Bengals shut down shorthanded Bears 21-10, just one ‘SCRIMMAGE’ left.

CINCINNATI—Andy Dalton‘s sore neck gave AJ McCarron a chance for his first NFL keepsake.Dalton sneaked in for a touchdown on Cincinnati’s opening drive, then came out of the game as a precaution with a sore neck on Saturday night during a 21-10 preseason victory over the Bears.The Bengals (2-1) were looking for a lot more out of their starting offense after a three-turnover performance in a loss at Tampa Bay. Dalton threw two interceptions in that one.On Saturday, he completed all six of his passes during a 16-play, 77-yard drive that consumed 9 minutes, 11 seconds. Dalton finished it with a sneak from inside the 1-yard line, emerged from the pile and spiked the ball.When Dalton reached the sideline, he took off his helmet and coach Marvin Lewis decided to keep him there because he had a sore neck. Dalton didn’t go for treatment, staying on the sideline for the rest of the first half.McCarron was impressive during his first stint with the starting offense. He completed his first seven passes, including a 31-yard throw to Marvin Jones for his first professional TD pass. He kept the ball, cradling it under his left arm as he jogged off the field.McCarron was a fifth-round pick out of Alabama last year, but missed his rookie season with a sore passing shoulder. He won the backup job after the second preseason game, and gave the Bengals a sense of confidence that he can keep the offense going if Dalton gets hurt.Bengals quarterbacks completed their first 13 passes against the Bears (2-1), who again failed to get a touchdown out of their starting offense. Jay Cutler played the first half and one series in the second half, leading to a Robbie Gould field goal.The Bears’ offense has managed five field goals and no touchdowns in the preseason.Cutler was 13 of 17 for 98 yards without an interception before he was replaced by Jimmy Clausen. The starting offense got six first downs and 123 yards on 29 plays. ”We’ve got a lot of stuff we’ve got to get cleaned up,” Cutler said.NO KIDDING!

NOTES—Second-round pick Eddie Goldman was expected to fill in at nose tackle while Jeremiah Ratliff serves a three-game suspension. Goldman left in the first half with a concussion. Ratliff hurt his left ankle and wore a boot after the game…. Clausen was 5 of 8 for 39 yards….McCarron played until the middle of the fourth quarter and finished 12 of 17 for 149 yards with a touchdown……The Bears touchdown came when undrafted rookie Ify Umodu broke through the line, blocked Kevin Huber‘s punt and returned it 8 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter…..Matt Forte carried six times for 16 yards. The Bears’ running game managed only 67 yards on 18 carries, an average of 3.7 yards…… ”The negative plays have just been killing us,” tackle Jermon Bushrod said. ”We’ve got to figure out a way to get into the end zone.”

Illinois launches Beckman–with cause.

Illinois Fighting Illini (2004 - 2013)

CHAMPAIGN—If there’s one lesson to be learned from Illinois coach Tim Beckman’s firing on Friday, it’s this: Players have a voice. It’s a voice that can correct injustices and better balance relationships with universities if players use it wisely.Ex-Illinois offensive lineman Simon Cvijanovic figured that out in May when he went on Twitter and said Beckman tried to force him to play with knee and shoulder injuries and punished him for losing weight; he also said Illinois’ medical staff withheld information about his knee injury. It took guts to try to right a wrong. Not surprisingly, Cvijanovic got trashed by fans, some former teammates and even one adult who should have known better.Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas, who will probably be out of a job sooner rather than later, initially defended Beckman and said Cvijanovic’s allegations amounted to a “personal attack” on Illinois’ coach. But sure, Thomas added, he would internally investigate the claims in the near future with the university chancellor’s office. Later, Thomas took a more neutral approach while cautioning against a rush to judgment.Thomas quickly got removed from what became an external investigation. On Friday, Thomas had to own the firing of Beckman. Thomas’ name was all over the press release and his face was all over the cameras.Thomas said preliminary results from the investigation showed “efforts to deter injury reporting and influence medical decisions that pressured players to avoid or postpone treatment and continue playing despite injuries.” He also said there were instances in which players were treated “inappropriately” regarding whether they could stay on scholarship during spring semester of their senior year if they weren’t on the team.At one point in the news conference, Thomas actually said Illinois’ athletic department culture is “tremendous.” At that point, a reporter asked, “If that’s the case, how did all of this happen?” Thomas oversees an athletic department with football player grievances, a women’s basketball program in disarray amid a player lawsuit over alleged mistreatment, and a former women’s soccer player suing the school because she says the coaches and trainer mishandled her concussion.Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play? Some of this mess could have been avoided if Thomas simply fired Beckman for his job performance after 2014. Would Beckman be out of a job now one week before the season if he had won more games? We don’t know. Beckman was a win-at-all-costs coach who lacked the winning part.

