Chicago Bears: Baltimore Ravens
“Shea practiced full today so we feel good about that,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “[We feel good about] getting some people back. Isaiah worked noncontact [drills] today and was limited.”
Right tackle Jordan Mills (quadriceps) and long-snapper Patrick Mannelly (calf) also practiced without restrictions.
Safety Craig Steltz (concussion) and defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff were limited. Trestman effectively ruled out Ratliff for the Rams game, but Steltz appears to be making progress after being on the wrong end of a nasty collision while covering a kickoff last week versus the Baltimore Ravens.
Starting defensive tackle Stephen Paea (toe) missed practice for the second consecutive day and is unlikely to play Sunday in St. Louis.
The Bears officially ruled out weakside linebacker Lance Briggs (shoulder) and quarterback Jay Cutler (ankle) earlier in the week, but Cutler seems to be on the mend. The quarterback attended practice again Thursday without a hard cast on his left leg to protect his high-ankle sprain. Cutler simply wore a brace on the ankle and stood on the field for much of the workout that is open to the media.
Trestman was asked if Cutler is permanently out of the hard cast.
“I really don’t have an answer for you,” Trestman said. “It’s really a week-to-week thing. Really, on the cast or the brace he has, it might be a day-to-day thing. But I’m really not any more informed than that. Other than that, I know Jay is going to be week-to-week. I said day-to-day [Wednesday]; I meant week-to-week. … And we’ll see where he is. You see him in practice. You’re getting a good idea of where he’s at. You see him moving around, trying to move around during the individual periods that you’re out there to see and get a good idea of where he’s at. And hopefully he won’t have to have the cast put on.”
Bennett rested his sore ankle on Thursday, but returned to the field in limited fashion on Friday.
“He (Bennett) worked probably 50 percent of the practice,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “We were trying to be smart with him, but he got work in today and did well. Hopefully with 48 hours (until kickoff on Sunday) he’ll feel even better. But we got some execution done with him, so it was good.”
Bennett has battled through nagging injuries much of the season, but has still managed to start all nine games and catch 40 passes for 421 yards and four touchdowns.
McClellin was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week for his three-sack performance against the Green Bay Packers on Nov. 4, but he tweaked his hamstring at practice last Thursday and was inactive for the Bears’ Week 10 loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday.
McClellin worked on the side with the training staff the past three days during practice but did not officially participate.
In other injury news, linebacker Lance Briggs (shoulder), quarterback Jay Cutler (ankle) and defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (groin) were all ruled out for Sunday.
The Bears believe Ratliff will be in a position to contribute sometime in the next couple of weeks. The veteran defensive tackle participated in conditioning drills on Friday while his teammates practiced. Ratliff has not played in an NFL game since last November as a member of the Dallas Cowboys.
The Bears also list long-snapper Patrick Mannelly (calf) as doubtful and right guard Jordan Mills (quad) as probable.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- If the playoffs started today, the Chicago Bears and the Baltimore Ravens would be out. There are still seven games left in the season, but none of them can be squandered, so this matchup Sunday will see both teams fighting to get into contention in their respective conferences.
The Bears enter the contest without quarterback Jay Cutler and two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Tillman, while the Ravens are coming off their first victory in more than a month. ESPN.com Bears reporter Michael C. Wright and Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley break down the matchup.
Michael C. Wright: Last weekend, Baltimore snapped a three-game losing streak. Does the win restore any faith in the defending Super Bowl champions' ability to return to the playoffs?
Jamison Hensley: The Ravens believe Sunday’s overtime win over the Cincinnati Bengals was a good start to getting back to the postseason for a sixth straight year. Even though the Ravens knocked off the AFC North leaders, no one is boasting that this is a playoff team because it was far from a statement game. The Ravens' offense can’t run the ball, and the defense can’t get opponents off the field late in the fourth quarter. The defending Super Bowl champions definitely have some serious flaws this season.
Baltimore’s attitude would change if they can win in Chicago. The schedule suggests that this is a pivotal game. If the Ravens can change their fortunes on the road and beat the Bears, they will be at .500 entering a stretch of three straight home games against the Jets, Steelers and Vikings. The Ravens have had great success under head coach John Harbaugh in November and December, and things are set up for them to do it again this year. That is, if the Ravens can get the franchise’s first victory in Chicago.
