Fantasy: Brandon Marshall

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19


Christopher Harris analyzes Brandon Marshall's value for Week 3.

Fantasy: Alshon Jeffery

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19


Christopher Harris analyzes Alshon Jeffery's value for Week 3.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte picked up his phone Thursday night knowing full well former teammate Devin Hester would soon be reading hundreds of text messages congratulating him for breaking the NFL's record for return touchdowns.

"He's a close friend of mine," Forte said. "But I knew he was going to read every text message. I definitely had to give him props on breaking the record. I just told him congratulations, all his hard work paid off even when people were saying, 'Ah, he's not going to break [the record],' or 'he's done. He can't return the ball anymore,' whenever he'd have a tough year. I'm just proud of him for staying the course."

[+] EnlargeDevin Hester
Scott Cunningham/Getty ImagesWith a 62-yard TD return Thursday night, Devin Hester now holds the NFL record for return touchdowns (20).
Hester high-stepped into NFL history on a 62-yard punt return TD to collect his 20th career scoring return, which broke Deion Sanders' record, during Atlanta's 56-14 shellacking of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, led by former Bears coach Lovie Smith. Hester's former Chicago Bears teammates at Halas Hall congratulated the return man Friday for the accomplishment, with Forte saying, "He's Hall-of-Fame worthy now."

Hester played eight seasons for the Bears (2006-13), racking up 11,632 all-purpose yards. The veteran spent parts of his career playing defensive back and receiver with the team. But last season, Hester requested to concentrate solely on special teams.

Prior to Hester's departure from Chicago, there were rumblings his skills had declined. Bears kicker Robbie Gould disputed that notion, and Hester's statistics certainly support that. Hester averaged 27.6 yards on kickoff returns last season and 14.2 yards per return on punts to go with an 81-yard touchdown.

"He still played at a high level [in 2013]," Gould said. "Actually, the record, he broke it last year and we had a penalty that called it back [against Minnesota]. The guy is a special player. He's got a lot of speed, a lot left in the tank, and you're seeing that right now; especially with the Atlanta Falcons. He's maybe one of the greatest players I've ever played with of all time."

Prior to the 2013, Hester considered retiring, and Forte said "I'm glad he decided to continue to do it, and was able to break that record."

Hester admitted to feeling unhappy about his role toward the end of his Chicago tenure. Unable to click with quarterback Jay Cutler, Hester requested prior to 2013 that the Bears didn't use him on offense. During the 2014 offseason, the Bears decided to not offer Hester a contract.

"I'm going to say it, man. I wasn't happy the last three or four years in Chicago," Hester said during Thursday night's postgame show on NFL Network's Total Access. "Things weren't going the way I expected."

Hester caught a career-high 57 passes for 757 yards and three touchdowns in 2009, Cutler's first season with the team. But Hester and the quarterback never clicked. Hester finished with 2,908 yards and 14 touchdowns, but caught just 23 passes in 2012, his final season playing receiver for the Bears.

"I've got a quarterback now that ... he loves even the walk-ons," Hester said, "and coaches that know how to get the ball to me; how to make plays for me."

Cutler said on Friday he was unaware of Hester's comments.

"But I'm happy for him," Cutler said. "He seems to be in a good place there. Obviously, he's scoring touchdowns. That's always a good thing for him. Couldn't be more happy for him."

Bears coach Marc Trestman joined Forte in sending Hester a congratulatory text, and the coach said the return man responded later in the night.

"Excited about this mountain he's ascended to," Trestman said. "When people move on, you hope it's for the right reasons, for their career. I think everybody here is certainly excited about the fact he's having success, and doing something with his new opportunity."

Through three games, Hester has contributed 126 yards on seven receptions with the Falcons, along with one rushing TD. He's averaged 28 yards on kickoff returns and 15.2 yards on punts to go with Thursday night's record-breaking score.

"Great teammate," Forte said. "Whenever you needed something, you could call Devin anytime, and he'd help you out. As good as he is on the field, off the field, he's even better."

