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BEAR Naked Truth’s Top 10 most exciting Chicago Bears since 1979

 Published by Jerz 6/2/2013

It’s ironic that this list is being unveiled on a “Throwback Thursday”. My original intention was to reveal these 10 players to my listening audience on “BEAR Naked Truth” the night before. Sometimes the cards just fall into place perfectly. This is not a disclaimer of any sort but merely a reminder that I can remember watching and cheering for the Chicago Bears back as far as 1979 (at the age of 5). With that revelation, keep in mind that the players listed are simply my Top 10 that I had the privilege of watching play LIVE. There will be some that may only agree with half of my list and some that may agree with an even lesser number and I’m okay with that. That’s the beauty of it being MY list. Feel free to share your opinions, either way, just keep in mind we may have come up in different eras and maybe didn’t see the same players at the same time. I was very excited about putting this list together and by NO means is a list of my All-Time Greatest Chicago Bears. This is simply my Top 10 favorite BEARS to watch since 1979. I just wanted to say that again.

# 10 arrived in 1982 as a 4th round Draft pick out of Baylor University. He was a diminutive running back (5’8″ 181 pounds) that ended up playing some wide receiver as well. Though his numbers never “dazzled” you, he was a workhorse that always seemed to make plays either running with or catching the football. He was most noted for his kick return ability and led the NFL with a robust 28.8 yards per return average in 1986. He was Percy Harvin (minus the migraines) before Percy Harvin and if you ever used the BEARS on “Tecmo Bowl” for Nintendo you’ve probably returned a kickoff or two for a touchdown with him. He is Dennis Gentry …

 

Gentry's versatility to play WR, RB and return kickoffs made him a valuable asset to the BEARS
Gentry’s versatility to play WR, RB and return kickoffs made him a valuable asset to the BEARS

 

# 9  took the league by storm, right out of the gate, returning a punt for a touchdown in his first NFL game. He arrived with a lot of promise out of the University of Miami as a 2nd round pick in 2006. He would go on a kick return onslaught unlike any the NFL has ever seen. He’s led the league in punt returns for touchdowns three different times and was the first player ever to return the opening kickoff for a touchdown in the Super Bowl. The Bears are hoping he can return to the All-Pro return man he’s been three times in his career already and is MUST see TV when the opposition kicks him the ball. He is the All-Time Leader in punt returns for touchdowns with 12 and is a 3x Pro-Bowler and NFL All-Pro returner. He is the electrifying “Windy City Flyer” Devin Hester …

 

Hester might become the 1st player voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame strictly on his kick return prowess.
Hester might become the 1st player voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame strictly on his kick return prowess.

 

   

# 8  is one of my favorite Bear players of All-Time and was robbed of a longer NFL career because of various injuries. There was no question that this hard hitting safety would fit in right away as a 2nd round pick out of Nebraska in 2000. This guy was an absolute play-maker that not only had a nose for the football (20 career interceptions) but also a nose for the end zone (with 7 career defensive touchdowns). He is remembered for having back to back games with “walk off” pick sixes and always seemed to make a BIG play for the Bear’s defense every time he got his hands on the football. I wish he could have retired a Chicago Bear. He is ball hawking safety Mike Brown … 

 

Brown not only had a nose for the football but also knew what to do with it once he got his hands on it.
Brown not only had a nose for the football but also knew what to do with it once he got his hands on it.

    

# 7   is one of the more under rated players in Bear’s history, to me. He wasn’t a very popular 1st round pick out of the University of Florida in 1986. Looked to be the “heir apparent” to the legendary Walter Payton, this running back would quickly make a name for himself earning 4 consecutive trips to the Pro-Bowl from 1988 to 1991. He literally was the Chicago Bear’s offense and was fluid with the ball as a rusher and a receiver out of the backfield. His retirement at the age of only 29 surprised all Bear fans and even though he only played eight seasons he’s still regarded as one of the best to play the position for the Orange and Navy. He is Neal Anderson …

 

Anderson had a 3 year stretch in which he virtually WAS the BEARS offense all by himself.
Anderson had a 3 year stretch in which he virtually WAS the BEARS offense all by himself.

   

# 6  was a rare combination of speed, size and athleticism for his position and would solidify his position amongst the greats when his playing days were done. You weren’t really sure what to do with him on defense but you knew he was going to be on the field and making plays. He might’ve been the LeBron James of middle linebackers combining the size of a defensive end with the speed of a safety. His ability to cover large amounts of space in short amounts of time helped him put in 13 solid years for the Monsters of the Midway. He won Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2000, as a 1st round pick out of the University of New Mexico, Defensive Player of the year in 2005 and finished his career as an 8x Pro Bowler and 4x NFL 1st team All-Pro. He is Brian Urlacher …

 

Urlacher carved out his own spot amongst the legendary middle linebackers that have donned the orange and navy over the decades.
Urlacher carved out his own spot amongst the legendary middle linebackers that have donned the orange and navy over the decades.

   

# 5  was one of the most popular players of his era and one of the toughest cats to play his position. He was known as much for his off the field antics and rock star image as his ability to win ballgames. He arrived in Chicago as the 5th overall player selected in the 1st round of the 1982 draft out of BYU and went 46-15 as a starting quarterback for the Bears. It wasn’t always pretty but Bear fans always appreciated his toughness and he will always be celebrated as Chi-Town’s “Punky QB” and Super Bowl Champion. His rebel image earned him tons of endorsements as he was fun to watch and a true leader of his troops. He undoubtedly is responsible for half of the grey hairs in Coach Mike Ditka’s head. He is the one and only Jim McMahon …

 

McMahon was one of the most popular BEARS of his time to the degree people forget he played for the hated Packers and Vikings.
McMahon was one of the most popular BEARS of his time to the degree people forget he played for the hated Packers and Vikings.

  

# 4   was an absolute wrecking ball in shoulder pads and one of the hardest hitters I’ve ever seen. He was originally drafted in the 10th round of the 1976 draft by the Miami Dolphins as a wide receiver out of Yale and later cut. He was picked up by the Bears that same season and would be the team’s starting strong safety the following season. He would go on an 11 year reign of terror against ball carriers and receivers alike and his bone crushing hits landed him on many a highlight tape (back when the NFL glorified the violent nature of it’s sport). He made his 2nd consecutive Pro-Bowl in 1981 and was voted 1st Team All-Pro after picking off 6 passes. He would snag 38 picks for his career and truly lived up to his well earned nickname “The Hit Man”. He is “Mr. Clean” Gary Fencik …

 

Fencik not only made ball carriers and receivers pay the price he had outstanding ball skills.
Fencik not only made ball carriers and receivers pay the price he had outstanding ball skills.

  

# 3  was just an absolute terror and had to give left tackles nightmares the night before games. Many, at the time, didn’t know what to make of the lanky 8th round draft pick in the 1983 draft out of Tennessee State. He would show the league he meant business in just his second year racking up 17.5 sacks in 16 games (only 10 starts). He made his 1st Pro-Bowl in 1984 and followed that season up in 1985 with 17 more sacks (to lead the league) and earn his 2nd consecutive trip to Honolulu and 1st Team All-Pro. He was an absolute menace that disrupted the rival’s passing attack with his fierce pass rush off the edge and would quickly become one of the anchors on the great Bear’s defenses of the 80s. He’d top the 1985 season off with a Super Bowl MVP trophy and notched 124.5 sacks in 170 games with the Bears. He is none other than the “Sack Man” Richard Dent …

 

Dent was the anchor on a fearsome line that also featured greats like Steve McMichael and Dan Hampton.
Dent was the anchor on a fearsome defensive line that also featured greats like Steve McMichael and Dan Hampton.

 

 

# 2 arrived in Chicago as a slow, undersized middle linebacker out of Baylor drafted in the 2nd round. He would play with an undeniable chip on his shoulder for his entire career and he used it to knock the blocks off the competition. He would become one of the most feared and respected players of his generation and his intensity was a lightening rod for the defenses he captained. His intense looks would pierce the souls of quarterbacks and running backs alike and became a trade mark of his intimidation just as much as his ferocious hits. He would carry the torch of legendary middle linebacker play in Chicago earning 2 Defensive Player of the Year Awards (in 1985 and 1988), 10 consecutive trips to the Pro-Bowl and named 1st Team All-Pro seven times. He was the undisputed leader of one of the fiercest defenses the NFL has ever seen and his career is rivaled by few. I had a chance to meet him at a Revie Sorey Football Camp as a youth and he was as mild mannered and humble as one could be. He spoke to our group and had a bunch of 12 to 14 year olds ready to run through walls. I was amazed at the meekness of this man with broad shoulders and the big glasses that made him look like he and Harry Carey had the same optometrist. Surely this wasn’t the same mad man I saw “jaw jacking” and knocking guys out on Sundays and Mondays ? He is one of the most menacing defensive presences I’ve ever witnessed. He is Mike Singletary …

 

Singletary's signature "stare" was as intimidating as the defense he led.
Singletary’s signature “stare” was as intimidating as the defense he led.

 

# 1 was not only the my most exciting Bear to watch he was my favorite player of All-Time period. He arrived in Chicago as the 4th overall pick in the 1st round of the 1975 draft and would carry this team for 13 years, mostly through lean times. He was the consummate “work horse” at running back leading the NFL in rushing attempts 4 consecutive years for 1976 to 1979. He led the NFL in rushing yards in 1977 with an incredible 1,852 yards and rushing touchdowns with 14 in just 14 games. He averaged a ridiculous 132.3 rushing yards a game that season earning his 2nd of what would be 9 Pro Bowl appearances, 1st of 2 NFL MVP Awards and 2nd of 5 First Team All-Pro honors he would receive in his illustrious career. He amazingly only missed one game in his career, despite being one of the most physical runners in the history of the NFL. His willingness to not go out of bounds without hitting defenders and his notorious stiff arms on would be tacklers were as famous as his “high step” en route to the end zone. He retired as the All-Time leading rusher in 1987 after amassing 16,726 yards and rushing for 110 career touchdowns. He also has 492 career receptions to his credit. He was one of the most complete football players of his generation and was as accomplished a blocker as he was a runner and receiver. He’s even thrown 8 touchdown passes in his career making the halfback pass a very dangerous option in the Bear’s playbook back then. He is simply the Gr34test of All-Time, in my book. The man, the myth, the legend. He is Walter Payton …

 

Payton, in the eyes of many, is the BEST all around football player to ever play the game.
Payton, in the eyes of many, is the BEST all around football player to ever play the game.

