Notre Dame notes: Rees getting backup reps, Pinkett suspended

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Notre Dame notes: Rees getting backup reps, Pinkett suspended

Tommy Rees is back with Notre Dame, reinstated to the team after serving his one-game suspension for Week 1. The junior didn't see many reps during fall camp, but with him in the mix for Week 2, that's no longer the case. Both Rees and Andrew Hendrix were listed as the team's No. 2 quarterback on Notre Dame's latest depth chart.

"Both of them have to get some work, but Tommy probably needs the most work at this time," coach Brian Kelly said Tuesday. "Both those guys will share reps. For me, itll probably be more about making sure we get Tommy up to a level where he can be sharp if hes in a position where he had to go into a game, and I dont know if hes got enough work yet. Hell get work at 2, as well as Andrew, and then well see how that progresses during the week."

When pressed, Kelly said he didn't have either player in mind as the backup in case starter Everett Golson gets hurt on Saturday. After suspending Rees prior to fall camp, Kelly said he could "attempt to climb the depth chart" upon reinstatement. But Rees is already on equal footing with Hendrix, and may have a chance to move ahead of him with a good week of practice.

Rees started all but Notre Dame's season opener in 2011 and five games in 2010, making him the team's most experienced quarterback. He struggled with turnover issues, throwing eight interceptions in Notre Dame's four losses, but Kelly believes Rees has made significant strides since last December.

"Were pleased with it, or we wouldnt move in him a position where he gets some reps as a backup." Kelly said of Rees' improvement. "We saw some of things we wanted in terms of ball security and good decision-making, and well continue to work on that. Tommys a very valuable player to our program. Hes got a lot of experience, and were happy to have him."

Pinkett suspended three games from ND radio

IMG Notre Dame radio announced Allen Pinkett, who came under fire last week for comments about the Irish needing more "criminals" to succeed, was issued a three-game suspension without pay on Tuesday. That ban ncludes Saturday's Navy game, and after Sept. 15's game at Michigan State he'll return to his usual duties. His first game eligible to return is Notre Dame's Sept. 22 night game against Michigan.

Allen has done a great job for the Notre Dame IMG Radio network over the past four years, has a supportive fan base, and most importantly, has expressed deep heartfelt remorse for his choice of words, which were not in the spirit of college athletics, a statement by the Notre Dame IMG Radio Network read. "After careful deliberation and thorough discussion, we believe the right decision is to allow a truly repentant Allen Pinkett an opportunity to return to the booth beginning with the fourth game of the college football season."

Pinkett also issued an apology on Tuesday.

"I love this school as much as I love my kids and would never want to compromise the ethics and morals of my alma mater, Notre Dame,Pinkett said. I would again like to offer my most sincere and heartfelt apology to all those affected by my inappropriate comments, particularly the University, the schools hard-working and courageous student athletes, all Fighting Irish fans and team supporters, our friends at The Ohio State University, and my colleagues at IMG Notre Dame Radio Network. This offering of forgiveness is an extremely humbling life lesson.

"I will work very hard to make the most of this second chance in representing the high standards and proud tradition of Notre Dame football.

Irish move to No. 22, Kelly responds with shrug

The latest AP poll has Notre Dame back in the top 25, slotted at No. 22. No other team made the jump from unranked to ranked this week, but Kelly really didn't care about the recognition.

"White noise," Kelly said. "White noise, yeah."

Lost in translation

Notre Dame employed plenty of two-tight end sets on Saturday against Navy, something the CBS broadcast of the game noted was the result of Kelly studying Stanford's offense. If that was the case, Kelly didn't let on to it Tuesday.

"I dont know where that came from, quite honestly," Kelly said. "I think what I was talking about was I would love to have Andrew Luck. But he was already taken."

Sick bay

Running back Amir Carlisle (ankle) was cleared to return to practice on Tuesday, while linebacker Danny Spond (migraines) could return as early as Week 3, having been cleared for all activities but physical contact. Tackle Tate Nichols (knee) began work in the weight room last week and will go through individual, not team workouts this week and won't be available for the Purdue game.

Running back Cam McDaniel was banged up over the weekend and isn't back to 100 percent, but Kelly expects him to play on Saturday.

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Bears DL Akiem Hicks making the most of a chance the Saints never gave him

Bears DL Akiem Hicks making the most of a chance the Saints never gave him

Living well is indeed the best revenge, and sometimes nothing feels sweeter than proving doubters wrong. Akiem Hicks is savoring that exact feeling.

When the New Orleans Saints made Hicks their third-round pick in the 2013 draft, they typecast their big (6-5, 318 pounds) young defensive lineman as a one-trick pony.

“There were people in New Orleans that said, ‘You can’t rush the passer,’” Hicks recalled after the Bears’ win Sunday over the San Francisco 49ers. “They told me from my rookie year, ‘You’re going to be a run-stopper.’”

This despite Hicks collecting 6.5 sacks and 3 pass breakups as a senior at Regina in Canada. The Saints forced Hicks into the slot they’d decided he fit – nose tackle – then eventually grew disenchanted with him and traded him to New England last year – where he collect 3 sacks in spot duty.

Interestingly, Bears GM Ryan Pace was part of the Saints’ personnel operation. Whether Pace agreed with coaches’ handling of Hicks then isn’t known, but when Pace had the chance to bring Hicks to Chicago for a role different than the one the Saints forced Hicks into, Pace made it happen.

Pace likely saw those New England sacks as a foreshadowing or a sign that the New Orleans staff had miscast Hicks. The Bears defensive end now is under consideration for NFC defensive player of the week after his 10-tackle performance against San Francisco. Signing with the Bears last March 13 as a free agent was the career break Hicks has craved. For him it was a career lifeline.

“They have given me the ability to go rush the passer,” Hicks said. “So I love this organization – [GM] Ryan Pace, coach Fox, Vic [Fangio, defensive coordinator] – for just giving a guy the capability to put it out there and do what you feel like you can do.”

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Hicks has been showing what he can do, to quarterbacks. For him the best part of win over the 49ers was the two third-quarter sacks of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Those sacks gave the massive lineman, who the Saints said couldn’t rush the passer, 6 sacks for the season – more than any member of the Saints defense this season. It has been a classic instance of putting a player in position to maximize his skills, not jam someone into a bad fit.

“Akiem has been in a couple of different types of packages before with New Orleans and New England,” said coach John Fox. The Patriots switched from a long-time 3-4 scheme to a 4-3 but “we’re more of a New England-type style. But we’re playing him more at end; he played mostly a nose tackle [in New Orleans]. He’s fit really well for us as far as his physical stature.

"But he does have pass rush ability. It shows a little about his athleticism. So he’s got a combination of both.”

That “combination” has been allowed to flourish at a new level, and the Bears’ plan for Hicks was the foundation of why he wanted to sign in Chicago as a free agent. The Bears do not play their defensive linemen in a clear one-gap, get-upfield-fast scheme tailored to speed players. Nor do they play a classic two-gap, linemen-control-blockers scheme typically built on three massive space-eaters on the defensive line.

They play what one player has called a “gap and a half” system, which requires being stout as well as nimble.

One Hicks rush on Kaepernick featured a deft spin move out of a block, not the norm for 336-pound linemen. He got one sack with a quick slide out of a double-team.

“I’m not freelancing,” Hicks said. “But I’m rushing ‘fast.’ There’s a portion of the defense where you have the [run] responsibility and don’t have the freedom or liberty [to rush]. It’s a great system for me and I love what they’ve let me do.”