Allen practices, Marshall sits

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Chicago Bears defensive end Jared Allen (lower back) practiced without restrictions on Friday, but wide receiver Brandon Marshall (ankle) remained sidelined for a second consecutive day.

 Marshall and Allen are both expected to play Monday night versus the New York Jets.

Besides Marshall, six other Bears were held out of Friday’s practice: defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff
(concussion), linebacker Shea McClellin (hand), defensive end Trevor Scott (foot), cornerback Sherrick McManis (quad), center Roberto Garza (ankle) and left guard Matt Slauson (ankle).

McClellin’s situation took a turn for the worse. The linebacker had limited in participation in practice on Thursday, but he sat out the entire workout on Friday.

According to head coach Marc Trestman, McClellin suffered the hand injury in practice this week, not during the 28-20 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Week 2.

In other health news, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) and safety Chris Conte (shoulder) were both limited for the second straight practice, while receiver Josh Morgan (groin) had full participation. Morgan should be available to face the Jets.

Bears make practice squad moves

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears signed linebacker Terrell Manning to the practice squad on Friday, while terminating the practice squad contract of receiver Greg Herd.

Manning has played in six games the past two seasons with the Green Bay Packers and San Diego Chargers, contributing three tackles on special teams. Manning was Green Bay's fifth-round pick in 2012 out of North Carolina State.

Herd, meanwhile, entered the league as an undrafted free agent out of Eastern Washington in 2013 with the Dallas Cowboys.

Jim McMahon to enter BYU's Hall

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19

Former All-America quarterback Jim McMahon will have his No. 9 jersey retired as he enters the BYU Hall of Fame later this fall, the school announced Thursday.

A ceremony, during which his name will be permanently displayed under the press box at LaVell Edwards Stadium, will be held at halftime of the BYU-Utah State game Oct. 3.

McMahon finished his BYU career in 1981 with 9,536 yards passing and 84 touchdowns. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, and at one point he held 70 NCAA passing records.

He finished third in the 1981 Heisman Trophy voting and shared Offensive Player of the Year honors with USC's Marcus Allen. He also won the inaugural Davey O'Brien Award and the Sammy Baugh Trophy that year.

McMahon will become only the sixth BYU player to have his jersey retired, joining Eldon Fortie, Marion Probert, Steve Young, Gifford Nielsen and Ty Detmer.

He also recently finished online courses to receive his Bachelor of Arts degree, which is a prerequisite to become a member of the school's Hall of Fame.

"I am very proud of Jim for finishing his degree," former BYU coach LaVell Edwards said in a statement. "He is a competitor and a finisher. ... Jim was a great leader and had a complete understanding of the game. He is very deserving of the Hall of Fame and having his jersey retired."

McMahon was drafted by the Chicago Bears in 1982 and played 16 seasons in the NFL.

"Jim is one of the elite college quarterbacks of all time," BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe said in a statement. "He loved the game of football and always played the game like he was having fun. He was a great leader and a great teammate.

"I know there are a lot of people all over the country who are excited for Jim to be formally recognized as one of the Cougar greats."

(Read full post)

Jubilant and still emotional after high-stepping into league history Thursday night on a 56-yard punt return to collect his NFL-record 20th career return touchdown, former Chicago Bears return man Devin Hester admitted to feeling unhappy about his role in the final years of his tenure with the club that drafted him.

Hester played receiver for six years of his eight-year tenure in Chicago, but spent his final season (2013) working exclusively as a return man.

[+] EnlargeDevin Hester
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhDevin Hester was not happy with his limited involvement in the passing game in Chicago.
Now with the Atlanta Falcons, Hester scored on the return Thursday night as well as a 20-yard run in the first half of his team’s 56-14 shellacking of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, led by former Bears coach Lovie Smith.

“I’m gonna say it, man. I wasn’t happy the last three or four years in Chicago,” Hester said during the postgame show on NFL Network’s Total Access. “Things weren’t going the way I expected. I would always have a great camp; have all the receivers saying and all the coaches saying I had the best camp out of all the receivers. And then, once the season starts off, I’m not there.”

