As Packers keep winning, Bears need 'A' game from Campbell

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As Packers keep winning, Bears need 'A' game from Campbell

SAN FRANCISCO Call it Jason Campbells unfinished business, time to show that living well is the best revenge.

And right now, the Bears are in real need of some living well. The Green Bay Packers won their fifth straight game on Sunday, winning at Detroit, and will move past the Bears in the NFC North, by virtue of beating the Bears in Green Bay, if the Bears fall to San Francisco. The Minnesota Vikings went to 6-4 by beating Detroit last Sunday and will come to Chicago next Sunday after a week off also with a chance to move past the Bears with a victory.

Not the time that the Bears would have chosen to be without their starting quarterback.

But Campbell is not just any backup.

Campbell is 10-4 over his last 14 starts. He had the Oakland Raiders at 4-2 and on course for the playoffs when he broke his collarbone.

He cant replay the 2011 season even if he wanted to. What he can do, however, is finish the year that ended so abruptly and painfully, and disappointingly when the Raiders gave up on him in favor of mortgaging their future in a deal for Carson Palmer.

Well, the Raiders are 3-6 and behind seven other teams for even the second wild-card spot in the AFC playoffs. And Campbell is on Monday Night Football, starting for the No. 2 overall seed in the NFC going into the weekends games.

Its my first time starting since Oct. 16 last year, when I broke my collarbone. And itll be going back to the Bay Area, Campbell said. It feels good to have an opportunity to get back in there and play.

But you never want to have an opportunity to play because someone is injured, but we understand that we play and those things occur sometimes.

Its the third straight year that this has occurred for the Bears, losing Jay Cutler for at least a game to an injury. That raises questions for the organization long-term with Cutler heading into a contract year in 2013 and GM Phil Emery satisfied that Cutler is a franchise quarterback when he is healthy.

Fittingly perhaps, the San Francisco game could be a one-game (if Cutler returns from his concussion next Sunday) audition for Campbell. He signed a one-year deal with the Bears for 3.5 million when interest in him was tepid during free agency because of the collarbone injury.

I think everything happens for a reason, Campbell said. I think when the time is right, that will take care of itself in the right place and time.

The bigger concern

But those are issues that are a long way from the Bears thinking going into a game that, if they lose, would drop them from second only to the Atlanta Falcons in the interim NFC playoff seedings to trailing the Packers in the division.

The bigger issue remains an offense that have yet to reach its 2011 levels despite additions like Brandon Marshall, Michael Bush and Gabe Carimi, whose rookie season ended after six quarters, plus the elevation of Mike Tice to offensive coordinator.

We have to maintain good energy, Mike Tice said. We have to maintain a positive approach with the fact that were working at it, were churning at it, were putting in the time at it and at some point were encouraged that it should it better break in our way and start playing with some rhythm.

The Campbell Factor

An intriguing thread running through the San Francisco game is whether the offense might actually run better under Campbell than it has been with Cutler.

For one big thing, Campbell directs an offense that has rookie Alshon Jeffery back from a broken hand. Jeffery is a big target who had become a starter and the Bears No. 2 receiver before his injury.

Campbell is a timing-based quarterback vs. Cutlers style of waiting a shade longer in a play and then having the arm power to still get the football where it needs to be. Campbell is possibly less apt to force a bad situation.

As a quarterback, you got to not try to dictate the game but do everything you possibly can to get your own rhythm, by not forcing things and everything like that, Campbell said.

But, at the same time, just have fun. You got to let it hang out in a game like this.

PFF ranks Illini's Dawuane Smoot the 20th-best player in college football

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PFF ranks Illini's Dawuane Smoot the 20th-best player in college football

Pro Football Focus released its list of the 101 best players in college football Monday, and all the usual suspects were present: Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State — the teams most believe will compete for a Big Ten title.

So when an Illinois player popped up in the top 20, there were plenty of eyebrows shooting up.

