Urlachers legacy should be on the field, not TV

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Urlachers legacy should be on the field, not TV

The brouhaha over Brian Urlachers comments after the Bears' 21-13 loss to the Packers on Sunday has to be set aside and a bigger picture considered.
The final chapter and epilogue for Urlachers career as a Chicago Bear cannot be a popped hamstring late in the Seattle game and some frustrated mutterings last Sunday after watching his team lose and his teammates vilified by elements of the fan base.

MORE: Should fans continue booing the Bears at home?

Two things here:
One is that Urlacher doesnt need (or particularly want) anyone speaking for him or whatever. But this is Christmas. Cut the guy some Yuletide line. If you need a reason, maybe just because theres enough rancid going around in the world and life already.
The media doesnt like him because hes short with them, increasingly terse as the years have gone on and its difficult to feel fuzzy toward someone you know holds you in the same high regard as lint.
But Urlacher is more than his tackle totals or publicized personal life. Ill share a story with you here, from someone I met last week completely away from football:
The same guy who said he doesnt care what fans think or say not that long ago was in downstate Illinois for family time. He had agreed to be back in Chicago to help with a friends event for kids. No money, just something he said hed do.
A blizzard hit. Urlacher was good to his word. He got in his SUV and drove four hours through the driving snowstorm, made it and was all apologetic for being 20 minutes late. He then stayed to sign things and visit until the last kids were gone.
I dont particularly care what Brian Urlacher thinks of me. He doesnt talk to me, so were even there. But the legacy shouldn't be a fit of pique on some TV show or at some podium.
The proper ending
The second item here is what needs to happen next for Urlacher.
He probably isnt going to be sufficiently over the hamstring by next Sunday in Arizona. But the Bears have not placed him on injured reserve the way defensive tackle Matt Toeaina and running back Michael Bush were.
The game in Detroit could loom as the last grasp at the playoffs, assuming a Bears win over the Cardinals. The Bears desperately need a positive charge ... like the kind that Hall of Fame center Willis Reed once gave the New York Knicks in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals. Reed was out with a severe thigh injury but stunned the Los Angeles Lakers and the basketball world by running out of the tunnel in uniform. He started, hit the first two shots of the game for the Knicks, who rode the emotion to a win over Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West and the Lakers.
It wont be in Soldier Field. But Bears fans travel and have turned places like Ford Field into virtual home fields for the team.
Urlacher trotting out with the No. 1 defense, hamstring taped up to ensure he can play a couple snaps -- best guess is that not just the defense would be energized.
Count on it: Urlacher would do that for Lovie Smith if he were sure it wouldnt hurt the team.
If that turns out to be Urlachers final game as a Bear, hes earned the honor of being carried out on his shield, if he can manage it at all. And if that gives the Bears a boost and they win their way into the playoffs or more, not a bad statement for being back another year, possibly with Smith.
That is how Brian Urlachers 2012 should end. Not on a TV set.

Badgers kicker Rafael Gaglianone out for season with back injury

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Badgers kicker Rafael Gaglianone out for season with back injury

Wisconsin will be without its starting kicker for the remainder of the 2016 season.

The Badgers announced Thursday that Rafael Gaglianone is done for the year after undergoing surgery for a back injury.

"You're disappointed for Rafael because of all the work he's put in and how well he was playing," Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst said in the announcement. "From a football perspective, I've appreciated the way the other guys in that unit have responded this week.

"Unfortunately this isn't his first experience with something like this, but we've seen that Raf is going to do everything he can to get back on the field as soon as he can."

The Badgers mentioned in the announcement that because Gaglianone only appeared in three games this season — under the NCAA's 30-percent threshold — he could qualify for a medical redshirt.

Gaglianone was 7-for-8 on field-goal attempts this season. He played in the games against LSU, Akron and Georgia State before sitting out last weekend's game against Michigan State.

He is 44-for-57 on field goals in his career and has converted 109 extra points.