Speaking of attitude, how are the Bears dealing with losing Cutler again?
Wright: Well, after all the second-guessing about when head coach Marc Trestman should’ve pulled Cutler or about whether the quarterback should have played in the first place, I’d say there’s a fair amount of confidence in backup Josh McCown. Before being thrust into action on Oct. 20 at Washington when Cutler tore a muscle in his groin, McCown was already one of the favorites in the locker room. General manager Phil Emery has called McCown a “glue guy,” and other players consider the 34-year-old quarterback a father figure.
In three games filling in for Cutler, McCown has completed 42 of 70 passes for 538 yards and four touchdowns, with no turnovers and a passer rating of 103.1. Obviously, in his first full start, McCown played a major role as the Bears upset the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. He has demonstrated mastery of Trestman’s offense, and the quarterback attributes that to the fact he learned the scheme from the ground up, and actually had some input in the implementation of it.
Joe Flacco received the huge contract, but clearly hasn’t been playing like a $120.6 million quarterback. What has been his biggest issue, and do you see him turning things around this season?
Hensley: Flacco takes a lot of heat because he hasn’t put up the expected numbers after signing one of the richest contracts in NFL history. But he is in a tough situation. He lost his two favorite targets when Anquan Boldin was traded and Dennis Pitta went down with a dislocated hip. Flacco has been sacked 30 times (only Ryan Tannehill and Ben Roethlisberger have been sacked more). Harbaugh applauded Flacco for making plays while scrambling. But Flacco is really running for his life.
While Flacco hasn’t had the strongest supporting cast, he also hasn’t been the same quarterback he was during the Ravens’ championship run. The biggest change is his inability to connect deep. On Sunday, Flacco was 0-for-7 with an interception on throws at least 15 yards downfield, which qualifies as the most deep attempts without a completion he has had in his career. With all of the problems on offense, the Ravens desperately need more big plays out of Flacco.
What’s the biggest concern for the Bears’ pass defense?
Wright: Where would you like to start? There are several. But the most significant right now is how the Bears will perform without one of their best players in Tillman, who on Monday was placed on the injured reserve/designated to return list. Tillman, with three interceptions and three forced fumbles, was one of the main reasons the Bears are tied for fifth in the league with 20 takeaways. Since coming into the league in 2003, Tillman ranks in the NFL’s top 10 in interceptions (36), interception-return yards (675), defensive touchdowns (nine), forced fumbles (42) and passes defended (133). That level of production is difficult to replace. But the Bears are confident in backup Zack Bowman’s ability to get the job done. Bowman started 12 games in 2009 and led the team with six interceptions. When Bowman has played this season, he has been adequate (one INT). He has size (6-foot-1, 196 pounds) similar to Tillman, which allows him to match up well with bigger receivers.
The Bears have struggled against the run, and you’d think they could be in for a long game against someone such as Ray Rice. But from what I’ve seen so far, he hasn’t been the Rice I remember from last season. What’s the deal with him?
Hensley: Rice injured his hip in Week 2 and hasn’t been the same since. He insists he’s at full strength, but the numbers say otherwise. Rice’s average of 2.5 yards per carry is worst among qualified running backs. But you can’t put all of the blame for the NFL’s 30th-ranked rushing attack on Rice. The Ravens’ offensive line has struggled to open holes, and because Flacco can’t throw the ball deep, defenses are stacking the box with eight players.
Getting some semblance of a running game is key to turning around the season, which is why the Ravens need to commit to the ground game against Chicago. Under Harbaugh, the Ravens are 45-12 when they gain more than 100 yards rushing. That’s the fifth-best mark in the NFL, which shows how important a running game is to the Ravens.
Baltimore has been up and down in terms of run defense. In their five losses, the Ravens have given up an average of 124.4 yards rushing. The Bears’ Matt Forte had good back-to-back games before he was shut down against the Lions. What’s the key to him rebounding against the Ravens?
