Due to a weird combination of warm temperatures, rain, and a thick layer of melting snow, my commute home last night was extended to twice its normal length due to some of the most intense fog I’ve ever had to navigate. Is it a coincidence that this phenomenon Bears are playing the Eagles tomorrow night, 25 years after the Fog Bowl? Yes, probably. But that wouldn’t allow me to have this nifty lead-in paragraph that ties everything together.
- According to Marc Trestman (as relayed by Larry Mayer of ChicagoBears.com), Lance Briggs has been cleared to play by the Bears medical staff, and he will be listed as questionable to against the Eagles Sunday night. Apparently Briggs will go through a workout on Sunday, and if he feels good about the results and how his body reacts, he should be good to go. I personally think that barring a setback, Briggs will give it a shot on Sunday. NFL players are conditioned to think that way, and I think Briggs is a pretty tough guy; if he can help the team, it seems likely he’ll try. But that’s just reading the tea leaves. It’s not like Lance and I chat all the time.
- The Packers injury news was not so positive (for their sake): Aaron Rodgers did not receive medical clearance to return for Sunday’s game against Pittsburgh. This piece from ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky goes into further detail, and some of Mike McCarthy’s terminology interests me. He refers to the fact that Rodgers wasn’t cleared as having been an “organizational decision”, which I don’t quite understand; if he’s not healthy enough to be cleared by the doctors, what is there to decide? Is he implying that if this was a playoff game, the doctors would have a different opinion as to his fitness? I’m not sure I follow. In any case, this is good news for the Bears; a Packers loss and a Bears win eliminates the Packers from the playoff race, which I’m guessing would make Green Bay’s “organizational decision” for Week 17 even easier. Why risk a potentially serious re-injury when the upside is winning a meaningless regular season game? And to put my Bear-colored glasses on for a second, I would much rather the Bears have to face Matt Flynn in a “win and get in” scenario.
- Phil Emery went on with ESPN 1000’s Waddle & Silvy program (podcast version available here), and he had some interesting things to say about the present and future of the Bears organization. ESPN Chicago’s Jeff Dickerson brings us this piece, which discusses Emery’s comments on his potential use of the franchise tag on Jay Cutler. As we talked about way back in my first week (all of three weeks ago) Emery mentioned that having a quarterback play a season on a one-year franchise tag salary is not conducive to building a winning team, due to the unwieldy nature of the inherent salary cap hit. As I mentioned then, I thought Emery was alluding to the idea that if the Bears do franchise Cutler, it’s with an eye on ironing out a long-term contract to keep him in Chicago. But many, many other people took his comment to mean that he wouldn’t be franchising Cutler regardless, or at the very least that he was reluctant to do so. In yesterday’s interview, Emery disagreed with that assessment of his remarks, saying:
“‘I didn’t say that I would rule it out,’ Emery told ESPN 1000’s ‘Waddle and Silvy Show’. ‘I said it’s not the first thing we would think about in signing players that we like. If you put a franchise tag on a player, that’s a player that you like. We like Jay. If you like a player, you want to move forward in a multi-contract year basis, not a short term.'”
He later mentioned that he thinks of Cutler as a franchise quarterback. Unless this is one heck of a bluff from Phil Emery, I tend to believe that we’re seeing some early signs that Cutler will remain a Bear, barring some sort of unforeseen contract squabble. As I noted in this post, it just seems like it would be the best for all parties if Cutler remained a Bear for the next few seasons. But I’ve said all along that using the franchise tag to create some leverage and to keep Cutler off of the open market would seem to make the most sense. As Jeff notes in his report, Emery franchised Matt Forte before reaching a long-term agreement. If I were betting, I’d say we see something similar this offseason. (And I think Cutler re-signing without being franchised is more likely than the Bears letting him walk away. I just couldn’t see the logic in that move.)
- Emery also touched on the future of Jon Bostic. (Again, thanks to Jeff Dickerson for the recap.) The rookie second-rounder has been thrust into a much bigger role than the Bears had anticipated for him; they signed D.J. Williams and Joe Anderson for a reason, after all. But injuries have forced Bostic’s snap count way, way up, and things haven’t always gone well. He’s a physical freak, of course, and there’s no doubt he belongs on an NFL field. But he’s been shaky in coverage, which is key for the MLB position (especially with the evolution of the tight end position), and Emery himself noted that Bostic’s future might be as an outside linebacker.
“He’s definitely had some problems this fall or fitting in terms of his gap responsibility at times. All the things that he is seeing now at the speed he’s seeing them are new to him. So that’s the normal rookie adjustment. He’s at middle linebacker; maybe in the future his best position might be at one of those outside spots where he is filling from the backside and able to use his unique talents to the best of his ability.”
I could certainly see that. Moving him to a position that would allow him to be more instinctual might help him make more of an impact. I’m imagining him delivering hits like this one as an outside linebacker; that’s sort of the role Lance Briggs has always played.
That’s all for this morning. A friendly reminder that you’re welcome to ignore: my interactive Twitter contest in which you can decide that I start Jay Cutler in my fantasy football championship game is ongoing. If I get to 2,000 followers by 1 P.M. Sunday, I’ll start Cutler over Nick Foles, and be fully on board with all of you as the Bears take on the Eagles; no pesky rooting conflicts at that point. But if I get somewhat close, I might cave in anyway; I’m charmed by the support you folks have given me. You’re great.