'Kick it, Mitch' -- HOF for Fred

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'Kick it, Mitch' -- HOF for Fred

The American Football Kicking Hall of Fame, which includes the likes of Kevin Butler, Lou Groza, Jan Stenerud and Jim Thorpe, has added friend and former colleague Fred Mitchell with its class of 2013.

Fred was the nations top collegiate kicker during his career at Wittenberg University, which welcomed him into its Hall of Fame in 1995. Fred set the NCAA college division kick-scoring mark and the Fred Mitchell Award was established to honor the nations top collegiate placekicker from among its 750 FCS, Division II, III, NAIA and NJCAA football programs.

We met in 1992 when Fred was covering the Bears for the Tribune and yes, he did in fact keep an old square-toe kicking shoe (hes old school) in the trunk of his car. (And yes, Fred has issues hes a kicker, after all.)

He said one of the best parts of this honor, which was presented at the Legends Club just across the street from Augusta National, was being able to share the news with his 82-year-old high school coach and thank him for getting Freds kicking career started.

It was great to see Fred and wife Kim on Thursday night at the 25th Comcast March of Dimes Awards. Im really, really pleased for Fred, one of the very good guys and a pros pro as well.

Oh, and the Kick it, Mitch in the headline? Fred told me that was the standard directive from his Wittenberg coach. And if this award and others are any indication, he did that very, very well.

Pro Football Focus gives Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman historical 2016 grade

Pro Football Focus gives Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman historical 2016 grade

Bears GM Ryan Pace struck gold with his signing of Jerrell Freeman last offseason.

Freeman, who signed a three-year, $12 million contract with the Bears last March, was graded as the NFL's No. 1 inside linebacker in 2016, according to Pro Football Focus.

Freeman's 93.8 overall grade was PFF's third-highest defensive grade behind Los Angeles Rams All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald (95.6) and Oakland Raiders standout edge rusher Khalil Mack (93.9). 

Here's what PFF's Mike Renner had to say about Freeman's historic 2016 season:

One of the most impressive pure statistics any player amassed this season came from Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman. He made 40 tackles in coverage while missing only one tackle attempt. That ratio is insane, and it’s the best we’ve recorded since 2012. That’s about the only exciting stat, though, as the Bears’ front-seven desperately missed a fully-healthy Pernell McPhee for a good portion of the year.

Despite Freeman's outstanding season, he was left off of PFF's All-Pro Team for 2016. Although he was ranked ahead of Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner (91.6) and Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly (92.9), PFF likely omitted Freeman due to him missing four games with a PED suspension.

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In his first season with the Bears, the 30-year-old Freeman led the team with 110 tackles (the next highest total was Harold Jones-Quartey's 78). Freeman also finished with a team-high 7 tackles for a loss. 

Check out a snapshot below of Freeman's PFF metrics from last season:

If there's any doubt about Freeman's play falling off after serving a suspension, he put that theory to rest. Freeman's second-best game grade came in Week 17 against the Minnesota Vikings (3.5). Freeman also had a positive grade (1.4) in his first game coming off the suspension against the Washington Redskins in Week 16.

"People know me," Freeman told the media after returning from suspension. "People know who I am. People know what I'm about. I wouldn't do that on purpose. I made a mistake and that's what it is. It's not like I was going out of my way to do something (illegal). But it happened. It's my fault and I take responsibility for it."

Report: Bears set to hire Curtis Modkins as running backs coach

Report: Bears set to hire Curtis Modkins as running backs coach

Bears Pro Bowl running back Jordan Howard will have a new positional coach in 2017.

According to ESPN's Adam Caplan, the Bears are expected to hire former San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins as their running backs coach.

Before joining the 49ers in 2016, Modkins served as the Detroit Lions running backs coach from 2013-15. Modkins broke into the NFL as a running backs coach with Kansas City Chiefs in 2008. After serving one year in Kansas City, Modkins left for the same job with the Arizona Cardinals in 2009. The following season Modkins took a promotion with the Buffalo Bills, becoming the team's offensive coordinator from 2010-12.

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Modkins will be reunited in Chicago with reported new Bears offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn. The duo worked together for three seasons with the Lions from 2013-15.

The Bears were in need of a new running backs coach after Stan Drayton departed to take an associate head coaching job under Tom Herman at the University of Texas.