 

 

“Throwback Thursday’s Retro Rewind” 10 favorite Chicago Cubs since 1988.

Published by Jerz 6/2/2013

With baseball in full swing, and having just done a Top 10 most exciting Chicago Bears since 1979 list, it was only right I did one for my beloved “north siders” in MLB. I was always a casual viewer of baseball as a young lad, growing up on the south side of Chicago. Some find it funny that I’m a Cubs fan and I tell people all the time that I’m a “Chicago” fan. I watched the White Sox but I was magnetized to the Cubs. I really started to pay attention fully, in 1988 (the year after Andre Dawson bashed 49 homeruns against National League pitching and won NL MVP). The magic of Cubs home games was undeniable back then and still is to this day. Anyone that’s ever been to Wrigley Field to watch the Cubs play will tell you it’s an experience like no other. They’ve had me since 1988 and here are my 10 favorite players since that time …

 

The guy coming in at # 10 made his Cubs pitching debut at the age of 20 back in 2001. Fans knew from the start that this kid could be a 20 game winner, if he could stay in the strike zone and locate his blazing fastball in different spots. He’d appear in 6 games, in 2001 (1 start), but his pitches were all over the place as he walked 8 batters in 7.2 innings. The Cubs knew they had something special in this hard throwing right hander from Venezuela and his fiery competitiveness would be both a gift and a curse as his temper would sometimes flare out of control. He’d go on to be staple in the Cubs starting rotation from 2003-2008 and led the league in wins with 16 in 2006. He was just as much fun to watch at the plate as he was on the mound. The switch hitting pitcher has 24 career homeruns to his credit and shows off his swing in the baseball card below. His temper wasn’t the only thing he had trouble “controlling” as he led the league in walks in 2006 and 2007. He would be rewarded handsomely by the Cubs, financially, but never lived up to the contract and ended up being traded to the Florida Marlins after the 2011 season. He is the talented yet volatile Carlos Zambrano. 

Cubs 10

 The slick fielding first baseman coming in at # 9 made his Cubs debut back in 2004, after being acquired from the Marlins. This California native saw his defensive prowess earn him 2 Gold Gloves with the Cubbies in 2005 and 2007. His bat earned him the NL batting title in 2005 (hitting .335) and saw him finish 3rd in NL MVP voting that year. He made 2 All-Star Teams as a Cub (2005 and 2007) and was a threat in the middle of their batting order in his time in Chicago. He was a leader in the clubhouse and a respected teammate. Cub fans saluted him when he departed via trade to Atlanta in 2010 as he was a solid citizen in the community as well as an outstanding player. He Is the gentle giant Derrek Lee. 

Cubs 9

 The # 8 Cub on this list was a critical addition to the ball club when they won the NL East in 1984. This hard throwing right hander arrived from Cleveland in an early season trade that same season and went a combined 20-6 as a starter. He went an impressive 16-1 for the Cubs that year and would win the NL Cy Young Award. The red head from Missouri, known simply as the “Red Baron”, went 82-65 in his 8 year run with the Cubs and led the NL in wins with 18 in 1987. The way he cuffed the ball behind his back before delivering to home plate was as signature as his full, bright red beard. He last pitched for the Cubbies in 1991 and is still a fan favorite. He is Rick Sutcliffe. 

Cubs 8

 The Cub that climbs in at # 7 was a roller coaster of excitement, whether it was on the base paths or in the field. This Brooklyn native was the #1 overall player taken in the 1982 amateur draft and would make his Cub debut at shortstop during the 1985 season (playing in 74 games). He belted 17 homeruns (in 150 games) the following season and would go on to start at short for the Cubs for 9 more years. His throws to first base were legendary for their velocity and the way they made the first baseman’s glove “Pop”. He was always a threat to stretch a single to a double if the outfielder “lolly gagged”. His tremendous speed allowed him to steal 175 bases as a Cub and made him incredibly fun to watch. He is “Mr. Excitement” himself Shawon Dunston. 

Cubs 7 

 The # 6 Cub to check in generated as much excitement as one could as the #4 overall player taken in the 1995 amateur draft. This 6’5″ “fire-baller” from Texas drew comparisons to another famous hard throwing right hander from Texas (Roger Clemens) and he would not disappoint fans. He burst onto the scene in 1998 winning the NL Rookie of the Year Award and led the league in average strikeouts per 9 innings pitched (with 12.6) a feat he’d accomplish again in 2003 (11.3). He had Wrigley Field rocking when he struck out 20 Astros in one game, his rookie season. He led the NL in strikeouts (with 266) in 2003 and was an anchor in the starting rotation until shoulder injuries got the better of him. He would make a successful conversion to closer, once determined his shoulder could no longer handle the heavy innings of being a starter. He saved 34 games as the Cub closer in 2008 before moving on to pitch with the Indians and Yankees. He would re-sign with the Cubs in 2011 and struck out 57 batters in 51 innings pitched, as a reliever. He would in 2012 after pitching in just 10 games. He undoubtedly, at his bets, was magic and his fastball was as unhittable as his curve was mystifying. He is none other than Kerry Wood. 

Cubs 6

 The Cub cracking the top five, at the # 5 spot, always showed promise and potential, even as an undrafted amateur free agent signed by the Texas Rangers back in 1985. This native of the Dominican Republic flashed a cannon in the outfield and homerun power, earlier in his career. He, like most young sluggers, had a problem laying off pitches and use to swing so hard and miss that his batting helmet would jump up and back down over his eyes. He’d end up on the North side by way of a trade with the cross town White Sox and made his Cub debut in 1992 (playing in 67 games). He’d come back the following season and crush 33 homeruns, drive in 93 runs and steal 36 bases (in 159 games). This started an epic run of 12 consecutive seasons (1993-2004) with 25 or more homeruns. His rocket arm in right field made him fun to watch in the field as well as at the plate, just as it did a legend before him. He won the NL MVP in 1998 and his homerun numbers were so outrageous that speculation arose about the use of performance enhancing drugs. In a 5 year period from 1998-2002 he smacked 49 homeruns or more (topping 50 once and 60 three times in that stretch). His signature “hop” after belting a homer had to make opposing pitchers furious. His run with the Cubs was historic as he banged out 545 homeruns in 13 seasons with the ball club. He packed Wrigley Field many a summer day and night and is none other than “Slammin” Sammy Sosa.   

Cubs 5

 The next Cub makes # 4 and he had an “Amazing” run with the North siders. This sweet swinging lefty was a career .308 hitter, in 13 years with the team. His defense at first base earned him 4 Gold Gloves and his overall play earned him 3 All-Star game appearances. His stroke was pure and he had a penchant for big hits. I was surprised he never eclipsed the 20 homerun mark in any season with the team. He might not have gone long a lot but he had a nose for the “2 bagger” cracking 456 career doubles with the Cubs (leading the NL with 51 in 1995). He was a fan favorite and even signed my glove for me after my 1st game at Wrigley Field back in 1989. I wonder what happened to that glove ? He was the ultimate professional and fielded his position with style and “Grace”. He is old blue eyes himself Mark Grace 

Cubs 4

 This leaves us with just three more names on the list. The thing about # 3 is when he signed as a free agent before the 1987 season many thought his better days were behind him. He responded to those that thought that by bashing the most homeruns (49) and driving in the most runs (137) of his career. Who knows what his career might have looked like, had he played his first 11 years on the soft, lush natural grass of Wrigley Field (81 games out the year) instead of the unforgiving, artificial surface in Montreal ? Though his knees weren’t what they use to be and he was no longer the stolen base threat of the past, this guy gave Cub fans much to cheer for. His compact, violent swing was as intimidating as his “hawk” like stare at opposing pitchers attempting to get him out. The crack of his bat sounded like thunder and he hit 21 or more homeruns for 6 consecutive seasons with the Cubs. Base runners were wise not to run on this man with a rifle for an arm in right field. He was a leader in the clubhouse and class personified. He walked quietly but carried a BIG stick. He is the “Hawk” Andre Dawson.

Cubs 3 

 How my # 2 on the list was ever allowed to leave town in the first place is beyond me. This former 2nd round pick of the 1984 amateur draft made his pitching debut in 1986, as a 20 year old. As a full time starter in 1987 he went an unimpressive 6-14 with a 5.61 ERA and many wondered if he had the stuff to cut it on the major League level. He followed that disappointing season up with an 18-8 record, 3.18 ERA and make his first of 9 career All-Star appearances. This started a 5 year streak that saw the wiry built right hander win 15 or more games including 20 wins in 1992 (to land his first Cy Young Award). Foolishly, he was allowed to leave the North side via free agency to sign with the Braves at the age of only 27. This was as big of a mistake the Cubs since the Lou Brock trade to the Cardinals. The Cy Young won in 1992 by this “mad dog” was followed up by 3 more won consecutively from 1993-1995. His pin point control was masterful and his endurance was the stuff of legend (leading the NL in innings pitched 5 consecutive years from 1991-1995. he found his way back to the Cubs, in 2004, and won 16 games at the age of 38. He went 133-112 in 10 seasons as a Cub posting a 3.61 ERA during that span. He is loved to this day by Cub fans and is none other than the “Professor” himself Greg Maddux.

Cubs 2 

 

Now we get down to business. My # 1 Cub since 1988 won’t surprise many (well it shouldn’t anyway). I’ll give you a hint. It’s not Dwight Smith (who was one of my favorite Cubs back then but not Top 10 material) to the surprise of a few. I can hear the virtual “gasps” and “sighs” across the web. This guy here could easily be “Mr. Cub” of my generation and for the purpose of this list I guess he is. He was originally property of the Phillies by way of the 1978 amateur draft but arrived on the North side by way of a trade in 1982. He would help the Cubs win the NL East pennant in 1984 with a season that saw him rewarded as the NL MVP (batting .314 with 19 homeruns and a league leading 19 triples). He was the sweetest fielding second baseman of his generation was must see baseball when the Cubs were on TV. He averaged 30 homeruns a year from 1989-1992 and led the NL in homeruns in 1990 with 40. He belted 282 homeruns in 15 years for the Cubs and is regarded as one of the greats to field his position. he is the “Ryno” Ryne Sandberg.

Cubs 1 

 

Stepping out of the shadows… The Notorious M.I.G.