Wright: The No. 1 key would be better blocking from the offensive line. For the first time all season, the Bears on Sunday probably lost the battle at the line of scrimmage on offense. At best, Trestman said he would call it a draw. The Bears know it’s unacceptable for Forte to average 1.9 yards per carry on 17 attempts, and Trestman said one of the major contributors to the performance against the Lions was that several players missed assignments on key plays. Going into that game, the Bears knew they wouldn’t put together a strong rushing game, but thought they’d have a chance to pop three or four explosive runs against Detroit’s dominant front. Obviously that didn’t happen. But if the Bears clean up some of the execution issues up front, Forte should be able to rebound. Going into Sunday’s game, he was averaging 4.7 yards per carry. He’ll have to get back on track if Chicago expects the offense to run smoothly because it is by establishing Forte that the Bears set up their play-action passing game.
Trestman cited key injuries on defense when evaluating Tucker's effectiveness. Entering Week 11, the Bears will be minus six projected starters (Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman, D.J. Williams, Henry Melton, Kelvin Hayden and Nate Collins) -- defensive end Shea McClellin is questionable with a pulled hamstring -- when they face the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday at Soldier Field.
"I can tell you, Mel's done an amazing job in my opinion," Trestman said. "He has been consistent with the guys in terms of his passion, the way he's teaching. He's a positive guy. I thought as I talked to the team on Monday, I thought our defense played well enough for us to win under unusual circumstances because of the situation of having so many players out that gave our team a chance to win. I think that starts with Mel, and our staff getting the guys ready, continuing to work with them to try and improve.
"Are we where we want to be? No. We're always trying to get better. But I think he's done an outstanding job in the classroom. On the field he's excellent, and I think he's done a great job of being on the field and managing the team for the last couple of games on the field. It's very impressive to watch."
But organizations need to set lofty goals. Have you ever heard of an NFL team striving for mediocrity?
So while a part of me wants to cringe when I read Lions defensive tackle Nick Fairley quoted in the Detroit News saying that his team is "going to the Super Bowl”, or watch a video of Detroit running back Reggie Bush tell reporters that he signed with the Lions "to win championships," the reality is that every NFL player should feel that way about the prospects of his respective club this time of the year.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Early in the Bears' search for a new general manager, the team requested permission to speak with Baltimore Ravens director of player personnel Eric DeCosta, who was also being courted by the Rams and Colts for their then vacant G.M. posts.
But DeCosta turned all three teams down and instead opted to stay in Baltimore where he is viewed as the heir apparent to Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome.
A relived Newsome spoke Friday at the NFL Combine about DeCosta's decision to spurn the advances of clubs like the Bears early in the offseason.
"I think it was very important because of the continuity that allows the organization to maintain people and have the process remain the same," Newsome said. "It was kind of like Scott Pioli remaining in New England for all those years with Bill [Belichick]. All it does is make you stronger. I'm very thankful that Eric decided to stay."
Bisciotti said the profuse apologies offered by Bears general manager Jerry Angelo weren't enough, and expressed disappointment in the McCaskey family, saying the situation tarnishes the family's legacy, according to the Baltimore Sun.
"I'm disappointed in the Bears and the McCaskeys," Bisciotti told the newspaper. "It is my opinion a deviation from their great legacy. They concluded that their heartfelt and admirable apology was sufficient for our loss. All of us at the Ravens strongly disagree. Probably end of story."
Read the entire story.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears have declined to compensate the Baltimore Ravens for the botched first-round trade the two teams agreed to but that the Bears did not turn into the NFL, a league source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell encouraged the Bears to surrender some type of draft compensation but when he declined to order them to do so, Chicago opted not to give the Ravens anything.
"The only thing I'm gonna say [is] they have rules when you do something wrong, not when you make mistakes," Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said Friday. "A mistake was made, no rule was broken."
Read the entire story.
Here’s a breakdown of Byrne’s account:
Approximately a minute after the teams agreed to the trade -- with about two minutes remaining of Baltimore’s allotted time to make the selection -- Byrne said Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, who was essentially on two phone calls at the same time, told NFL senior director of player personnel Joel Bussert: “Joel, I’ve got them on the other phone. They’ve agreed.”
On the other phone, with Newsome on a call to the Bears, the general manager told the team, “Joel said you guys haven’t confirmed the trade.”
Turning to the other phone with Bussert on the end, Newsome then said, “Joel, they said they called. I don’t know,” before telling immediately going back to the other phone to tell the Bears, “Joel says you haven’t called, what’s going on?”
