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• ICYMI: Allen Robinson and the Bears have resumed contract talks. There’s even hope the two sides can get a deal done before Week 2 kicks off.
• There’s a running joke in my inner circle about how Bears news tends to happen when I’m out doing fun things. We’ve had good laughs about how Kyle Long’s retirement, the decline of Mitchell Trubisky’s fifth-year option, and the announcement of the QB derby’s winner came while I was cooking. And I don’t know if you guys and gals are big into cooking, but you know one simply cannot leave a stovetop or grill unattended. With that in mind, I’m going to make plans to be unavailable later today in hopes a deal gets done. Why I haven’t tried this earlier is beyond me. But maybe that’s all the two sides need to get something done.
• And to make things all the more interesting, the Bears are simultaneously working on a Tarik Cohen extension. And why not? If Chicago’s offense is working as planned, Cohen is a high-functioning piece in the system. We’ve seen him play the role of running back, slot receiver, pass-catcher out of the backfield, Wildcat QB, and I could go on. A renewed focus on the running game (and a true commitment to making it work) could make Cohen that much more valuable. Besides, shouldn’t the Bears look to reward players they drafted and developed? Getting an extension with Cohen sends good signs to the locker room that hard work will be rewarded.
• Also, in case you missed the memo, Cohen is a power back now. “I gotta show the world that I’m a big back,” Cohen said, via the Bears’ official website. “A short-down, short-distance back. Goal-line type of back. … That’s really my type of game. I’m a bruising back. Y’all think of me as a shifty back. But in my heart, in my heart of hearts, I’m a power back.”
• Cohen might be onto something. According to Pro Football Focus’ data, Cohen averaged 5.67 yards per carry on power runs. Maybe the Bears will use math to fix what was a broken running game last year. Can’t hurt … could help!
• On the other side of the coin, Giants running back Saquon Barkley has beef with a former standout Big Apple back. After the Giants’ Week 1 loss to the Steelers, Tiki Barber dropped some barbs in Barkley’s direction:
Tiki Barber: “Saquon Barkley, he might not be an every down back. He cannot pass protect… If you’ve watched him… he doesn’t want to block… He doesn't want to hit anybody. He's a great back but he's frustrating to watch trying to pass protect" #Giants pic.twitter.com/fTRKJqly2C
— Pat Leonard (@PLeonardNYDN) September 16, 2020
• Meanwhile, Barkley is set to turn that criticism into something to fuel his fire. “Obviously, Tiki is a legend. Done a lot of great things for this franchise,” Barkley said, via ESPN. “So I’m not going to look at it as disrespect. I’m going to look at it as a challenge.” Ugh! Couldn’t Barber wait another week to inspire Barkley? The Steelers limited Barkley to 6 yards on 15 carries. And while Barkley tacked on 60 receiving yards on six catches, it was an underwhelming performance by the third-year back.
• From one set of drama to another:
— Sean Hammond (@sean_hammond) September 18, 2020
• Bears Chairman George McCaskey and President Ted Phillips have previously expressed optimism that Soldier Field will host games with fans this year. More recently, Mayor Lori Lightfoot seems to think no games will be played in front of fans this year. That the Bears released the statement above makes me think the two sides are playing political football for show while actual football things are being impacted. This isn’t the first time a Chicago mayor has openly tussled with the Bears. And I can’t imagine it will be the last. In any case, this situation is worth monitoring.
• A glimpse of what it might look like with fans:
• An updated Big Ten schedule is out:
The Big Ten Conference announced today the schedule for the 2020 football season, including an eight-game Conference-only schedule starting the weekend of October 24 plus a ninth game for all 14 teams during a newly created Big Ten Champions Week the weekend of December 19. pic.twitter.com/jaDXMhh2C8
— Big Ten Conference (@bigten) September 19, 2020
• In other college football news, Rashad Milligan of the Mississippi Clarion-Ledger reports Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders will become the next head coach at Jackson State. This is a significant step for Sanders to coach one of the largest HBCUs in the country. And that the school has Hall of Fame football players such as Walter Payton, Jackie Slater, Lem Barney, and Robert Brazile adds to the prestige. Good luck, Prime Time!