Beckman has now released a statement of his firing and defending his actions while he served as head coach at Illinois.

“I am shocked and extremely disappointed by the decision Mike Thomas and the University of Illinois made today regarding my employment as head coach of the football team,” Beckman said in the statement. “First and foremost, I firmly deny the implications in Mike’s statements that I took any action that was not in the best interests of the health, safety and well-being of my players. The health and well-being of our student-athletes is of paramount importance to me, and any statement made to the contrary is utterly false. Additionally, in connection with scholarships for student-athletes, I have complied with the policies and regulations of both the university and the NCAA and I have fully supported the university compliance office. Moreover, all of the actions that I took regarding individual scholarships were in lockstep with the university’s appointed personnel and the directions and approvals I received from university officials.

“I fully cooperated with the university’s investigation, having sat down for two lengthy interviews and turning over all documentation requested of me. The fact that the university did not even complete its investigation in this matter is evidence that this entire process was nothing more than a rush to judgment and confirms the university’s abject bad faith. Furthermore, the university’s actions today are in violation of the procedures mandated under my employment agreement. As such, I will vigorously defend both my reputation and my legal rights.

“I am very proud of my career at the University of Illinois. Off-field incidents involving my players have been essentially non-existent while academic performance and graduation rates have been extraordinary. The love and support I have received today from my players means everything to me.”

The language in Beckman’s statement certainly suggests that there will be a legal battle over his firing — most notably him saying “I will vigorously defend…my legal rights.” As it stands now, Beckman will not receive any of the remaining $3.1 million on his contract or $743,000 buyout due to the specific reasons of his firing.Beckman was 12-25 in three seasons as the head coach of the Illini.

Bears get past Colts 23-11 in sloppy Pre-Season event #2

INDIANAPOLIS—Jimmy Clausen outplayed Jay Cutler in the red zone Saturday night.After Cutler led the Bears to three field goals in a mistake-prone first half, his backup, Clausen, made amends for one big mistake by leading the Bears to two second-half touchdowns and a 23-11 victory at Indianapolis.

”I thought we made progress tonight in all phases,” first-year coach John Fox said after his second straight preseason win. ”But by no means have we arrived.”

Certainly not under the circumstances.Cutler’s touchdown run was called back because of a penalty, the Bears twice settled for field goals after moving inside the Colts 10-yard line, and Clausen’s interception late in the first half set up Adam Vinatieri’s 25-yard go-ahead field goal.Clausen was better in the second half.He wiped out the Colts’ 11-9 halftime lead by throwing a 12 -yard TD pass to Joshua Bellamy midway through the third quarter, and watched with delight as Jeremy Langford ended the next Bears series by breaking a tackle and scoring on a 2-yard run to make it 23-11 with 2:00 left in the third.

”We were just taking care of the ball and moving the chains,” Clausen said. ”We had some penalties early on, and the interception. We just got back into the swing of things and moved the chains.”