Byrne wrote that Newsome then relayed to Bussert that the Bears insisted they’d already made the call to the league which would have officially consummated the trade.
Eventually, time ran out and the Chiefs passed the 26th pick to Kansas City, who drafted receiver Jonathan Baldwin. Baltimore came back and selected Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith at 27.
After the Ravens made the pick, Byrne said he informed Newsome that the media would likely accuse the Ravens of making a mistake that led to the clock expiring and the team passing the pick.
“Oz, the Bears messed up,” Byrne said he told Newsome. “We shouldn’t have to take the hit for this.”
Newsome replied he was “not going to throw the Bears under the bus.”
But Byrne responded, “Well, how about at least explaining that we had a deal with [the Bears] and that they did not follow through with a confirmation at the last second?”
Newsome agreed to explain the situation to the media.
Meanwhile, at Halas Hall, Angelo was also under pressure to give an explanation about what had just transpired.
“Whatever you hear, Baltimore did everything the right way,” he said. “We didn’t take advantage of the time that we had to do it according to protocol. I did call Baltimore and apologize for that. I want to go on the record to say that.”
Angelo refused to get into specifics about the situation, only offering profuse apology and vague details.
What’s clear though is somewhere during that chaotic episode, the Bears failed to properly execute, which would seem inexcusable given that Angelo has been involved in the player personnel business for more than 30 years.
Baltimore still wants fourth-round compensation (which is what the team’s originally agreed to) for the botched transaction, but it’s unlikely the league will grant that. At the end of the day both teams acquired the players they coveted, making this a no-blood-no-foul situation. But I thought Byrne’s account was interesting, and wanted to share it.
If anything, the situation would make for an interesting ice breaker should the teams try again to strike another deal at some point in this draft.
There are very few people you can say are part of the solution, and not the problem. It was encouraging to see Matt Forte run the ball well in the first half, and Earl Bennett continues to make solid contributions -- Devin Hester should never return another punt in 2009.
After that, what else is there to say?
Jay Cutler is a train wreck, and if the Bears don't find a way to fix him in the offseason, this franchise is doomed for the foreseeable future. All that money, all those draft picks, and this guy can't protect the football in the red zone?! Cutler's first interception to Dominique Foxworth was inexcusable -- how does he not see the guy? You've got to give Jarrett Johnson credit on the second pick, but again, it comes as the Bears were trying to punch the ball in the end zone. Demoralizing, to say the least.
The play calling continues to be suspect, especially on the failed goal-line series. Why try that pass to Greg Olsen on fourth down, when the margin for error is so slim? Seems like a play better suited for second or third down. And why don't the Bears ever call a bootleg for Cutler so he can roll out of the pocket? The only time Cutler moves outside the tackle box is on a busted play. Why is offensive coordinator Ron Turner so opposed to that line of thinking? Didn't we all see Cutler scramble with a lot of success in the first half? The guy can run, let him!
The defense was average, although the Ravens were working with a short field a lot because of Bears turnovers. Zack Bowman -- who did not look one-hundred percent -- struggled in pass coverage, as did Corey Graham on the first touchdown throw to Todd Heap. Charles Tillman was also burned on a touchdown, while Kevin Payne continues to take bad angles when chasing down ball carriers. Gaines Adams got extra playing time thanks to an injury to Adewale Ogunleye -- and did nothing. In fact, Adams got worked over by rookie offensive tackle Michael Oher, like Adams, a former first round pick. However, unlike the Bears newest defensive end, Oher can play.
It's tough to say why the Bears feel things can get better with this current regime in place. Will they feel the same way after the Bears lose to Detroit on Jan. 3? Because, let me tell you, that is a real possibility.
Lewis was two years ahead of Clark in school and even though a mouth injury prevented Clark from playing on the varsity team with Lewis as a sophomore (Florida students did not start high school until the 10th grade at that time), he knew his older classmate was destined for greatness.
"He was probably the most dominating player in the state at that time," Clark said. "Same kind of guy he is right now, team leader, guy that you would rally around to take you on the field. Pretty much the same guy you see now is the same guy he was in high school."
Besides being an all-conference quarterback, free safety and punt returner in high school, Clark was also the holder for former Bears kicker Paul Edinger on field goals and extra points. Small world.