Hester didn’t elaborate, but sources have said he didn’t want to play receiver for the Bears in 2013.

Hester spent eight seasons with the Bears (2006-13) and participated in 123 games, racking up 11,632 all-purpose yards. The veteran spent parts of his career playing defensive back and receiver with the team. But last season, the Bears coaching staff and Hester mutually agreed he’d concentrate solely on duties as a return man.

Hester caught a career-high 57 passes for 757 yards and three touchdowns in 2009, quarterback Jay Cutler's first season with the team. But Hester and Cutler never clicked. Hester finished with 2,908 yards and 14 touchdowns, but caught just 23 passes in 2012, his final season playing receiver for the Bears.

“I’ve got a quarterback now that ... he loves even the walk-ons,” Hester said, “and coaches that know how to get the ball to me; how to make plays for me. I’m excited for this season, man. This is only the beginning for our team. It’s a team that knows how to utilize their talent. Everybody’s making plays, and we’ve got a team that, if you’re good at running this route, we don’t care if you’ve been a starter for 12 years. If this guy is two years in the league and he’s good at this route, we’re gonna let him run this route.”

A three-time Pro Bowler (2006, 2007 and 2010), Hester was named to the 2000s All-Decade team by The Associated Press and ESPN. He was the rookie recipient of the team's 2006 Brian Piccolo Award, which is elected by Bears players for teammates they feel best exemplify the courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication and sense of humor of the late Piccolo.

But the team informed Hester in March he wouldn’t be returning for a ninth season in Chicago.

“For the past eight seasons, we have been honored to have Devin Hester as part of our organization,” Bears general manager Phil Emery said at the time. “While Devin has redefined the pinnacle standard of the return position in the NFL, the memories and contributions he has given us cannot be measured by stats or numbers.”

The Chicago Bears organization and former teammates showered Hester with praise and congratulatory words on Twitter after he broke Deion Sanders' record for return TDs.

Hester admitted that when he left Chicago, he was no longer the player he used to be. Still, he's plenty dangerous based off the performance against the Buccaneers.

"You hear rumors about, 'Man, he lost it.' You know, I lost it a little bit. I used to run a 4.2[-second 40-yard dash], but now I run 4.3," Hester joked. "I ain't gonna lie, I've lost it a little bit. But I've still got that hunger. As the years have grown, I've learned the game. I understand the game. I know what I'm capable of doing, and I know how to utilize and rally my troops. Those guys, I'm proud of them my blockers, because those guys wanted it just as badly as I did."

Bears vs. Jets preview

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
The Chicago Bears are coming off one of their best wins in recent memory; the New York Jets are trying to rebound from one of their worst losses -- ever.

Monday night's nonconference matchup at MetLife Stadium will be a fascinating study in how the teams -- both 1-1 -- handle extreme highs and lows. The Bears rallied from a 17-0 deficit to stun the San Francisco 49ers on the road 28-20. The Jets blew a 21-3 lead and fell to the Bears' top rival, the Green Bay Packers, 31-24.

The Jets and Bears are different on so many levels. The Jets like to play the game in the trenches, and they play it well. They lead the NFL in rushing offense and rushing defense, becoming the first team since the 2007 Minnesota Vikings to lead those categories in the same week. The Bears struggle in those areas (30th and 27th, respectively), preferring to play the game on the perimeter with Jay Cutler throwing to a talented group of receivers.

ESPN Jets reporter Rich Cimini and ESPN Bears reporter Michael C. Wright discuss the matchup:

Cimini: Obviously, there is a lot of interest in receiver Santonio Holmes. How is he fitting in with the offense and, given his diva reputation in New York, is he behaving in the locker room?