Cutler finished 8 of 9 for 69 yards and was sacked once in the return to his home state. Clausen was 6 of 9 for 54 yards with one TD and one interception. Langford ran nine times for 80 yards, and Matt Forte had eight carries for 24 yards in his first game action.That was good enough against the exhibition-challenged Colts, who have lost seven straight exhibition games since beating Cleveland on Aug. 24, 2013. The Colts also lost their fifth consecutive August game to the Bears, a streak that dates to 1995. And that wasn’t even the worst part.First-round draft pick Phillip Dorsett, the small, speedy receiver from Miami, left in the third quarter with what coach Chuck Pagano described as a bruised right knee.Andrew Luck finished 5 of 9 for 71 yards, was sacked once, scored on a 5-yard run and completed a 2-point conversion pass to Andre Johnson to give Indy an 8-6 lead.Sheldon Price’s interception set up Vinatieri’s field goal, but that was all the Colts could muster on a night rookie Josh Robinson rushed 13 times for 61 yards.

”We’re going to have a hard time winning football games when we’re beating ourselves,” Coach Chuck Pagano said.

Forte wasn’t the only big-name guy returning to action Saturday. But he was busy. Forte touched the ball on six of the Bears’ first nine plays after sitting out last week. Receiver T.Y. Hilton missed Indy’s preseason opener for personal reasons, and set up Indy’s first score with a 45-yard catch Saturday. Hilton wound up with two receptions for 52 yards.

NOTES—Langford, No. 3 on the depth chart, had the Bears two most spectacular plays of the night. On the Bears first TD drive, he found a gap in the middle and made safety Colt Anderson miss on a 46-yard run. Then, after breaking another tackle, Langford reversed field and got around the right side for a 2-yard score that actually covered about 30 yards…..Dorsett, running back Frank Gore and receiver Andre Johnson all made their home debuts Saturday. Gore had two carries for 10 yards, giving Colts fans a glimpse of what they might expect this season. Johnson officially had one catch for 8 yards, but also caught the 2-point conversion pass. Dorsett had three receptions for 21 yards….In addition to Dorsett, the Colts lost cornerbacks Greg Toler (strained neck) and Eric Patterson (concussion) and linebacker Daniel Adongo (cramps). None of the four returned to the game. Bears receiver Marquess Wilson (hamstring) left in the first half. Fox said it didn’t appear to be a serious injury. The Bears also played without receivers Alshon Jeffery (strained calf) and first-round draftee Kevin White (shin).

Surgery for Bears Rookie White…..could miss entire season.

LAKE FOREST—When the Bears drafted Kevin White the hope was that he would simplify Jay Cutler‘s life. And he still might, in much the same way big playmaking receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery have done in recent seasons. But White, the seventh overall pick out of West Virginia sustained a stress fracture in his shin during OTAs, and suffered a setback to that injury last week.The bad news: White will undergo surgery and miss at least the first six regular-season games.It gets worse: There’s a chance White won’t play at all this season. Interestingly, as recently as Friday White sounded like he was ready to get back on the field. “If it was up to me, I would be out there. I want to be practicing tomorrow, But it’s not my call. I’ve got to follow the rules. I feel I can play. But you’ve got to look at the coaches, trainers and if they say, ‘Kevin, give it another week, that’s what I have to do. Hopefully we’ll get some good news and hopefully I’ll be back out there very soon.” Unfortunately for Cutler and the Bears, “give it another week” has turned into something much longer than that. And with Marshall now on the Jets, Cutler will again lean heavily on Jeffery and hope that some combination of Eddie Royal, Marquess Wilson and Josh Bellamy can pick up the slack. Of course, there’s also tight end Martellus Bennett, and perhaps most importantly, running back Matt Forte, who’s eager to get back to “smashmouth” football. “When you run the ball, it’s more like an attack feeling,” Forte said last week. “They like smashmouth football, where you can bloody somebody’s nose and run and hit people. And then as a running back, you can get rhythm and kind of wear on defenses and wear them down, where that pass rush will be a lot less harder in the fourth quarter.” It also means that the offense isn’t reliant on Cutler heaving the ball all over the yard 40 times a game. “Anybody who has watched film from last year or anybody who is a smart coach knows that we can’t, especially being in Chicago, just throw the ball every down,” Forte continued. “We have to be balanced.” And that point becomes even more important with White now on the shelf. Even if White is able to return after 6 games, consider that he’s missed the entire Pre Season, and Rookies usually don’t contribute with no participation in Training Camp.