Published by Jerz 5/28/2013

       Baseball is an acquired taste. I remember thumbing through channels on the remote, many days in the summer, as a youngster. Growing up in Chicago, in the 80’s, I was fortunate to have two baseball teams to view. The Cubs seemed to always be on television (on WGN) and there was just something magical about the BRIGHTNESS of Wrigley Field, the infectious energy of the “Bleacher Bums” and the charisma of long time announcer Harry Carey. The White Sox, on the other hand, were kind of dreary and bland and didn’t evoke the same excitement in my young mind. As a native of the city (and a proud southsider) I had no problem representing both teams and was oblivious to the obvious territorial divide between the separate fan bases. My Grandfather (a Sox die hard) use to look at me in disgust as I watched the “lovable losers”, summer after summer. While neither team was very good, they were OUR teams, never the less. As the years rolled by, I started to appreciate the game and it’s players more and more. While Andre Dawson and Ryne Sandberg knocked the cover off of baseball after baseball on the Northside, I couldn’t help but admire the consistency and productive longevity of Carlton Fisk. Frank Thomas was one of my favorite players ever to wear a baseball uniform and to this day I’ve been to more White Sox games than Cubs games. There is just something special about this game …

 As an adult, I’ve seen the great ones come and go. Some reputations are marred by the use (or speculation of using) performance enhancing drugs and many of the great numbers accumulated during the “juiced” era will always fall under scrutiny. One of the best (if not THEE best) players I’ve ever watched (Ken Griffey Jr.) will forever be bundles with the batch of his peers (though never linked to any PEDs himself). Barry Bonds, the Greatest collection of hitting statistics compiled during his era, will always be viewed as a “cheater” despite having the GOD given talent and ability to be an All-Time Great without PEDs. I’m actually on record saying let the players use a certain combination of PEDs as long as they’re medically supervised (and not purchased and administered via the “black market”) since their “job description” is what it is. Playing 162 games (mostly in the dead heat of Summer) is a daunting task to ask of the human body, year in and year out. With the average fan not knowing who uses and who does it only makes sense to level the playing field. The greats of the modern era have their own “shadows” to step out of.

 No player in modern baseball casted a larger shadow than Barry Bonds especially after his assault on the homerun record books in 2001. Bonds was already considered one of the greats in the game when he signed with the San Fransisco Giants back in 1993. In that 9 year span (from 1993-2001) he averaged 43 homeruns per season. Just to think that a player in ONE season could hit 73 homeruns is still mind boggling. This is what some of the great sluggers of the 80s and 90s would accumulate as 3 year totals. Bonds played at 185 pounds (during his Pirates days) and ended up being closer to 240 pounds towards the end of his career. The speculation ran high and heavy about his possible use of PEDs. Bonds is the ONLY player in the history of MLB to have more than 700 career homeruns (762) and 500 stolen bases (514). As a career .298 hitter, he was a combination of power and speed the game has never before witnessed. It’s truly a shame that these astounding numbers will always be looked at as a sham. Ironically, the year Bonds bashed 73 homeruns, to shatter the single season record for homers in a single season, a 21 year old rookie in St. Louis was introducing himself to MLB and the World. Albert Pujols stepped onto the scene in a MAJOR way hitting .329 with 37 homers and driving in 130 runs. This monstrous performance, one of the best rookie years ever put together earned him Rookie of the Year in the National League and would lead to the BEST 10 year start of a Major League career. Bonds was a 7 time MVP (NL) and constantly overshadowed great seasons by Pujols. Bonds eventually retried in 2007 (though he still wanted to play and felt he could still play at a high level at 42 years old) and Pujols would take over the mantle as baseball’s best. Pujols was now doing the same thing to another young, up and coming star that Bonds was doing to him …

 Miguel Cabrera broke into the league in 2003 playing 87 games for the Florida Marlins and showed tremendous promise. He would open eyes even wider in his 1st full season the following year smashing 33 homers and driving in 112 runs in 160 games. He would make his 1st of 7 All-Star game appearances and go on a tear of his own for the next 10 seasons. Just as Pujols had to do with Bonds, Cabrera was now under the shadow of greatness known as “The Machine” in St. Louis. While Pujols tore things up for the Cardinals, Cabrera was making a name for himself as one of the best young stars in baseball. Living up to all the promise, Cabrera put together a 4 season stretch (from 2004-2007) where he averaged 31 homers a season and hit .319 during that same span. He would have a chance to emerge from the great shadow of Albert Pujols and create his own to cast. The Florida Marlins did what many deemed the unthinkable by trading the young slugger to the Detroit Tigers in 2007. Cabrera responded by leading the American League in homeruns (37) and total bases (331) in 2008. Showing no signs of being slowed by the change in leagues, Cabrera would show ALL of baseball that he is a forced to be reckoned with for years to come. In a 4 year span (2009-2012) Cabrera would average 36 homeruns, 118 runs batted in while hitting .331. This stretch includes back to back batting titles in the AL in 11′-12′ and the 1st “Triple Crown” (leading your league in batting average, homeruns and runs batted in) winner since 1967. During that same stretch, “The Machine” (Albert Pujols) averaged 39 homeruns, 114 runs batted in while hitting .305. His stretch included 2 NL homerun titles, led the NL in runs scored twice and led the NL in RBI (runs batted in) once.

Another ironic twist in the story is that Pujols now finds himself in the shadow of Cabrera (after signing with the Anaheim Angels in 2012). Though great numbers by other player’s standards, Pujols “struggled” in his first year in his new league posting career lows in batting average (.285), homeruns (30), OBP (on base percentage) .343, SLG (slugging percentage) .516, and runs scored 85. Both players are phenomenal hitters (Cabrera’s a career .320 hitter and Pujols .323) and two of the best sluggers in the game. Cabrera is 3 years younger than Pujols and has a chance to do what only 2 others (Ted Williams and Rogers Hornsby) in the rich and long history of Major League Baseball have EVER done winning the “Triple Crown” twice. If Cabrera won it again, this season, he’d be the 1st EVER to do it in back to back seasons. Let’s not miss out on greatness, as fans of this beloved sport, as it’s happening right before our eyes. Some are just catching on to what Miguel Cabrera has been doing to major league pitching the last 10 years. Others have been front and center for it and enjoying every blast and anxious for more to come. The question now becomes who is NEXT to emerge from the “Shadows” ?  Stay tuned …

Owning it… The NEW and re-focused Brandon Marshall.

Published by Jerz 5/17/2013

University of Central Florida’s Brandon Marshall arrived in Denver as a 4th Round Draft pick by the Broncos back in 2006. The 6’4″, 230 pound Wide Receiver boasted rare size and strength for his position and often played with a chip on his shoulder. His past is littered with run-ins with the law that date back to 2004 during his college days at the University of Central Florida. His highly publicized brushes with authority range from assault of an officer and disorderly conduct to driving while under the influence of alcohol and domestic violence. Many assumed him to be just another hot-head, professional athlete that couldn’t handle the pressure of NFL popularity and the spot light that came with it. The shooting death of Marshall’s Bronco teammate Darrent Williams was alleged to be retaliation for a dispute the shooter (Willie Clark) had with one of Marshall’s cousins earlier in the club the entourage was celebrating the New Year in. Later that spring, Marshall would complete anger management counseling to have charges from a 2007 suspicion of domestic violence charge dismissed. Marshall, was looked at as a talented player that just didn’t seem to “get it”. The question then became would he EVER “get it” ?

   Marshall, despite all the off the field concerns, burst onto the national scene after an outstanding second season with the Broncos. He hauled in 102 receptions for 1,325 yards and 7 touchdowns. This started a stretch of 3 straight 100 catch seasons for Marshall who was already viewed as one of the most physically dominant players at his position. With his size, he would absolutely punish defenders that attempted to tackle him and was extremely difficult to bring down one on one. Despite his sparkling play on the field, Marshall continued to encounter his share of legal trouble. He was arrested for DUI (driving under the influence of alcohol) in late 2007 but plead out to one year of probation and 24 hours of community service. He would make news again, in 2008, when he was stopped for an illegal lane change and didn’t have his license or proof of insurance. The case was eventually dropped as part of his plea bargain for the 2007 DUI incident. Marshall was found not guilty by an Atlanta jury in 2009 for misdemeanor battery charges filed in 2008. His troubles with domestic violence have drawn the most attention. He was arrested for disorderly conduct after an alleged fight with fiancee (at the time) Michi Nogami-Campbell. Marshall was freed on a $300 bond and the charges were dropped the next day. Now Marshall, despite having made the Pro-Bowl in back to back seasons, was looked at as a trouble maker and a problem. These labels gained more adhesive when Marshall started being a problem in the locker room as well as off the field. He would earn suspensions in the 2009 pre-season for his lack of commitment to practice and conduct detrimental to the team and benched for the final game of that season by then coach Josh McDaniels for being late to a physical therapy session. Marshall despite catching 101 passes (10 for touchdowns) that season had become too much of a headache and team distraction.

 Marshall’s baggage had gotten too heavy for the Broncos to carry and many felt his antics were deliberately done to force a trade out of town. He’d get his wish in April of 2010 as the Broncos practically gave away the Pro-Bowl receiver to the Miami Dolphins for a pair of 2nd round picks (in 2010 and 2011). The Dolphins would sign Marshall to a 4 year, $47.5 million dollar contract extension the day the trade occurred. Marshall had what was considered a “down” year, based on his previous work the past 3 seasons. The Dolphins weren’t very good and Marshall still amassed 86 catches for 1014 yards but totalled only 3 touchdown catches. Marshall’s domestic troubles would show their face again this time in an incident where he was the victim of a stabbing by his wife Michi Nogami-Marshall. Marshall spent 2 days in the Hospital and his wife was charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and later freed on bond. Even being the victim, in this incident, Marshall drew the ire of critics that still saw him as a great talent that was not worth the headache. Something happened a few months later that would change Brandon Marshall’s life as he knew it. After the stabbing incident, involving his wife, Marshall was diagnosed with “Borderline Personality Disorder” and began seeking treatment for the mental condition. He has become a huge advocate of the treatment for mental disorders and is leading the charge amongst his professional peers to get the word out. Marshall completed his 2011 season with similar numbers to 2010 but managed to make the Pro-Bowl (for the 3rd time in 4 seasons) after pulling in 81 catches for 1,214 yards and 6 touchdowns. He would go on to set a Pro Bowl record catching 6 passes for 176 yards and 4 touchdowns. Brandon Marshall was turning his life around and everything was looking up for the Pittsburgh, Pa. native. In a weird twist, things were about to get better …

 There were rumors swirling, going into the 2012 season, that the Chicago Bears were interested in trading for Brandon Marshall. Newly appointed general manager Phil Emery was looking to make a splash and get his quarterback (Marshall’s teammate back in Denver) Jay Cutler a true go to weapon in the passing game. Marshall had pretty much been a model citizen in the Dolphins locker room and off the field (leaving a lot of his off the field troubles behind, since receiving treatment for his borderline personality disorder). There was an incident that might have made the Dolphin’s asking price drop some. This same situation would’ve also scared Chicago off completely. Two days before the Bears traded for Marshall, he was accused of hitting a woman in the face at a New York night club and being involved in a brawl. Marshall, who was attending the venue with his wife and some friends, was alleged to have hit the woman below her left eye trying to punch one of the woman’s friends. There was no evidence linking Marshall to the incident and he was cleared of any wrongdoing. This may not have been the case in prior incidents. His troubled past didn’t always provide him with benefit of the doubt. Marshall was on the path to completely turning himself around and championed a cause that will live long after his playing days are over.