Wright: Rich, the first week Holmes was here, I spent about an hour speaking with him one day after practice and we touched on his tumultuous tenure with the Jets. He seems to be genuine, and says that is probably what got him into trouble some in New York. From what I've seen of Holmes, though, he is a fairly quiet guy who seems to prefer to be alone. He understands the current situation is a tremendous opportunity; he wants to prove that he still possesses the skills to be an effective player and that he can be a person his coaches and teammates can depend on. He has been good in the locker room, sharing his knowledge and experiences with younger receivers.

Holmes is still learning the nuances of Chicago's system, which he said is similar to what the Jets ran during his tenure, and he is spending time after practice with receivers coach Mike Groh, learning the ropes. It appears he is becoming more comfortable with the offense, and I anticipate his role growing as the team moves forward.

Turning to the Jets, it seems there has been quite a bit of fallout over the timeout that negated what should have been the game-tying touchdown against the Packers. In a situation like that, a lot of blame can be thrown around. How are the Jets handling that, and have they done anything moving forward to eliminate another miscommunication?

Cimini: Sheldon Richardson and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg have each taken responsibility for the costly, ill-timed timeout, truly one of the biggest gaffes in Jets history. In my opinion, it was a perfect storm, meaning a whole lot of bad stuff happened at the same time. Obviously, they learned a hard lesson. If they didn't know it already, the players on the sideline know they should stay out of the "timeout" business.

In terms of communication between the coaches, nothing will change, according to Rex Ryan. He feels confident the right system is in place. He and Mornhinweg communicate during the game via the headset and, if Ryan is on the defensive channel and can't hear Mornhinweg (which happened Sunday), he will get the message from someone in the coaches' booth. They feel last Sunday was an aberration.

It overshadowed the biggest concern -- the pass defense. Do you think the Bears will try to have more balance offensively, or will they let Cutler attack the Jets' suspect secondary?

Wright: That depends on whether the Bears can be effective against the Jets' stingy run defense. Chicago has run the ball 35 times and passed 83 times this season. Against a defense like the Jets' -- regardless of the issues in their secondary -- that will get you beat. If Chicago can't show a semblance of a rushing attack, the offense becomes one-dimensional, which would allow the Jets to dial up the pressure on Cutler.

So the Bears definitely want to keep the Jets guessing. But as you mentioned, they will also want to attack with their huge receivers (Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery) on the outside, and also utilize tight end Martellus Bennett down the seams. The Bears will definitely try to test New York's run defense early. But if they don't achieve any success, my guess is they will go heavy with the aerial attack.

Speaking of offense, New York seemed to be rolling early in the game against the Packers, scoring touchdowns on each of the first three drives. But in the last nine drives, the Jets came up with only a field goal. What is the team’s explanation for what happened?

Cimini: Get a load of this stat, Michael: The Jets scored 14 points in the first quarter for the first time since 2009. That is what you call a rare early explosion. They built the 21-3 lead with a run-heavy approach (18 runs, 10 passes), using a variety of schemes that kept the Packers off balance. The Packers adjusted and the Jets got away from the run, with a run-pass ratio of 16-26 over the final nine drives. I think the Jets got a little caught up in trying to keep pace with Rodgers, and it took them out of their comfort zone.

This week, there will be a renewed emphasis on the running game. Even though they ran for 146 yards, they weren't happy at all. The uncertain status of wide receiver Eric Decker (hamstring) makes the running game even more important. At the same time, they are trying to achieve more balance in the passing game. It has been a two-man show, Decker and Jeremy Kerley, and some of the players have approached Mornhinweg about trying to spread the ball around.

Statistically, the Bears' run defense stinks. How do you think it will fare against the Jets' run-heavy attack?

Wright: In the opener, Chicago gave up 193 yards to the Bills on the ground -- but 85 came on two runs. Most of their issues against the run have been execution, and that is more acceptable than players simply being dominated physically. That is why the Bears weren't overly concerned with their performance in the opener. There were one or two occasions in which a player tried to do more than his own job. That resulted in the player jumping out of his gap, and a big gain followed. The Bears cleaned that up against the 49ers in Week 2, and I anticipate them being a tad better against the Jets. That doesn't mean the Bears will stop them. But I think they will allow fewer than the 4.8 yards per attempt they gave up last week.