It proves nothing, but Bears backups pull past Miami’s scrubs 27-10.

It’s just the first Exhibition game, yet a Soldier Field actual crowd which was about half full saw the Bears reserves beat up Miami’s backups.Ryan Tannehill picked apart a rebuilt defense, throwing for a touchdown on the game’s opening drive, and the Miami Dolphins led into the second half before the Bears rallied for a 27-10 victory in the preseason opener Thursday night.The Bears used two interceptions by reserves to set up a touchdown and field goal that gave them a 10-point lead early in the fourth quarter.The rally aside, it was not a promising performance by a team coming off a five-win season. The Bears hired general manager Ryan Pace and coach John Fox while overhauling the defense, but there clearly is work to do.Miami, 8-8 last season, looked good until Bears reserves made their move.Tannehill, armed with a $96 million contract extension, played like a big-money quarterback, going 6 of 7 for 56 yards. He threw a 2-yard touchdown to Jarvis Landry to finish an 85-yard drive and called it a night.Prized free-agent signing Ndamukong Suh did little, but a defense the Dolphins believe can dominate sure looked the part.The first-teamers shut down Jay Cutler and the rest of the Bears’ starters on the first possession. The Bears started moving on its second drive, which ended with a 48-yard field goal by Robbie Gould against a mix of mostly Miami reserves.Cutler played two possessions and threw for 42 yards, going 4 of 7. He did not commit a turnover after leading the league with 24 last season.Jimmy Clausen played until the closing minutes and was 17 of 27 for 151 yards. Jacquizz Rodgers started in place of Matt Forte and ran for 33 yards on seven carries. Ka’Deem Carey scored on a 1-yard run late in the third period that gave the Bears a 17-10 lead and finished with 34 yards rushing. Senorise Perry ran for a 54-yard TD late in the game.A defense that ranked among the worst in franchise history the past two years gave no indication a quick turnaround is coming. The Bears, switching from a 4-3 to 3-4 scheme under Fox and new coordinator Vic Fangio, quickly fell behind.The Dolphins overcame two holding penalties and burned 8:01 on that opening touchdown drive. Tannehill was nearly intercepted deep in Bears territory by Jared Allen, who reached out and knocked down a pass. But Landry’s TD gave Miami the lead.

NOTES—The Bears have two road games, a week from Saturday night at Indianapolis, and the following Saturday at Cincinnati. They then close the Pre Season out at homer against Cleveland….The first half was SO BORING that those who did not leave after the second quarter, seemed to enjoy the frisbee catching dogs on the field at halftime, more than the game itself.

Chicago gets NFL Draft again in 2016

The 2015 draft was a resounding success in Chicago. (Instagram/ItsMikeyTime1)

The 2015 draft was a resounding success in Chicago. (Instagram/ItsMikeyTime1)
Image result for nfl draft logo

SCHAUMBURG—The 2015 NFL Draft was held in Chicago and apparently the league was happy with the results because, the Windy City will host the draft in 2016 too. Mayor Rahm Emanuel and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell made the announcement Tuesday during a joint press conference.New York had hosted the draft since 1965, with Radio City Music Hall serving as the venue from 2006-2014. The NFL and the Big Apple parted ways and the search for a new host city was underway. Like most things NFL-related, there was a huge demand. Last July, Goodell said 12 cities were interested, and the list was whittled down to Chicago and Los Angeles, with Chicago winning out.From the outset, the plan was to make the entire experience — not just the first round — an “event.”

“We’re talking about different concepts, primarily how to strengthen the last day and whether we should maybe push that back to the clubs a little bit more and allow the clubs to have a little bit more freedom as more of a club day,” Goodell said last summer. “Maybe they would announce the picks from there. We’re looking at everything under the sun, because there’s a great interest in it and we want to do something that’s more responsive to our fans.”

Mission accomplished, and then some. CBSSports.com’s John Breech, who was in Chicago for the festivities, wrote that, “Turning the draft into a three-day festival might end up going down as the best decision the NFL has made since legalizing the forward pass.”

Which probably made it pretty easy to bring the draft back for one more year.