 The Bears sent two 3rd round picks (in 2012 and 2013) to the Dolphins to acquire the mega talented, star wide receiver just entering his prime years. This trade was looked at as a steal and one that would pay immediate dividends to the Bears who finally had a big time playmaker for Jay Cutler. Marshall would go on to obliterate the Bears record books for receptions in a season (118) and receiving yards (1,508). He would be named to the Pro Bowl and make his first NFL All-Pro team. The Bears had a (10-6) season but just missed the playoffs but the future is looking as bright as Brandon Marshall’s smile these days. You didn’t always see this smile in Denver but that was a different Brandon then. After his admission at a July 2011 press conference (that he had been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder) Marshall took a huge step to conquering what he believed to be pinned up anger from growing up watching his Mom and Dad involved in a relationship that involved physical abuse. The same type of abusive lifestyle he lived in past relationships. Marshall has taken ownership of his BPD and the treatment to fight it and hopes to spread the awareness and understanding about the illness so stereotypes and stigmas about mental health can be put to rest. This is a young man that has not only owned his issues with a mental disorder but wants to insure that others that may suffer the same have a way to get help. Mental illness is real and I applaud Brandon Marshall for turning his life around and helping others do the same. This will be the greatest championship he’ll ever win. With each person he helps being a personal championship celebration and trophy presentation. Marshall, recently, extended an opportunity to the troubled Titus Young (the recently released NFL wide receiver who made news for infamously being arrested 3 times within a week) to walk through the same doors he was able to go through and get help. I was one of those people that use to think Brandon Marshall had a serious problem, with all his counts of domestic violence. Turns out he DID and was man enough to seek assistance in dealing with it. I salute this man of courage and hopefully those that judged his character, in the past, can do the same …

From “throw in” to “centerpiece”… The RISE of Pau Gasol.

Published by Jerz 5/12/2013

   There have been other brother tandems in professional sports, through the years. You have Peyton and Eli Manning (NFL), Cal and Billy Ripken (MLB), Tiki and Ronde Barber (NFL) and Ramon and Pedro Martinez (MLB) to name a few. Eli has emerged from his legendary brother’s shadow to carve out a nice career of his own. He actually is one up on him in Super Bowl Championships (2 to 1). Cal is regarded as one of the best shortstops to ever play the game and is immortalized by his ever famous “Iron Man Streak” of consecutive games played ( a 17 year streak of 2,632) and brother Billy played 12 years of Pro-baseball as a second baseman.  The recently retired Ronde continued to play at a high level after his twin brother Tiki retired a few years back. Pedro Martinez was one of the most dominant pitchers of his generation, coming up behind older brother Ramon who had his share of success as a major league pitcher as well. Even the late, great NFL Hall of Famer Walter Payton’s brother Eddie played 5 seasons in the NFL as a return man for the Browns, Lions, Chiefs and Vikings (leading the league in kickoff returns and return yards in 1980). In some cases, one brother has been leaps and bounds better than his sibling. Then there are the Gasol brothers (Pau and Marc). These 2 will forever be linked, not just because of their family ties but because of how they both ended up on their current NBA teams. For years Marc had always been regarded as “Pau’s younger brother” as Pau was the face of the very NBA franchise (Memphis Grizzlies for 6 years ) that Marc would eventually become a key component for. Pau was the 3rd overall pick of the Draft, back in 2001 (by the Hawks then traded to Memphis) and Marc would follow his talented brother to Memphis to play High School ball for Lausanne Collegiate School . The younger Gasol would make a name for himself just as his older brother Pau was becoming a household name in the “Bluff City”. Nicknamed “the Big Burrito”, Marc was named Division II’s Mr. Basketball in 2003 following a senior season that saw him average 26 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks per contest. Marc was actually honored by having his #33 jersey retired by Lausanne in 2008. Things were just beginning to look up for the younger Gasol …

 Marc would continue to improve as he took his game back to his native Spain, after graduating High School in the U.S. He would go on to win a Spanish League Championship (in 2004) and was later drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2nd round of the 2007 NBA Draft. After a stellar season  with Akasvayu Girona (his 2nd with the team) he was named the 2008 ACB Most Valuable Player. Things were about to get even MORE interesting for the Barcelona native. In February of 2008, Marc’s draft rights were traded by the Lakers to the Grizzlies in a package that included older brother Pau. This is the only known occurrence where two brothers were traded for each other in NBA history. The uproar about this particular swap of players is not so much that brothers were being traded for one another that was merely a side bar to what many believe was the biggest “heist” in recent NBA trade history. There were grumblings all season from Kobe Bryant wanting something to be done in L.A. to get him some help. Pau would more than provide that help assisting the Lakers win back to back NBA Titles in 2009 and 2010. Already regarded as one of the best power forwards in the game, it was a shock across the NBA that Memphis would trade the face of their franchise and get so little in return ? Or did they ? In addition to Pau the Lakers received the Grizzlies second round draft choice in 2010. Memphis obtained forward Kwame Brown, guard Javaris Crittenton, guard Aaron McKie, the draft rights to Marc Gasol and first round picks in 2008 and 2010. The irony is Marc was looked at as a mere “throw in” with Brown, Crittenton and the 1st round picks as the “centerpieces” ? The roles of the players acquired by Memphis would soon reverse.

   Marc (28 years old) would quickly show that him and his older brother were completely different players. He’d play in all 82 games (with 75 starts) and would average 11.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per contest. This production would earn him NBA All-Rookie 2nd Team in 2008-2009 and made fans take notice that he was a hard nosed defender that wasn’t afraid to “mix it up” on the inside. International players (more specifically big men) are regarded as finesse players and migrate away from the action inside and play more on the perimeter. This was a facet of Pau’s game fans saw on a regular basis. I won’t go as far as to say Pau is “soft” but he has been regarded by some of his harshest critics to avoid contact and physical play as much as he can. This is NOT the case with younger brother Marc. The interesting thing about Marc’s game is he is a combination of grit and finesse that few have witnessed in a 7’1″ 265 pound man (may be closer to 280 as he is a LARGE man). He doesn’t possess the agility of his more nimble older sibling but his ability to pass the ball and shoot the ball with a feathery touch from mid-range is a sight to behold. Marc is rugged to Pau’s graceful yet he is far from a “grunt” just in the game to push people around. He has a basketball IQ that is raved about by his head coach Lionel Hollins and teammates alike. Marc made his first All-Star appearance this year and his defensive prowess was rewarded when he was named 2012 NBA Defensive Player of the Year (to the surprise of many). He has become the “poster child” of Memphis and their “Grit and Grind” theme and has anchored the paint with fellow big man Zach Randolph forming one of the more dangerous duos in the paint the game has to offer. The Grizz are currently up (2-1) in their series against defending Western Conference Champion Oklahoma City and are a threat to get to the NBA Finals. It would be hard to imagine their current (as well as past and future) success without #33 anchoring the middle of this gritty, defensive minded Grizzlies team. Not bad for a “throw in”, huh ?

 

Class of his own… The evolution of LeBron James.

Published by Jerz 5/11/2013

     As a fan of the NBA and an admirer of the past legends of the game, I think it’s time we all stop and reflect on the greatness taking place right before our very eyes in the form of LeBron Raymone James. Whether you’re a Cleveland Cavaliers fan (who had your heart ripped out after hearing the greatest player to ever wear your team’s jersey say “I’m going to take my talents to South Beach”) or a Chicago Bulls fan (like myself) who has suffered many a devastating defeat to the man they call “The Chosen One”, it’s due time we put our disdain aside and appreciate what is happening night in and night out in NBA arenas. Let’s go back to his High School days in Akron at St.Vincent-St.Mary High School where he was a 2 time Gatorade National Basketball Player of the Year. Not even the likes of Kevin Garnett, Felipe Lopez and Kobe Bryant, before him, were ordained as Pro-basketball’s “Chosen One”and next BIG thing, despite having sensational High School Basketball Careers. Let’s go back further to his humble upbringing as a child not knowing his father in a single parent home birthed by a Mother who was merely a child herself when she had him. The struggles of LeBron’s Mom Gloria have been chronicled but this is not about her bumps along the road of life it’s about her son’s ability to live up to and fulfill (and in some cases exceed) the lofty expectations bestowed upon him as early as 17 years old. That LeBron himself wasn’t led down a path of shortcuts and wrongdoing is a tribute to the mature young man he had to be to stay on the path of greatness. How many times have we “witnessed” others before him crumble and falter under the pressure of being the next BIG THING ? As a fan of a team (the Bulls) that has engaged in “heated” (pun intended) battles (in the regular and postseason) with this very being, I’ve had to press pause on my animosity and fully appreciate what this guy has done (and is doing) in a sparkling NBA career. I must admit that I felt James would be “taking his talents to the Windy City” and still have daydreams of the Bulls working on the franchise’s third repeat only to be splashed in the face with the reality that he is someone my Bulls must go through to win Championship #7. I felt your pain Cleveland but there is no better time to get over it then now.