Now, just because the Illini likely won't challenge for a conference championship in Lovie Smith's first year at the helm doesn't mean that defensive end Dawuane Smoot isn't the 20th-best player in college football. Pro Football Focus is quite high on Smoot, with their intricate grading system rating him as one of the top-10 pass-rushers in the country last season, when he finished with eight sacks, good for sixth in the Big Ten. He was fifth in the conference with 15 tackles for loss, forced three fumbles and recovered two more. It all would indicate that a big 2016 campaign is on the way, and PFF is expecting that, too, putting him at No. 18 in its 2017 mock draft.

But PFF isn't alone in being high on Smoot. Smith feels the same way, saying earlier this offseason that he believed Smoot would be a first-round draft pick. And he should know after his many years in the NFL.

So is Smoot heading for a monster 2016, All-Big Ten honors and the NFL Draft? It seems like plenty think so, with Smoot placing higher in PFF's rankings than many other Big Ten stars.

Here's a look at who from the conference cracked PFF's top 101, and prepare yourself for a heaping helping of the Michigan defense.

7. Jourdan Lewis, DB, Michigan
9. Desmond King, DB, Iowa
16. Jabrill Peppers, DB, Michigan
20. Dawuane Smoot, DE, Illinois
23. Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State
27. Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
29. Pat Elflein, OL, Ohio State
31. Chris Wormley, DE, Michigan
32. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
34. Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State
43. Vince Biegel, LB, Wisconsin
63. Jake Replogle, DT, Purdue
72. Ryan Glasgow, DT, Michigan
90. Nate Gerry, DB, Nebraska
99. Darius Hamilton, DT, Rutgers
100. Ed Davis, LB, Michigan State

Notably absent from the list were Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett and Northwestern linebacker Anthony Walker, who will be among the favorites for conference player of the year honors on their respective sides of the ball.

Chris Sale 'would like to see' Mark Buehrle retire in White Sox uniform

Chris Sale 'would like to see' Mark Buehrle retire in White Sox uniform

While Chris Sale doesn’t know if Mark Buehrle will pitch again, he’s certain about one thing — Buehrle should retire as a member of the White Sox.

His future plans still undeclared, the legendary pitcher made the rounds at U.S. Cellular Field this weekend to visit ex-teammates from two of the three clubs he played for during his 16-year career. Buehrle, who won a World Series title and 161 games and threw a perfect game and a no-hitter in 12 seasons with the White Sox, has yet to sign retirement papers. Whether or not Buehrle would pitch again was speculated upon often this spring even though he struggled down the stretch in 2015 and failed to eclipse 200 innings for only the second time in his career.

Were he to officially call it quits, Sale hopes Buerhle does it here.

“For me personally, I would like to see it,” Sale said. “When you think of Mark Buehrle, you think of him in a White Sox uniform, wearing the black jersey with the pinstripes on the bottom.

“I don’t think he could go out any other way. Especially it would be nice to see him in a White Sox hat when he goes to the Hall of Fame.”

Buehrle spent the first dozen years of his career with the White Sox before agreeing upon a four-year deal with the Miami Marlins in 2012. His stay in Miami lasted only one season before the club held a fire sale and dealt him and shortstop Jose Reyes among others to the Toronto Blue Jays. Buehrle played the last three seasons in Toronto and won 40 games. He won 15 games last season but finished four outs shy of a 15th straight 200-inning campaign.

Sale said he didn’t talk any business with Buehrle during their visit and doesn’t know if he still wants to pitch.

“It was definitely good to see him,” Sale said. “It gives you a little boost. Any time you see guys like that come back around, it’s always fun. He looks good. He looks like he could pitch again.

“We don’t talk about business when he comes around. It was good to see him and whatever unfolds, I think it will be fun regardless of what happens.”

Bulls: Fred Hoiberg, Gar Forman excited for Denzel Valentine's versatility

Bulls: Fred Hoiberg, Gar Forman excited for Denzel Valentine's versatility

The Bulls introduced their newest member on Monday at the Advocate Center.

Denzel Valentine, the Bulls' first-round draft pick, showed off his new No. 45 Bulls jersey for the first time in Chicago.

See what Gar Forman, Fred Hoiberg and Valentine had to say in the video above.