knee but returned when it was clear that no damage was done to any major ligaments.

But on the teams first opening drive of the third quarter, Trumpy went down again and knew it was something more serious.

On the play, I got tackled and then came up in an excruciating amount of pain, he said. I was like, this cant be my meniscus acting up because thats just not how it works. I kind of hobbled off to the sideline and I just collapsed because I was in so much pain.

After an examination on the sideline, he was informed it might be an ACL injury and he started to break down. He knew a torn ACL would have an especially cruel sense of irony.

Ive had a lot of injuries since being (at Northwestern), he said. All the times I got injured or missed practice, I would always say, At least I didnt tear my ACL. And when that happened, I was like, 'what do I do now?' Its one of those major injuries in the sport and its never good to hear about. I was pretty devastated when it happened.

Trumpys season was over. He got surgery on his knee less than two weeks later, which put him at a new low. Each day was more agonizing than the moment of the actual injury, which he said was the most painful of his career.

The whole offseason working back - building confidence along the way and being patient throughout the whole process was difficult, he said.

The timing for Trumpys ACL tear was terrible considering his new role in the offense. He worked his way up to starter by the end of his redshirt freshman year in 2010 and became the teams leading rusher with 530 yards and almost 4.6 yards per carry. Before his injury as a sophomore, he was leading all Northwestern running backs with 5.2 yards per carry.

Trumpy would seem like a natural to return to the starting lineup as a junior but the seriousness of the injury led to the coaching staff moving junior Venric Mark, a dynamic kick returner and former wide receiver, to running back.

Head coach Pat Fitzgerald named Mark the starter when the depth chart was released Monday. Trumpy will be his backup when the team kicks off the season at Syracuse Saturday. But that does not mean Trumpy won't see the field. Fitzgerald has discussed playing a rotation of running backs and riding whichever one has the hot hand.

In addition to Mark and Trumpy, the Wildcats also have capable backups in sophomore Treyvon Green and senior Tyris Jones, each of whom saw action last season.

Knowing the top guy could be yanked at any time, Fitzgeralds rotation strategy has maintained a competitive atmosphere in the backfield.

No ones complacent, Trumpy said. My redshirt freshman year when I first started playing I entered camp as fifth- or sixth-string, and I wasnt satisfied. I just kept trying to work and work and work and try to earn a role. Eventually I started playing.

While Mark, who played running back during high school in suburban Houston, knows that his job as the teams No. 1 back is far from secure, he too has embraced the approach of running back by committee.

If Coach Fitz says whoevers hot, (its) whoevers hot. I agree with him, he said. If Im in the game and Im not doing very well, then of course, take (me) out.

The sign that Fitzgeralds plan may be the right one for the Wildcats is that despite the highly competitive environment it has created, there is still unity among Trumpy and his backfield mates. It is clear within the relationship between Mark and Trumpy, who are both striving for the same thing.

We always talk. We always try to help each other out. Mark said about Trumpy. Just basically technique, stuff like that. Which hole, A or B. What would be easier so you dont have to do so much work. Blocking technique and different stuff like that.

Trumpys a great guy. Hes funny; hes real goofy, he added. Hes looked upon as one of the leaders in the running back room. Hes proven himself year after year.

At this point, Trumpy will have to prove himself once again. His injury has at least temporarily cost him his job as Northwesterns primary runner. But despite the occasional lingering effects from the most painful moment of his career, he has somehow put a positive spin on it and come a long way from the day he was in tears on the Memorial Stadium sidelines.

Its not something thats fun to go through at all, he said. But Ive grown from it. Im happy it happened because I have a different perspective on football and life. Im stronger mentally and physically from it.

Cubs lose Pierce Johnson on waivers

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Cubs lose Pierce Johnson on waivers

The Cubs have parted ways with the first pitcher drafted by Theo Epstein's front office.

The Cubs designated Pierce Johnson for assignment last week when they purchased the contract of Jen-Ho Tseng to make his first MLB start against the New York Mets.

Now Johnson is with a new organization.

The San Francisco Giants claimed Johnson off waivers Wednesday. He was initially selected in the supplemental first round in 2012 with the 43rd pick, 37 spots behind Albert Almora Jr.

Johnson is now 26 and just made his first — and only — big-league appearance May 19 this spring.

In Triple-A Iowa, Johnson had a 4.31 ERA in 43 games, including one start. He struck out 74 batters in 54.1 innings, but also walked 27 batters and had a 1.454 WHIP. 

Johnson spent six years in the Cubs minor-league system, going 29-21 with a 3.24 ERA, 1.305 WHIP and 9.3 K/9, working slightly more than half the time as a starter (74 starts, 56 relief appearances).

With the Cubs taking Johnson off their 40-man roster in mid-September as opposed to promoting him with expanded big-league rosters, it clearly shows he was not a part of their long-term pitching plans.

Why Ben Roethlisberger's perspective on young QBs (like Mitchell Trubisky) is worth keeping in mind

Why Ben Roethlisberger's perspective on young QBs (like Mitchell Trubisky) is worth keeping in mind

If Mitchell Trubisky takes over as the Bears’ starting quarterback this year and has some success, keep Ben Roethlisberger’s perspective in mind: It’ll take a couple of years before he’s solidly established in the NFL. 

Roethlisberger said even after his rookie year — in which he won all 13 regular season games he started — he still was facing defensive looks he hadn’t seen before in Year 2 and 3 as a pro. So saying someone is and will be one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL after a productive first season is, for Roethlisberger, too early. 

“I think it takes a couple years,” Roethlisberger said. “That’s why I’m always slow to send too much praise or anoint the next great quarterback after Year 1. I think people in the media and the 'professionals' in some of these big sports networks are so quick to anoint the next great one or say that they’re going to be great; this, that and the other. Let’s wait and see what happens after two to three years; after defenses understand what you’re bringing; you’re not a surprise anymore. 

“I think it takes a few years until you can really get that title of understanding being great or even good, because you see so many looks. In Year 2 and 3, you’re still seeing looks and can act like a rookie.”

The flip side to this would be not panicking if Trubisky struggles when he eventually becomes the Bears’ starting quarterback. For all the success he had during preseason play, most of it came against backup and third string defenses that hadn’t done much gameplanning for him. Defensive coordinators inevitably will scheme to make things more difficult for a rookie quarterback with normal week of planning, and it may take Trubisky a little while to adjust to seeing things he hasn't before. 

“They’re not going to line up in a 4-3 or a 3-4 base defense, they’re going to throw different looks at you, different blitzes to try and confuse you,” Roethlisberger said. “The confusion between the ears part is really one of the biggest keys to it.”

The “it” Roethlisberger referred to there is success as a rookie. The former 11th overall pick was lucky enough to begin his NFL career with a strong ground game headlined by Hall of Fame running back Jerome Bettis, a balanced receiving corps featuring Hines Ward, Plaxico Burress and Antwaan Randel El and a defense that led the NFL in points allowed (15.7/game). Trubisky, as the Bears’ roster currently stands, won’t be afforded that same level of support. 

Roethlisberger, though, had a chance to meet and work out with Trubisky before the draft (the two quarterbacks share the same agent) and, for what it's worth, came away impressed with 

“I thought he was a tremendous athlete,” Roethlisberger said. “I thought he could throw the ball. I thought when he got out of the pocket and made throws on the run, his improvising. I got to watch some of his college tape. Just really impressed with the athleticism. The ease of throwing the ball; it just looked easy to him when he was on the run, when it wasn’t supposed to be super easy. So I thought that those were the most impressive things that I got to see; obviously not sitting in a meeting room and knowing his smarts or things like that, but just the athleticism.”