 It’s really easy to mock LeBron for his shortcomings in the Playoffs, as a Cavalier, and him coming up short on delivering a title to the very city that idolized him for 7 seasons. I mean he was responsible for turning a (17-65) team (the year before he arrived) into an NBA Championship Finalist in just 4 seasons. To think about how much of a joke the Cavs were Pre-LeBron only makes this very feat more impressive. Imagine the pressure of being called “King James” before you even step foot on the floor of a NBA arena as a player for the “home town” Cavs (though he’s from Akron, you get my point). James did NOT disappoint in his NBA debut on the road against the Kings pouring in 25 points (which was an NBA record for points scored in a debut by a player coming straight out of High School). The rest has been an absolute “blur” of “the Youngest player in NBA history ever to” en route to 6 NBA All-First teams, 9 All Star Games (twice MVP), 4 NBA 1st Team All-Defense and 4 NBA Most Valuable Player Awards (in the last 5 seasons). James has never ducked the expectations or the attention. He, in fact, is quite the Showman and lives for it. You can see it even in road contests where fans of the opposing teams pack arenas to see him put on an absolute show. You can see him playing to the road crowd after making an unbelievable pass or extra difficult shot. The game, over the years, has had it’s share of “showmen” but he is truly something we’ve NEVER seen which leads me to this …

       We as fans of the NBA, overall, have to start appreciating our superstars for who they are instead of persecuting them for who they are not. Case and point, the Jordan comparisons (and even Kobe comparisons) should absolutely STOP. Do it yesterday. LeBron is neither of these great Champions. he is simply carving a niche to be his OWN kind of champion (and great player). We get so caught up in trying to match today’s greats to yesterday’s legends that we really do ourselves, as fan’s of the game, a disservice. NEVER have we “witnessed” an individual in a 6’9″, 270 pound frame move with the agility, cat like quickness and explosiveness of LeBron James … EVER. Even after dealing with the initial “fallout” of “The Decision”, figuring out his role within the “BIG 3”, being labeled a “villain” and coming up small in another NBA Finals that year against the Mavericks, he took it ALL in and came back the next year with even MORE focus. His Championship run last year was epic as he was finally able to capture a world Championship that had eluded him in 2 previous attempts. In his 3 seasons as a member of the Heat, LeBron’s field goal percentage went from 51% to 53.1% to an eye-popping 56.5% this year. His 3 point shooting percentage also saw climbs going from 33% to 36% to a very respectable 40.6%. There has never been a question about LeBron’s work ethic and having career averages of 27 points 7 rebounds and 7 assists a game puts him in some pretty ELITE company right now. His 4 NBA MVPs in a 5 year span puts him in a class of 2 with “Ring King” Bill Russell and puts him one behind Michael Jordan and 2 behind All-Time Leading Scorer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. It’s safe to say at just 28 years of age (turns 29 in December), moving into his basketball prime and with his game improving year after year, the BEST is still yet to come. Let’s do ourselves a BIG favor and start enjoying what we’re seeing. We truly may NEVER see something like this again and that may just be by design …

The Legend of “Johnny Football”… Something like a Phenomenon.

Published by Jerz 5/10/2013

College Football has had it’s share of headline grabbing, must see players throughout the decades.

Few have taken the sport by storm like Jonathan Paul Manziel (-aka- “Johnny Football”). There are a few elements to this story that make it extraordinary and I’ll shre them throughout this write up. It’s not like Manziel wasn’t a highly recruited QB coming out of Tivy High School (in Texas) as he was the only Quarterback in the country named as a Parade All-American his senior year. Despite Texas A&M making the highly publicized move from the BIG 12 to the SEC, Manziel’s epic freshman campaign got off to a relatively quiet start. Many college football analysts and experts were expecting the Aggies to bring up the rear in their 1st season in the very competitive SEC West division. Head Coach Kevin Sumlin and his star QB would have none of it. Manziel and the Aggies would lose a tough home contest to the Florida Gators (20-17) before running off 5 straight wins. The march to legendary status began for Manziel in a contest against Arkansas that saw him break a 43 year old record (held by Archie Manning 540 total yards) for total offense in a game (557 total yards). This performance garnered some attention but Manziel outdid this very performance 2 games later against (#24 at the time) Louisiana Tech (with 576 total yards) making him the FIRST player in SEC history with 2 games of +500 total yards in the SAME season. The Aggies lost another close SEC home game to perennial powerhouse LSU (#6 at the time) to halt their 5 game win streak but respect was being earned from their SEC counterparts.This was just the start for Manziel as him and the Aggies took the SEC and College Football by storm.

    The Aggies and their star QB in the making shook off their 2nd tough Conference loss at home by going to Auburn and absolutely embarrassing the Tigers by a score of 63-21. Manziel’s performance of 3 TD passes and 2 rushing TDs (mostly in the 1st half) pushed him square in the middle of the College Football radar and the legend of “Johnny Football” was born. The Heisman talk grew louder and louder as the then (7-2) Aggies were poised for a match up in Tuscaloosa versus the All-Everything Alabama Crimson Tide. As in every other “big game” played in, up to this point, Manziel was as good as advertised counting for 345 of his team’s 418 yards of offense (including 2 TDs through the air) in a 29-24 upset over the Defending Champs. The Aggies would win out the rest of the way and finished the season with an (11-2) record including a 2nd place finish in the SEC West (6-2). “Johnny Football” would become the 1st Freshman in SEC History to pass for more than 3,000 yards and rush for more than 1,000 yards in the same season (setting the Freshman QB rushing record with 1,410). He also broke Cam Newton’s record for Total yards of offense in a season (in 2 fewer games) with 5,116. The QB from Tyler, Tx. didn’t stop there also becoming just the 4th player ever to throw for 20 or more TDs and rush for 20 or more TDs in the same season. These outstanding feats led to Manziel being the first ever Freshman to win both the Heisman Trophy and the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award. Not bad for a small town Texas kid that no one knew about at the start of the season. Manziel would close out this well decorated and highly successful campaign with a Cotton Bowl MVP performance against former BIG 12 rival Oklahoma in a 41-13 dragging where he set the rushing yards record for a Quarterback with (229). A phenomenal close to a story book season. The question now is “What’s NEXT” ?

 

   There is no question that Johnny Manziel’s freshman year as QB of the Texas A&M Aggies was one for the ages. What does he do for an encore ? Is it unrealistic to expect 3,000 yards passing, 1,000 yards rushing, 20 TD passes and 20 rushing TDs again ? The answer is yes. What we witnessed this past season by this young man was nothing short of amazing. The reality is his team should benefit for the attention his performance garnered nationally in the recruiting arena. You also have to factor in that this team that finished #5 in the AP and Coaches Poll will catch no one by surprise this upcoming season. Many wonder what type of QB he will be on the next level. With the success of the read option and more specifically what a smaller QB like Russell Wilson was able to do this year for the Seattle Seahawks you wonder in Manziel could be in line for similar success. If he has a season anywhere close to the one he just compiled, I expect him to declare for the NFL Draft (he’d be able to because he’s a red-shirt freshman and not a TRUE freshman). One Draft expert sees him as the 25th ranked prospect, overall, but we know how those projections can fluctuate. I’m more interested to see how he measures up at the Pro-Combine and at his Pro-Day. If he is a legit 6’1″ and 200 lbs (as listed) and has a decent 40 time (ran a 4.7 coming out of High School) and shows professional level arm strength, this kid could be something special on the next level. You always hear about QBs that have that “it”. It’s something you can’t touch but you can feel it. It’s contagious and this guy has an ability to escape collapsing pockets and make big plays out of it that would give Defensive Coordinators fits because he does things you can’t game plan for (similar to Wilson). The Alabama game was a small sample of his playmaking ability against the BEST team in College Football. You do have to be concerned about him being able to endure the beating Pro QBs take week in and week out. If he goes to a team that struggles to protect the QB the Offensive minds that be better have something drawn up to combat that. As fans of College Football and the NFL, this will be a fun story to keep up with (just like last year). Buckle up and enjoy the ride …

“Money to Blow” The Floyd Mayweather Jr. Empire.

Published by Jerz 5/8/2013

                                      

 

   Some people just have a great business sense about them and have truly mastered the art of making a “dollar out of 15 cents”. Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr. is definitely one of those individuals. What he has grown his brand to become in the Sport of Boxing is nothing short of phenomenal. Forbes Magazine lists his net worth somewhere around $115 Million (rare air for most professional athletes not named Derek Jeter).Forbes Magazine also reported that he earned $85 million, alone, in 2012. True, in the eyes of many, he will go down as one of the BEST Boxers in the History of the Sport and arguably the best EVER, pound for pound. It’s hard to argue an undefeated record that NOW stands at 44-0 (after a masterful performance against the rugged but noticeably slower Robert Guerrero). Mayweather’s boxing skills have never been questioned. His defense is second to none and his lightning quick punches have frustrated victim after victim. I’ll get back to his fabulous boxing accomplishments, later in this write up, but for now, let’s get back to the MONEY !

 

    Mayweather’s Professional Boxing Career began back on 0ct. 11, 1996 with a TKO of Roberto Apodaca. His career earnings have topped $213 Million (not counting the Guerrero fight). Not bad for a kid form Grand Rapids, Michigan. 43 wins later, “The Money Team” stands as a Brand in the Sport only rivaled by Oscar De La Hoya (estimated net worth $175 Million) and his “Golden Boy Productions”. De La Hoya had a 4 year head start on Floyd (making his Pro debut in 92′) but after signing a MEGA deal with CBS/Showtime for 6 fights (now 5, after the win over Guerrero) at a projected $250 million, Mayweather can surpass his business rival midway through the deal. The true earnings of the deal depend on quite a few variables. The 6 fight deal could possibly be for $200 million guaranteed and pay-per-view earnings could push it beyond $250 million. Some suggest the deal could blossom into the $300 million (and possibly $500 million range) if Mayweather can keep his record unblemished and fight the best of the best. The deal could ultimately lose it’s punch (no pun intended) if Floyd were to lose. If he IS able to stay undefeated and beat the best competition available in these next 5 fights, he sets himself up NICELY for the next phase of his Boxing career … Promotions !                                            

                                        

I don’t think there was any doubt in Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s mind that he was a better boxer than Robert Guerrero. It was a “Win/Win”, all around, for “The Money Team” (who got a record tying $32 million guaranteed to fight the hard hitting Guerrero who only got 3 million guaranteed) and an offer he could NOT refuse. The question remains, though, when will Boxing fans get the Fight they ALL want to see. I haven’t really quite put my finger on the REAL reason why Mayweather vs. Pacquiao has NOT occurred yet ? Sure, I’ve heard all of the doping allegations by Mayweather against Pacquiao but I think there’s more to it than that. It’s ironic that even after coming off of 2 straight losses (a controversial split decision to Tim Bradley and the infamous Juan Manuel Marquez knockout) that this match would STILL “break the bank” ? The Love/Hate relationship that boxing fans have with Floyd Mayweather Jr. is astounding. I believe that just as many people want to see this fight just to see Floyd hit the canvas and possibly lose. It reminds me of when the Bulls were on their epic title runs, during the Jordan Era, and just as many people wanted to see them fail as succeed. I think some boxing fans have grown tired of Floyd’s absolute mastery in the ring where he strikes just enough to win rounds and his impregnable defense hardly gets him touched. This was definitely the case in his most recent fight with Guerrero where Floyd peppered his opponent with an array of right hands (ultimately injuring it about halfway through) and avoiding many of Guerrero’s attempts to land flush shots. Seeing this fight only makes me want to see Mayweather vs. Pacquiao THAT much more. Both fighters are getting up in age (Mayweather is 36 and Pacquiao is 34) and Pacquiao may be the only imaginable opponent quick enough to match Mayweather strike for strike.                                                