Greg Hudson (and Brian Kelly) will tweak, streamline Notre Dame's defense

Greg Hudson (and Brian Kelly) will tweak, streamline Notre Dame's defense

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame didn’t blow up its defense when it fired defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder on Sunday, but there will be a few changes to how this scheme operates going forward under Greg Hudson. 

The first, and most noticeable, change, is actually one fans won’t see on Saturdays. Coach Brian Kelly has spent far more time with the Irish defense during practice and meetings this week — he has almost exclusively worked with the offense while at Notre Dame — in an effort to put his stamp on a group that’s allowed on average 41.3 points in its three games against power five opponents. 

“You see him in a meeting, you’re like, ‘Aw snap,’” linebacker Nyles Morgan said. “It’s a new feel, but his inputs are very helpful. He knows what he’s talking about.”

Kelly won’t necessarily simplify the scheme itself, but he will train its focus in a more narrow manner. That means drawing from the same inventory that VanGorder & Co. installed during spring and preseason practice, but tailoring what’s used to help the bevy of underclassmen in this defense play smarter and faster. 

“It’s going to take a style of defense that I'm much more accustomed to, the way I want to play defensively, and we'll pull from the library which we already have,” Kelly said. 

Of course, nobody is giving away the exact plan of how Notre Dame will play on Saturday against Syracuse. But the ineffective 3-3-5 scheme Notre Dame deployed against Texas’ up-tempo offense won’t included in it, and part of Kelly’s goal is to simply get players lined up correctly. That would seem to indicate a lot more freshmen or sophomores could see the field, especially in the front seven — think Daelin Hayes, Julian Okwara, Khalid Kareem, Jamir Jones, Asmar Bilal and others — which should help avoid over-taxing some of the team’s veterans. 

And in the secondary, there will have to be more rotating of players, too, given Dino Babers’ Orange offense operates at ludicrous speed. The best way to successfully get guys like Jalen Elliott and Donte Vaughn on the field is to narrow the inventory and limit the checks they have to make, too.  

“I think with the youth that we have on our team, a lot of guys don’t necessarily have a ton of game experience — that can be kind of critical,” safety Drue Tranquill said. “I remember back in my freshman year, and things were spinning for me and the game is really, really fast. So when you have a huge inventory on your plate, a lot of checks to make, that can cloud your vision a little bit. So definitely with a lot of young guys it’s definitely something we have to take into consideration.” 

We’ll see exactly what the streamlined Irish defense looks like and who will play in it on Saturday (maybe it’ll include dropping defensive linemen into coverage with less frequency, a VanGorder staple that proved ineffective). As for Hudson, Kelly isn’t looking to him to necessarily make a major impact on how the defense looks. 

The hope is that Hudson, who previously was a defensive analyst for Notre Dame and held defensive coordinator positions at East Carolina, Minnesota and Purdue, can help inject some energy and life into this moribund defense. 

“He's always using different examples, different stories, a little bit of humor in his coaching,” linebacker James Onwualu said. “And an energy — there hasn't been a day he's been here that I've really seen him just walking around monotone. He's always got some energy and something to say.”

Whether that energy can actually make a tangible impact remains to be seen. But Notre Dame is in desperate need of answers on defense, and will face a Syracuse offense that’s good enough to be headache-inducing on Saturday. 

So the Greg Hudson era begins at MetLife Stadium this weekend. The energy may be better and the scheme may be streamlined. But will the results change?

“Greg has been empowered to bring the energy, the enthusiasm, the passion, the morale, the camaraderie. I need those things from Greg,” Kelly said. ‘That's what I need. I want our kids to be excited when they step on that field against Syracuse. I'll worry about the implementation, the scheme. I'll take care of that for him right now. As he gets more comfortable with what we have and what our system is about, then he will be much more involved in what we do.

“But right now, we'll write the music and he'll be the lead singer.”