There have been lots of Jets penalties so far. How have the flags affected this team's effectiveness, and do you think this speaks to an issue of immaturity or lack of discipline that can ultimately undermine the Jets?

Cimini: The Jets have been called for 22 penalties (four declined), but who's counting? That total includes two roughing-the-passer penalties and two unsportsmanlike conduct calls, one of which resulted in the ejection of Muhammad Wilkerson. Yeah, there is a lack of maturity at times. The Jets are a relatively young team, and those young players tend to lose their poise. Some of it falls on Ryan, who is anything but a no-nonsense disciplinarian. He gives the players their space, and sometimes things get loosey-goosey, but they appreciate his player-friendly approach and they play hard for him. That is the tradeoff.

Obviously, they have to clean it up or they will lose a lot of close games. Teams with middling talent, such as the Jets, don't have a huge margin for error.

In this 2009 Outside the Lines story, John Barr reports on Brandon Marshall's alleged violent past and the response from the Broncos and the NFL.

Marshall speaks out on NFL issues

September, 18, 2014
Sep 18

Bears receiver Brandon Marshall, who years ago was accused by a former girlfriend of abusing her, spoke out Thursday about the domestic violence issues that continue to plague the NFL and urged people not to rush to judgment before they hear both sides of a story.

The comments from Marshall, who spoke at the team's facility, come after attorney Gloria Allred on Wednesday said that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell ignored previous complaints lodged against Marshall.

"My view on the NFL and this current climate we're in, I think it's a shame," Marshall said. "But I do love and respect what we're doing because the NFL, we all know has the ability to transform lives, transform communities. We have influence to really shape and mold a culture. So these issues, you know, whether we're wearing lime green on the field, pink, orange, whatever, I think that is sweet. I love it, because of the amount of awareness we have and the amount of influence can really dictate a lot.

"But what I am disgusted over and I really believe it's not an issue of domestic violence or child abuse or drunken driving, it's really an issue of the condition of our hearts as people ... the way we treat one another ... it doesn't matter if the man's the aggressor or the woman's the aggressor or we're disciplining our kids in anger or disciplining our kids in love ... it's the condition of our hearts."

Marshall was accused of abuse by former girlfriend Rasheeda Watley in 2006. He was a member of the Denver Broncos at the time. He was charged with domestic violence in 2007, but the case was dismissed after he completed anger management classes.

(Read full post)


The NFL Live crew make their picks for Chicago at the New York Jets.

Seven players sit out Thursday practice

September, 18, 2014
Sep 18
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears held seven players out of Thursday’s practice in advance of Monday’s night road game versus the New York Jets: center Roberto Garza (ankle), left guard Matt Slauson (ankle), cornerback Sherrick McManis (quad), defensive end Trevor Scott (foot), defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (concussion), wide receiver Brandon Marshall (ankle) and defensive end Jared Allen (back).

 The Bears still have two more days of practice before the team departs for the New York/New Jersey area on Sunday afternoon.

In more encouraging news, safety Chris Conte practiced on a limited basis on Thursday after being forced to leave the 49ers game early because of a shoulder injury. Conte is tied for the team lead with two interceptions over the first two weeks of the regular season.

The Bears also listed wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) as having limited participation. Jeffery was a game-time decision in Week 2 but still managed to have three catches for 47 yards. The Bears admitted afterwards that Jeffery played at less than full strength.

Linebacker Shea McClellin (limited) is dealing with a hand injury.

Wide receiver Josh Morgan practiced without restrictions on Thursday after a groin injury sidelined him for the 49ers game.

Inside Edge: Bears-Jets

September, 18, 2014
Sep 18


ESPN NFL Insider Mike Sando delivers stats to help you make a pick for Chicago at the New York Jets.

Brandon Marshall news conference

September, 18, 2014
Sep 18
Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall addressed the media in a news conference Thursday. ESPN Bears reporter Michael C. Wright and ESPN Chicago reporter Jeff Dickerson were there to report on his remarks.