  To think about where the Sport is now from a marketability stand point to where it use to be is nothing short of amazing. Can you imagine what Muhammad Ali’s net worth would be in this world of Social Media and Self Promotion ? I also can’t help but think of some of the awesome rivalries from back in the day. It makes you wonder how Sugar Ray Leonard would be regarded today if he dodged the “Motor City Cobra” (Tommy Hearns) or “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler ? Aren’t the epic battles he engaged in with these great fighters what helped create his mystique as one of the BEST fighters ever ? I guess this is why I have a problem with Mayweather calling himself the GREATEST ever. The Greatest ALWAYS fought the BEST and looking at Floyd’s last 9 fights I don’t see any “Fights for the Ages” ? 7 of his last 9 went all 12 rounds and were won by decision (the other 2 by KO over Victor Ortiz in the 4th rd and a TKO of Ricky Hatton in the 10th rd). I can’t be mad at a great boxer (and businessman) that recognizes he has staying power and longevity long after he hangs his gloves up but while he ties them on for fights I want to see him match up against the BEST the sport has to offer. I tip my cap to 44-0 but just like the rest of the Boxing World I want to see Mayweather vs. Pacquiao while it STILL matters. Mayweather can’t cash in FULLY on his CBS/Showtime deal without taking this fight. Many of his fights, as of late, have been “business decisions” which have helped him not only to cash in but also keep that sparkling undefeated record. I have NO issue with Floyd conducting his in ring business with the same strategic maneuverability as he does outside the ring (don’t take risk and strike while the “iron is hot”). Floyd recognizes that if he doesn’t allow himself to get hit consistently he can fight at a high level with his cat like instincts for as long as he wants. The Cotto fight (last May) is the only fight within recent memory I can remember him even getting tagged and he did that to prove a point to the boxing public. If Floyd is the Champion I believe him to be, he knows this fight with Pacquiao MUST happen not only for his LEGACY but his bank registry … It’s where the “Money” is … 

“Northsiders” have MUCH to look forward to in the not so distant future.

Published by Jerz 5/4/2013

 The 2012 Chicago Cubs had very little to be excited about. After a disappointing (61-101) season and missing the Playoffs for a 5th straight year, fans are grasping at anything that can give them hope for better days on the North side. Cubs fans were extra excited about Theo Epstein coming over from the Red Sox to become President of Baseball Operations in 2011 and have continued to remain patient. Rome. subsequently, wasn’t “built in a day” and in Major League Baseball neither are Playoff Contenders. I’ll share with you why that patience may pay off sooner rather than later.

 

Talk to some baseball experts and analysts and they will tell you Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo (pictured above) is on the verge of being a breakout star. Some predict the sweet swinging lefty will hit upward of 30 home runs and 100 plus RBI, if he plays a full season. Soon to be 24 (in August), Rizzo has demonstrated the kind of “pop” in his bat (15 HRs in 87 gms in 12′) that has fans ready to scramble for souvenirs in the bleachers of the Friendly Confines. He also showed better patience at the plate and the ability to have respectable success against left handed pitching. Improvements in these areas will be the difference in Rizzo starting everyday as opposed to sharing time at first base in a platoon system. If Rizzo is indeed the future star most analysts and Epstein (who drafted Rizzo when he was in Boston) believe him to be, the Cubs wil have one corner of their infield anchored for years to come. The other player pictured with Rizzo above is 20 year old Cuban Outfield sensation Jorge Soler. The Cubs are very high on this young prospect developing into a 5 tool Right Fielder as they look to get him all the at-bats they can to prepare him for Major League pitching. Signing a 9 year/$30 million dollar contract with the Cubs gives the 6’4″, 215 pound Soler financial stability for years to come and the Cubs are hoping to get just as big of a return on the investment they’ve made in the young outfielder. Cubs Manager Dale Sveum feels that Soler will be one heck of a player for years to come, once his offense catches up with his defense. The Cubs are hoping to have enough success this season to not have to rush their promising prospect up to the “Big Show” too early. The idea is to let this kid tear up the minor league system and not toy with his confidence by bringing him up too soon and possibly struggle against top flight pitching. Soler thru 17 games this Spring batted .222 with 1 home run and 3 RBIs and will look to work on his patience at the plate. The Cubs, in turn, will try to exhibit some patience of their own.

Outfielder Jorge Soler isn’t the only 20 year old prospect the Cubs are excited about. Puerto Rican Shortstop Javier Baez has been making noise of his own, this Spring. Baez hit .302 in 16 games, and as of Monday, led the team with four home runs and 10 RBIs. He hit two more homers in an exhibition game against Team Japan that didn’t count in the Cactus League stats. Cubs Manager Dale Sveum described Baez’s swing through the strike zone as “violent” and has compared his bat speed to another 20 year old phenom he saw with the Brewers coming up in Gary Sheffield. Here lies the dilemma, however. The team already has one of the young, up and coming Shortstops in baseball in Starlin Castro who hit .283 with 14 HRs , 78 RBI and 25 stolen bases in 162 games in 12′. This leaves Cubs brass with a decision to make. Does this star in waiting set up a possible trade of Castro for more prospects to stock the minor leagues with or do the Cubs move Baez, their No.1 pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, to third base ? I think both are possibilities that will be weighed heavily in determining what is best for the team’s future. In the eyes of many, this is a pretty good “problem” to have.

The thought of Anthony Rizzo on one corner and Javier Baez at the other provides some “thump” in the middle of the Cubs batting order. If Starlin Castro can remain focused and continue improve (especially defensively) and develop into a star shortstop, the Cubs could be on the verge of something really special on the North side. That leads us to second baseman Darwin Barney who at 28 is looking to be a more reliable hitter than the .254 he batted in 156 games in 12′. If Barney is able to hit in the .280 – .300 range it could really open up some possibilities for this Cubs offense. The future development of Soler and Baez is something Cub fans will keep a close eye on all year, I’m sure. The starting pitching for this team is what their success NOW hinges on. The Cubs made a surprising commitment to Edwin Jackson (4 yrs/$52 million) when they brought him in to what many believed would be a youth movement, though only 29 himself (turns 30 in September).With the way they traded off veteran players last year, I was surprised they’d make any major moves in Free Agency. Jackson (10-11, 4.03 ERA and 168Ks/189.2 IP) could undoubtedly add front line pitching talent and experience to a primarily young starting pitching staff led by Jeff Samardzija (9-13, 3.81 ERA and 180Ks/174.2 IP) and oft-injured Matt Garza (5-7, 3.91 ERA and 96Ks/103.2 IP). I wouldn’t be surprised if Jackson himself were used as trade bait later in the year, if the Cubs fall out of contention early. One thing we’ve come to learn about Theo Epstein is if teams are whistling he’s listening. Ultimately, Cub fans are just hoping for flickers of hope that shed light on a future being so bright they have to wear shades (even during rain delays). With the pieces in place now and the potential pieces that can be moved for even MORE promising prospects, the Cubs barometer is pointed nowhere but UP …

2013 BEARS had flexibility going into the Draft, thanks to a productive Free Agency period.

Published by Jerz 5/3/2013

There wasn’t much question to the fact that the 2013 Bears would look much different than the 2012 version. With a Head Coaching change usually comes an overhaul of the Staff as well as the Roster. The Bears will stake no claim in any “rebuilding” as speculated by some members of the media. Though this team sprinted out to (7-1), only to miss the Playoffs finishing (10-6), they simply saw areas that needed “re-tooling”. Once newly appointed Head Coach Marc Trestman assembled his FULL Staff, him and GM Phil Emery rolled their sleeves back and wasted no time putting together what they believe will be a WINNER in 2013.

The Bears went into the off season with question marks at Offensive Line, Tight End, and Linebacker and needing added depth in the Secondary. The Bears started Free Agency (3/12/13) off with a BIG bang, on the first official day teams could sign players (Bennett and Bushrod). Let’s break the current acquisitions down player by player and assign a grade to the pickup based on need and player availability.

3/12/13 Bears sign TE Martellus Bennett (4 yr deal) and LT Jermon Bushrod (5 yr deal). These 2 positions were in desperate need of a production boost and Bennett (coming off a 55 catch season w/ the Giants) provides a dual threat that can excel as a blocker in the run game and a receiver in the passing game. At 6’6″ the talented Bennett provides QB Jay Cutler with a downfield threat to work the seam and another BIG redzone target ( along with the 6’4″ Brandon Marshall and 6’3″ Alshon Jeffery) and at only 26 the Bears feel his best days as a Pro are ahead of him. There were other options the Bears could have looked at (like Jared Cook, Dustin Keller and Delanie Walker to name a few) but with Bennett you get a combination of receiving and blocking skills in a 6’6″ frame that the others just didn’t offer. This move gets an (A). Bushrod, 28 (turns 29 in August), is a frontline Left Tackle coming into his prime and a former Pro Bowler (2011). He comes to a team with a desperate need to improve it’s pass protection and having a chance to re-unite with Bears new Offensive Coordinator/O-Line Coach Aaron Kromer allows the former 4th round pick to be coached by a familiar voice despite being in a totally new environment. The Bears may have overpaid for Mr. Bushrod’s services, in the eyes of some, but that’s how it is when you have to “outsource” for certain team needs via Free Agency. Other names like Jake Long, Bryant McKinnie and Sebastian Vollmer were available but Bushrod was said to be the Bears target all along. This move gets an (A+)

3/15 – 3/16/13  Bears re-sign 2 of their own Free Agents in DT Nate Collins (1 yr deal) and CB Zack Bowman (1 yr deal) respectively. Collins is a guy they picked up from Jacksonville last year and at 25 gives them a young body that adds depth to a defensive line that had a good year creating pressure on opposing QBs that led to multiple takeaway opportunities. New Bears Defensive Coordinator Mel Tucker is familiar with Collins (from his days in Jacksonville) and hopes the 4th yr Pro out of Virginia can develop into a productive contributor for this Bears defensive unit. This move gets a (C+). Bowman experienced a resurgence in his 2nd stint with the Bears (after being released by the Vikings during the season) and filled in on defense and was tremendous on special teams coverage units. Bowman will have an opportunity to compete at Nickel back and hopes to regain his 2009 form that saw him pick off 6 passes in 12 starts. The Bears would like that as well. This move gets a (C+).

