This could be interesting.
Bears coach John Fox made a passing reference to “owies” last week, an apparent reference to the typical nicks and bruises that players suffer, presumably falling on the safe side of the pain-vs.-injury line. Coaches like players to play when they can.
The Cleveland Browns suspended K’Waun Williams this offseason for two weeks after the former No. 1 Cleveland nickel cornerback refused to play in the Aug. 12 Browns preseason opener against the Green Bay Packers.
Now the Bears have claimed Williams, 25, waiving cornerback Kevin Peterson, and hope Williams is past what the Browns look to have deemed just their version of an “owie.”
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Williams’ release comes after a convoluted disagreement between player and team, with Williams obtaining medical opinions that he needed surgery to remove bone spurs from an ankle. The team said that Williams never informed them of his ankle problems until the day after the Green Bay game.
The Bears have struggled mightily this preseason to find anything close to a healthy cornerback. Starters Kyle Fuller (knee) and Tracy Porter (concussion) are currently sidelined along with nickel corner Bryce Callahan (hamstring). Jacoby Glenn started for Fuller at New England but also left with a concussion.
Pro Bowl right guard Kyle Long continued doing work on the side of Bears practice on Tuesday. He won’t play Thursday at Cleveland, but he represents a looming one-man shakeup of the offensive line — in a positive way — when he returns from a shoulder injury, presumably next week.
Coach John Fox demurred from saying that Long will be in the lineup when the Bears open the regular season Sept. 11 in Houston.
“We’re anticipating him at least being back out there to get ready for Houston,” was as far as Fox would go on Tuesday.
But Ted Larsen, who has filled in for Long at right guard while Cornelius Edison worked as the No. 1 center, has been taking some snaps at center, a hint that Long might be on course for a return for Houston.
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When that happens, it will effectively improve all three interior-line positions at the same time.
The upgrade at right guard is immediate and obvious. When Long was pressed into an emergency shift to right tackle the week before the opener vs. Green Bay last year, it sent Vlad Ducasse into the starting lineup at Long’s preferred spot. Long now represents an obvious upgrade over Larsen.
Installing Larsen at center, where he went after Hroniss Grasu suffered his season-ending knee injury, upgrades the center position over Edison, who has never played an NFL game.
The third upgrade happens at left guard, where rookie Cody Whitehair has settled in at the job he stepped into when Larsen was out late in the offseason. Whitehair is a rookie; Larsen, who has played center during his career, is better able to help Whitehair than Edison, certainly at this point in the latter’s career.
There were times Jake Arrieta felt like quitting baseball, wondering if this really was the best way to support his family as he bounced between the Baltimore Orioles and their Triple-A affiliate in Norfolk, Va.
It wasn’t just his dream anymore. Arrieta had to think about a wife (Brittany), a young son (Cooper) and a daughter (Palmer) on the way. He had a business background at Texas Christian University, an inquisitive, engaging personality and enough confidence and connections to launch his next act.
The year after being Baltimore’s Opening Day starter, Arrieta found himself back in Triple-A by late April 2013, the fourth season he spent time on that level.
“We were at a point where I had other things that I could segue into and establish a career elsewhere,” Arrieta said Tuesday, the one-year anniversary of his no-hitter at Dodger Stadium, where the Cubs popped champagne bottles and partied in their onesies, showing the full force of their personalities. “Not that I wanted that to happen, but I didn’t want to continue to go through the things we were going through and moving from place to place in the minor leagues at 25, 26 years old.
“Baseball is something that I’ve loved to do since I was a little kid, but it’s not everything. I had to reevaluate some things. I knew I could always pitch this way, but there were times where it seemed like maybe I wasn’t going to get to that point.
“It’s just part of life that we had to deal with.”
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That big-picture perspective should help Tommy La Stella once he returns to the Wrigley Field clubhouse — possibly as soon as this week when the rosters expand for September — and goes into damage-control mode.
Arrieta has remained in frequent contact with La Stella since the reserve infielder/left-handed pinch-hitter refused to report to Triple-A Iowa in late July, moved back to his home in New Jersey, told ESPN he would consider retirement if he couldn’t play for the big-league Cubs and finally ended his holdout in the middle of August.
“I really care about Tommy,” Arrieta said. “He’s ready to kind of explain to the team what he was going through, because there’s a lot of confusion, rightfully so. But I take the baseball aspect completely out of it and I look at it from just a human-being perspective. I can relate to him on a lot of different levels.
“I know that there were things that he was going through and dealing with (that) we may not agree with and understand.
“But we don’t have to. There are certain things that he’s needed to deal with — and he’s at the point now where he’s willing and able to convey the message to the guys in this clubhouse.
“He can help us win games, so he’s a guy that we definitely need in this clubhouse. He’s ready to address the team — (and) move past it and get back to being a part of the team.”
Arrieta’s late-blooming career is a testament to willpower and perseverance, taking advantage of that change-of-scenery trade to the Cubs in the middle of the 2013 season and evolving into the National League’s reigning Cy Young Award winner.
Even during a season where he has at times struggled to command his fastball and felt out of rhythm, Arrieta is still 16-5 with a 2.84 ERA for the best team in baseball, yet another sign of how much he has grown as a person and as a pitcher.
Going AWOL wasn’t the answer then — and it wasn’t a smart play for La Stella now — but at least Arrieta recognizes those anxieties and insecurities. Maybe that sense of leadership will help smooth over any awkwardness inside a laissez-faire clubhouse known for its late arrival times, loud music and Party Room.
“On a long drive — or when the game’s over, just sitting there thinking about where I see myself in the near future — it wasn’t there,” Arrieta said. “I wasn’t going to just continue to pitch in the minor leagues for another five or six years. If I wasn’t good enough to get the job done, I would move on to somewhere (else) where I was.
“There’s a lot out there other than baseball. But, obviously, this is ultimately where I wanted to be. It was just a point in life where there was some uncertainty there. And you address it, you deal with it and you move past it.”