In case you missed my late afternoon bullets from yesterday (I’ll forgive you) Alshon Jeffery is going to the Pro Bowl in place of Calvin Johnson. Another in a long series of events that will hopefully remove “Alshon Jeffries” from the broadcasting lexicon. (Things did get better at the end of the year on that front; how much credit should we get for that here at BN Bears? I say a lot.) I also had the second in my series of positional review posts, focusing on Devin Hester’s renaissance season.
I’ll continue that series this afternoon, with part 1 of my look at the defensive ends. For now, though, your bullets:
- Kevin Fishbain of HubArkush.com took a look at the Bears discipline with regards to committing penalties. The news is mostly good, as they committed 98 infractions, their fewest since 2008. They finished with the seventh-lowest total of enforced penalties. Overall good news, but as Phil Emery noted in his postseason press conference, the Bears did struggle with regards to special teams penalties, committing 18. On Wednesday I touched on how Dave Toub’s departure affected the Bears, and this is another area in which his loss is felt.
- Friend of the blog Matt Eurich writes for Chicago Now’s Bears Huddle blog, as well as Bleacher Report, and I enjoyed his look at ways the Bears could improve their defensive line. He favors re-signing Henry Melton and Jeremiah Ratliff, as well as targeting one of the more interesting names in free agency. (It’s a Bleacher Report slideshow, but those have lost a lot of their original negative connotations for me. But regardless of your opinions of the medium, Matt’s work specifically is well done.)
- Speaking of quality Bleacher Report pieces, Matt Bowen breaks down this weekend’s playoff games with his usual X’s and O’s bent. There’s no Chicago talk here, sadly, as I always enjoy his analysis of the Bears. But if you want to dig into some high-level stuff to get ready for the weekend, I’d very much recommend it.
- And one of my other favorite football columnists, Grantland’s Bill Barnwell, has his in-depth preview of this weekend. I’m over my Bears-malaise and back into “excited for football” mode, so it’s depressing to think that there are only three weekends left with meaningful games. So I’m vowing to enjoy the playoffs. This week’s enticing matchups certainly help.
- It’s a bit old, but I just saw this on ESPN.com: Kyle Long made Mel Kiper’s All-Rookie team. It’s an interesting piece, but it’s Insider only. This is what he had to say about Kyle: “Had his struggles early, particularly with pass protection, but continued to get better. A solid year overall.” I don’t disagree with that assessment. Considering he was supposed to be a reach (indeed, Kiper himself wasn’t a fan of the pick) the fact that he was such a strong contributor as a rookie is a very pleasant surprise.
- Wrestling legend Ric Flair is somehow playing a serious role in the buildup to the 49ers-Panthers game. (Wooo?)
- The finalists for the 2014 Pro Football Hall of Fame class were announced last night. No obvious Bears connections that I could spot, although I’m open to correction.
A bit later this morning, I’ll have a post on something Jerry Angelo said last night, and why it makes me very thankful for Phil Emery.
Finally, the rest of this post isn’t related. I’d understand if that’s an instant turnoff for you, and I wouldn’t begrudge you if you stopped reading. But one of the most powerful sports stories I’ve been following hit an uplifting turning point last night. Austin Hatch is a high school basketball player from Fort Wayne, Indiana. If you’re unfamiliar with his story, in the summer of 2011 he was in a small plane with his father and step-mother when it crashed in Michigan. His father (who’d been piloting the plane) and step-mother were both killed, and Austin was nearly killed as well, remaining in a coma for nearly a week.
That’s tragic enough, of course, but it gets worse: that crash was actually the second accident Austin had lived through; in 2003, his mother and both of his siblings were killed in a separate crash that Austin and his father survived. (His father was the pilot in that accident as well.) Prior to the 2011 crash Austin had accepted a basketball scholarship from the University of Michigan, and though his ability to play basketball again was very much in question, UM had said they’d honor the scholarship even if he was unable to recover to the point of playing.
Last night, as Matt Norlander writes for CBS Sports, Hatch returned to the high school court and recorded his first basket since the accident. He lives in California now, having moved there to live with an uncle. He’s going to Michigan next year, and he’ll be a part of the basketball team. That link has an embedded Instagram video of the made basket; the crowd explodes, and his teammates were so happy for him they stormed the floor following the shot, despite the fact that the game wasn’t over. (They received a technical foul.) I lived in Fort Wayne for awhile, including the summer of 2011, so I’ve followed this story from the beginning. The incredible amount of tragedy involved makes it hard to call this uplifting, but I’m very happy for Austin’s recovery, and I thought some of you might find it interesting as well.