3/20-3/21/13 Bears agree to terms with DE Turk McBride (1 yr deal) and TE Steve Maneri (2 yr deal). McBride was an interesting signing to me because it seems the Bears valued him over the versatile Israel Idonije (who still remains unsigned at this point). McBride (turns 28 in May) is the younger of the 2 but Idonije (turns 33 in November) has been more productive (7.5 sacks last year to 0 for McBride). There is STILL a chance the Bears could bring Idonije back for his 10th yr (ALL with the Bears) but other teams have shown interest in his services. The Bears are hoping Defensive Line Coach Mike Phair can bring out the potential in McBride (a former 2nd rd pick by the Chiefs in 2007). I’ll take production over potential, even though McBride is 5 years younger. McBride may get a re-do after this year and maybe a better grade if the Bears re-sign Idonije but if the move was McBride over Idonije this move gets a (D). The 25 year old Maneri is a very interesting prospect. The 6’6″ 290 lb former Offensive Tackle is a tremendous blocker and will really help in pass protection and goal line sets. He replaces little used Matt Spaeth who has re-signed with his former team the Steelers. Assuming Evan Rodriguez stays at fullback, Maneri could possibly be the teams #2 Tight End (him or Kyle Adams) and I’m curious to see how well he catches the ball. Spaeth (6 catches in 16 gms last season) didn’t give the Bears much in the receiving game and I’m not sure Maneri (5 catches in 13 gms last season) will be much more of a factor either but we’ll see. I’ll give this lateral acquisition a (C+) No reason to love it or hate it. *shrug*

3/23/13 Bears sign LB D.J. Williams (1 yr deal) and S Tom Zbikowski (1 yr deal). The Williams signing came on the heels of the team deciding not to re-sign LB Brian Urlacher, one of their All-Time Greats, and the departures of Nick Roach (to Oakland) and Geno Hayes (to Jacksonville). The sirens were really going off because LB went from being a position that needed depth to a position that now needed potential starters AND depth. As a long time fan of this franchise, it was tough to know #54 would no longer roam the MIKE linebacker position for the Orange and Navy. I salute him for his Defensive Rookie of the Year (2000), Defensive Player of the Year (2005), 4 x’s 1st team All-Pro and 8 Pro Bowls but it’s been clear the last few seasons that Urlacher was not the same Player that produced these very accomplishments. I’ll even go on record to say that Williams (4 yrs younger) will anchor a LB Unit that still features 7 x Pro Bowler and the newly signed James Anderson (of Carolina) that by all accounts should out perform last year’s unit with Briggs, Urlacher and Roach. This move gets a (B+). I like the Zbikowski signing because it adds a veteran to the mix at Safety to push young incumbents Chris Conte and Major Wright to continue improving. I also think it puts pressure on veteran Craig Steltz and last year’s 3rd round pick Brandon Hardin (who sat the entire season due to a neck injury) to even make the team. One of these 3 (Zbikowski, Steltz and Hardin) are the “odd man out” what should be a hotly contested battle for a backup Safety position. Zbikowski also can return kicks and punts if needed. This move gets a (B-).

3/24 – 3/26/13 Bears sign LB James Anderson (1 yr deal) and re-sign veteran OT Jonathan Scott (1 yr deal) and CB Kelvin Hayden (1 yr deal). I like the Anderson (turns 30 in September) signing because it brings in a solid veteran that’s been a starter the last 3 seasons and a productive one at that. Anderson will make the tackles Roach use to miss on a regular basis and gives the Bears a solid starting unit with Him, Williams and Briggs. This move gets an (A). Scott was an in season pickup last year that stepped in to start 7 of 12 gms played (when Chris Williams was released and Gabe Carimi was ineffective) and did an admirable job. Bringing him back puts him in the mix for the starting right tackle position with the aforementioned Carimi and former starting left tackle J’Marcus Webb. Bringing a solid contributor back at a reasonable rate that can push your younger players to be better is never a bad thing. This move gets a (C+). Bears brass are hoping Carimi can lock down the right guard spot and the loser between Scott and Webb ends up the swing tackle. Hayden was a player that decided to test the market after generating 5 takeaways (1 Int and 4 fumble recoveries) for his hometown Bears. Hayden (turns 30 in July) played all 16 gms with 2 starts (for the injured Tim Jennings) and won the Nickel job from the departed D.J. Moore and will have 1st crack at that position again this season. He had some struggles at times but will be playing for another contract at the end of the year and Bears brass hope he can build on his 5 takeaways from last year. I give this move a (B).

3/28 – 3/30/13 Bears re-sign RB Armando Allen (1 yr deal) and QB Josh McCown (1 yr deal) and add G Matt Slauson (1 yr deal). Allen was a guy I liked a lot, despite limited playing time. He is a guy I’m hoping THIS coaching staff will use more as he’s solid with the ball in space both rushing and receiving and could help keep RBs Matt Forte and Michael Bush fresh down the stretch. I doubt they’ll carry 3 RBs on the active roster but Allen is a guy that has stepped in and shown he can play when pressed into duty. there’s no doubt in my mind that Coach Trestman and Co. liked enough on tape to bring him back. I give this move a (B). McCown has found a way to just kind of “stick around’ after being recruited from the high school coaching ranks in North Carolina when Cutler went down with a thumb injury 2 seasons ago. The defection of Jason Campbell made it imperative that the Bears bring a veteran in to back up starter Jay Cutler and Mccown is an inexpensive, experienced option that has been around this team the past few seasons. I do look for the team to bring in another veteran, possibly when camp starts, and may draft a young QB to develop in Trestman’s offense. This move gets a (C+). I like the Slauson move a lot because it gives the Bears a veteran (just turned 27) that’s started all 16 gms 3 straight seasons (and didn’t give up a sack last year) on the heels of losing G Lance Louis to the Dolphins. Slauson is a guy the Bears can slide into that LG spot and gives them flexibility in the upcoming Draft as well. This move gets an (A).

The Bears have done themselves well in a Free Agency period where many didn’t feel they’d have the financial flexibility to acquire the type of talent that they have. There are still a few tweaks to be done to the roster (a few more releases and possible contract restructurings) that could free up a little more “wiggle room” for GM Phil Emery to fill out this roster. There is no doubt that with the moves made, to this point, the Bears are in better position to Draft “best player available” instead of strictly on “need”. Emery has made it known that he is “open for business” as it relates to trading out of the 20th spot in the 1st round (in an effort to pick up more picks) in a draft rich in WR and CB talent. The Draft is upon us and this team will be reporting to mini-camp before we know it. Emery and Trestman have put this team in position to be a force in the NFC North, based on the moves made to this point. We all know, of course, that Championships aren’t won in April nor on “paper”. Stay tuned to see how this work of art comes together come late December/early January … Hopefully the optimism will be budding for a strong Playoff run and not looking ahead to the off-season and Free Agency of 2014 …

 BEARS hope 2013 provides more answers than questions.

 

Published by Jerz 5/1/2013

The 2013 NFL Draft wasn’t short on it’s share of surprise picks in Round 1. One of the biggest surprises, to many, was that there wasn’t a Running Back selected in Round 1 for the 1st time in a long time. You saw players projected to go in the 1st Round not taken until the 2nd Round (Geno Smith to the Jets and Manti Teo to the Chargers) and another player projected to be a Top 15 pick last year not go until Round 4 just one year later (Matt Barkley to the Eagles). The one QB taken in the 1st Round was projected to be a 2nd or 3rd Round pick at best (EJ Manuel 16th to the Bills). What you DID know, coming into this Draft is that there would be a run on talented Offensive Lineman taken in the 1st Round and that was definitely the case as 3 of the first 4 picks were Offensive Tackles (Eric Fisher/Chiefs, Luke Joeckel/Jaguars, Lane Johnson/Eagles) followed by fellow Offensive Lineman Jonathan Cooper (7th to Arizona), Chance Warmack (10th to Tennessee), DJ Fluker (11th to San Diego) and Justin Pugh (19th to the Giants). With 6 O-Lineman taken in the first 19 picks, the Chicago Bears on the board with the 20th pick in Round 1 were left to make a BIG decision.

Many believed that the Bears set themselves up to have flexibility with their picks in this Draft, based on their moves in Free Agency. Bringing Jermon Bushrod, Matt Slauson and Eben Britton on board shored up one of the most maligned O-Lines over the past 3-4 years. Martellus Bennett was also brought in to upgrade the Bear’s Tight End core that was one of the most unproductive units in the league last season. Linebacker was another area of need addressed by the signings of veterans DJ Williams and James Anderson. The reality is only Bushrod and Bennett were signed to multi-year contracts and the other signings were looked to more as “one-year warriors”. With that being the case, GM Phil Emery would look to add more depth to the O-line and Linebacking units respectively in this Draft. Guard Kyle Long (6’6″ 313 Oregon) would eventually be taken by the Bears over a few prospects I thought would be better fits (TE Tyler Eifert, CB Marcus Trufant and LB Alec Ogletree). Long has an impressive pedigree (Hall of Fame father Howie from the Raiders and older brother Chris currently with the Rams) and is regarded as the best athlete in the family (was Drafted as a 95 mph throwing pitcher by the Chicago White Sox) and turned heads with a very impressive Senior Bowl and NFL Combine. Kyle didn’t have a long trail of game tape (played in 11 gms with 4 starts last year for Chip Kelly’s Ducks) but has the athletic ability and versatility to play Tackle and Guard (something the Bears covet in their Offensive Lineman). Many felt he was a reach with the 20th overall pick but Emery felt it wasn’t worth the risk of trying to wait out another 30 picks to try and get him in Round 2 with the run of O-Lineman taken in the 1st 19 picks.

 

The Bears, having already secured the O-Lineman they identified as their guy looked to add youth and athleticism to their Linebacking core taking LBs Jon Bostic (6’1″ 245 Florida) in the 2nd Round and Khaseem Greene (6’1″ 241 Rutgers) in the 4th Round. Both are high energy, productive LBs that have the versatility to play all 3 positions in a 4-3 defense and will have a chance to compete for immediate playing time and starting jobs. Bostic was taken over Kansas State’s Arthur Brown (a guy the Bears had in for a pre-draft visit) who was rated higher than Bostic and eventually taken a few picks later by the Ravens. The Bears, despite needing depth at CB and possibly another WR with speed that can play the slot, looked to Offensive Line again with their 5th Round pick taking Tackle Jordan Mills (6’5″ 316 La. Tech) another player that impressed scouts with his versatility to play Tackle and some Guard at the Senior Bowl. the Bears acquired the 236th overall pick(in Round 7) by moving back 10 spaces in Round 5 after a trade with the Atlanta Falcons.

The Bears may have found one of the steals of the Draft (similar to Mark Anderson a few years ago) when they took LB/DE Cornelius Washington (6’4″ 265 Georgia) in the 6th Round (188th pick overall). Washington is a freakish athlete that runs in the 4.6s (in the 40yd dash) has a 39 inch verticle leap and benched pressed 36 reps of 225 lbs at the combine. You didn’t always see this athleticism show up on game film but the Bears believe if he’s put in one position (played 3 different positions for the Bulldogs) where he can focus on rushing the QB (something he does well) that he’ll get the most out of his athletic gifts. I can’t wait to see this kid in pads and see him get to work. Great value pick here for a guy projected by some to be a 2nd to 4th round talent. The Bears used the 7th Round pick obtained from Atlanta on WR Marquess Wilson (6’3″ 194 Wash. St.) a 20 yr old that needs to mature and get stronger (physically) but has tremendous athletic gifts and upside. Had an incident where he quit the team because of alleged abuse by Coach Mike Leach (a story he’s recanted) but was very productive for one of the doormats in the Pac 12. Another solid value pick here late. the reward definitely outweighs the risk here and if this kid can make the team he adds another 6’3″ receiver to the mix with Marshall and Jeffery that can go up and get the ball in traffic and make plays for QB Jay Cutler.

I’m just as excited about some of the 10 Undrafted Free Agents the Bears agreed to terms with after the Draft (LSU running back Michael Ford, Rutgers receiver Mark Harrison, Oklahoma cornerback Demontre Hurst, Iowa State receiver Josh Lenz, LSU center P.J. Lonergan, Montana State defensive tackle Zach Minter, Memphis receiver Marcus Rucker, Georgia Southern defensive tackle Brent Russell, Oklahoma punter Tress Way , North Carolina State cornerback C.J. Wilson) all of which the Bears are hoping can increase competition in camp in preparation for the upcoming season. With the team looking to bolster their depth at CB, WR and possibly add a Center keep a close eye on C.J. Wilson, Hurst, Harrison, Rucker and Lonergan as the team moves into the pre-season … If I were to assign a Grade to this group of draftees it would be a (C) as in let’s wait and “see” … Solid crop but the jury will be out on this group for the next 2-3 years to see where they can take this team (if most of them can MAKE the team).

 

The #Return could be coming SOON for the BULLS.

Published by Jerz 5/1/2013

It was odd to be reminded that it’s been one calendar year since the ACL injury occurred that ended Derrick Rose’s playoff run last year for the Bulls. The skeptics have been many and have taken their side on both ends of the argument (should he come back this year or should he shut it down until next season ?). So much has been made of the #RETURN … We’ve seen the countless Adidas commercials (which I partly blame for the pressure Derrick’s been under to return) and we’ve been hearing since before the season started how he was “ahead of schedule” in his rehab and was targeting a come back some time after the All Star break. Even MORE pressure was placed on the 24 year old’s shoulders when Ricky Rubio and Iman Shumpert (who suffered his injury on the same day as Rose) have come back from similar injuries some time ago (Shumpert is helping his Knicks in the Playoffs right now against Boston). I was cool either way. If he was able to come back during the regular season and was comfortable doing so, fine. If he wanted to make his 2013 debut during the Playoffs (on a minutes count), I’m fine with that as well. What I’m not fine with is how so many of the fan base (and media as well) have turned on Rose because of his reluctance to even test the knee out in LIVE game action.

The comments made by Derrick’s brother Reggie (about the Bulls inability to surround Rose with quality players) were asinine and poorly timed (with Luol Deng and Joakim Noah being named All-Stars and the team in the middle of the Playoff Race, at the time). He undoubtedly bought MORE attention to his younger brother and made people question his basketball character (something that had NOT been questioned by the very same fan base that idolizes him). People began to wonder if the “mental” struggles Rose is dealing with in his rehab are real or is this him taking a stand in light of Reggie’s comments ? I think if we’re REAL with ourselves (especially Bulls fans) we’d ALL agree that Derrick has absolutely NO choice but to come back ready to go to work to start next season, if he doesn’t come back during these Playoffs. He will have absolutely NO reason not to. So what he’s been rumored to look lights out practice after practice and has been dunking for months. The ACL is fine. Let’s not forget that he missed 27 of 66 games last year with various leg injuries before tearing his ACL in the 1st game of the Playoffs against the Sixers last year. I’m more concerned about him pulling a groin or a hamstring than I am him re-injuring his ACL, to be honest. So what Doctors “cleared him” months ago and he’s been performing all sorts of Basketball related activities. What’s the real “rush” ? What if he does have a setback or even worse re-injure the same knee and experience instantaneous decline like Gilbert Arenas (who returned from a similar injury pre-maturely) ? Is THAT what we want ? The decision has ALWAYS been Derrick’s to make. That doesn’t change because the Bulls have been extremely competitive without him, does it ? I think he’s closer to returning than some may think …

 

The irony is the 5th seeded Bulls are up (3-1) over the 4th seeded Nets with a chance to close the series out Monday night in Brooklyn. Also ironic is the fact that Kirk Hinrich will be out with a calf injury forcing Coach Thibs to start Nate Robinson who has run extremely hot and cold in his stint with the Bulls. If Robinson gets into foul trouble, Thibs may be reluctant to go to 1st year guard Marquis Teague and look to Marco Belinelli in a pinch, if forced to. How about the fact that Rose has watched his teammate Joakim Noah play inspired basketball despite laboring with painful plantar fasciitis ? Would he NOT be urged to play when his embattled team needs him most ? Let’s say the Bulls win one of the next 3 games (if necessary) who would they face next ? The same team that Rose watched celebrate winning a Championship from his couch just a year ago (the Miami Heat) a team he desperately wants to beat. Hollywood couldn’t script this any better for Rose if he asked them to … Don’t be surprised if the caption on the #RETURN changes from “coming soon” to “now playing” …

 

 

BEARS offense shows promise in home opener against the Colts.

Published by Jerz 9/11/2012

The Chicago Bears gave their fans exactly what they were looking for in their home opener against the Indianapolis Colts. Jay Cutler made it interesting, early on, by throwing an interception that was returned 5 yards for a touchdown (on an attempted screen pass to Matt Forte) but that was the closest the BEARS came to being threatened. Cutler got off to one of his roughest starts as a BEARS QB completing just 1 of his first 12 passes but shook off the horrid start to finish the game 21 of 35 (60%) for 333 yards, 2 touchdown passes (3yds to Brandon Marshall and 42 yds to Alshon Jeffery) and the one interception. Newly acquired Brandon Marshall was targeted 15 times and finished the day with 9 catches for 119 yds and a TD and rookie Alshon Jeffery snagged 3 passes for 80 yds and a TD (a 42 yd beauty deep from Cutler). Marshall, oddly enough, dropped 2 potential TD passes so he could’ve had an even BIGGER game than he turned in.

Matt Forte (16 rushes for 80 yds and TD & 3 catches for 40 yds) and newcomer Michael Bush ( 12 carries 42 yds 2 TDs) combined to rush for 122 yards on 28 carries and 3 TDs. The BEARS offensive line rebounded from a shaky start (2 sacks allowed) to open up lanes in the run game and gave Cutler adequate time to make plays downfield in the passing game. Cutler looked sharp, after the shaky start, and looked to have command of the offense as he audibled quite a bit to put his team in better position to execute.This was a far cry from what we saw under the Martz regime where Cutler was forced to eat the ball on plays that were absolutely doomed from the snap. The good news is this offense should only get better and more explosive as the season progresses. The bad news is the BEARS don’t play the re-tooled, struggling Indianapolis Colts every week.

BEARS QB Jay Cutler leading the offense against the Colts

 

The BEARS defense had it’s “day in the sun”, as well, forcing 4 turnovers (3 Ints and a forced fumble) against rookie sensation and #1 pick Andrew Luck (23/45, 309 YDS, 1 TD, 3 INT). The rookie QB had his moments both good and bad. The good was his tremendous rapport with veteran WR Reggie Wayne (9 catches for 135 yds) and former college teammate TE Coby Fleener (8 catches for 82 yds). The bad, of course, were the turnovers 3 interceptions (2 on spectacular plays by former Colt CB Tim Jennings) and a sack fumble forced by DE Corey Wootton. The Colts didn’t do their rookie QB any favors by running the ball just 11 times (2 attempts by Luck) and the defense wasn’t able to answer the bell against a BEARS team that turned a 7-0 deficit into a 41-21 trouncing. Former Colt CB Kelvin Hayden was pressed into action when starting CB Charles Tillman excited the game with a lower leg injury (not deemed serious) and played well (7 tackles). Brian Urlacher (seeing his first LIVE game action of the year) was pulled early in the 3rd quarter as a precaution more than anything and hopes to be ready to go against arch nemesis Green Bay on Thursday Night. The Packers are coming off a tough home loss to NFC juggernaut San Fransisco are looking to avoid an (0-2) start.

The BEARS (1-0) have a prime opportunity to go up 2 games on their division foe, to start the season, and have lost 4 straight to the Packers. Jay Cutler has struggled against Green Bay’s defense but hasn’t had two WRs over 6’3″ that can beat press coverage and go up and make a play for him in 1 on 1 situations either (in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery). This is as good a test as the BEARS can ask for to see if they are as good as their acquisitions and change in offensive philosophy (under Mike Tice and Jeremy Bates) say they are. The BEARS can also attack Green Bay with the 2-headed rushing monster of Matt Forte and Michael Bush. The BEARS defense will be faced the task of keeping reigning league MVP Aaron Rodgers and the Packer’s offense under control so their offense’s run game can stay relevant. The Packers may be 2 seasons removed from a Super Bowl and 1 season removed from a (15-1) regular season but they are far from “teflon” and have some areas that can be exposed (defensive struggles against the run and pass and lack of a true rushing attack to complement Rodgers). Let’s just see if the BEARS coaching staff can draw up the game plan to get that done and can Jay Cutler “slay a dragon” that’s gotten the best of him since becoming a BEAR.

JerzeeWorld is Sports Director of SMG and can be followed on Twitter @NiceTheGr34t and Instagram @thegr34tone

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