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The Chicago Bears gave members of the media a sneak peek at their recently renovated training facility in Lake Forest, Illinois. This is is the second major expansion of Halas Hall since the team moved to it’s present location in 1997.
This new complex is easily four times the size of the original building. This expansion added 162,000 square feet to the 142,000 that were completed in 2013.
The first thing players see when entering the building is a decorative hallway featuring all fourteen of the Bears’ retired numbers, wall/ceiling lights that illuminate as players enter, and music capabilities leading up to a video wall comprised of nine screens.
Virtually every aspect of the facility has doubled in size, from the coaches offices to the player meeting rooms, draft room, lounges, dining areas, and weight room. The sports medicine space is four times as big as the original area, and features two hydrotherapy pools, two plunge pools, a float pod, sauna and steam room. Now there is a 13,000-square-foot indoor turf space adjacent to the position meeting rooms. If a coach has a brainstorm, the players can literally try it out, steps away, all indoors.
The renovation and expansion of Halas Hall have created a first-class facility that provides a daily reminder and motivation to help us work towards the goal of being a championship team. This upgrade furthers the continued support from the McCaskey family and their commitment to attract, develop and retain the most talented roster possible both on and off the field.Chicago Bears General Manager Ryan Pace
Hungry Bears? No more. The team and staff café more than doubled to over 7,600 square feet, including the dining area and kitchen space. The café features the “Bearista” coffee bar, a smoothie/juice bar, standalone soup and salad bar, daily live action station and hot food, sandwich and dessert bars. Next to the café is the “Sideline,” which provides additional seating and lounge space. Atop the expansion is a 4,200-square-foot rooftop dining area and garden from which the café will source herbs.
The workout space boasts an amazing array of weight training equipment. No more taking turns, or waiting in line. The locker room is much larger, roomier. This is quite an impressive facility now.
The project broke ground in March 2018. HOK was the design firm, Mortenson Construction was the general contractor and Corporate Concepts provided the furniture. All photos are by SRN Broadcasting, except as noted.
The Big Ten Football Media Days in Chicago kicked off the grind of the college football season, a chance for players and coaches to reflect on “what could be,” in the final days of the offseason. While the football season doesn’t officially kick off until the end of August, this is where players start to finish up their offseason training and coaches get closer to naming their starters.
The Big Ten has not seen a team be named to the college football playoff since the 2016 season. Perhaps for the first time in several years, Ohio State may not the conference favorite, and Jim Delany gets set to embark on his final season as Big Ten Commissioner, a role he has held since 1989.
At the recent Big Ten football days, several prominent coaches spoke to the media and addressed their team’s outlook for the upcoming season. This includes new faces, such as Ryan Day at Ohio State, who’s taking over for Urban Meyer. This summer, Meyer has had to dodge speculation that he will resurface at Southern Cal.
Ryan Day: In what is usually considered a well-oiled machine, Ohio State enters the season with the most uncertainty they’ve had in years. Many pundits feel that Michigan should be the Big Ten favorite this year, so Ryan Day has a lot to prove in his first season as Urban Meyer’s successor.
Dwayne Haskins is moving on to the NFL, and Day has yet to name Josh Fields as the starting quarterback. “One of our core philosophies is you don’t just get given a starting position, you have to earn everything around here, and he hasn’t done that,” Day said. “The hard thing for everybody to realize is he’s coming off the heels of Dwayne Haskins.” Despite this, the expectations at Ohio State remain to the same, and so does the philosophy. Day made it abundantly clear that plans on keeping the Buckeyes moving in the same direction as the team under Meyer.
Jim Harbaugh: 2019 could prove to be a make it or break it year for Jim Harbaugh. Blessed with talented recruiting classes in his four years as head coach, Harbaugh still hasn’t been able to put it all together and eclipse rival Ohio State.
Harbaugh recently made a comment on a podcast regarding former Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer, stating that “controversy follows everywhere he’s been.” Some reporters at the Big Ten Media Days felt that this could be a deflection strategy for his inability to surpass Ohio State, but Harbaugh vehemently denied those accusations, particularly with one reporter who made an animal analogy to suggest that Harbaugh was stirring the pot.
It was just me giving my opinion. I’m not into making animal analogies, so the poking the bear thing doesn’t resonate– Jim Harbaugh
As far as the talent on the field, Harbaugh expressed his satisfaction with the depth that he has to work with this year, mentioning that he has a greater ability to take some of the burden off of incoming freshman in 2019.
Quarterbacks Shea Patterson and Dylan McCaffrey complement each other well, according to Harbaugh, as Michigan boasts one of the best quarterback situations in the country in 2019.
Pat Fitzgerald: Northwestern is coming off of one of their best seasons in recent program history, winning the Big Ten West with an 8-1 conference record before losing to Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship game.
Despite winning bowl games in the last three seasons, Northwestern is largely overlooked in a conference with more popular teams and big-name players.
We’re not great click-bait I guess, picking us first isn’t real sexy. We’ll just earn it.Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald
Four year starter Clayton Thorson is gone, so Northwestern has a lot on their plate, simply ensuring their next starter can be just as successful. Hunter Johnson, a transfer from Clemson and former 5-star recruit seems like the logical choice, although Fitzgerald has yet to name him as the starter.
In order to repeat as Big Ten West champions, Northwestern will need to rely heavily on their defense yet again, with Senior Joe Gaziano and Junior Paddy Fisher leading the way.
Mark Dantonio: It wasn’t long ago that Michigan State was considered one of the best teams in the nation, having qualified for the 2015 College Football Playoff. Last year’s 7-6 record was especially disappointing, and it looks like Mark Dantonio’s best days as head coach could be behind him.
The Spartans defense has remained elite, while the offense sputtered in 2018, ranking 125th out of 129 in scoring offense at 18.7 points per game.
If Michigan State is going to challenge Michigan and Ohio State at the top of the Big Ten East, major changes are needed on the offensive side of the ball. Quarterback Brian Lewerke needs to stay healthy in order to have a bounce back campaign in a revamped offense. Dantonio says that the team will return nine starters back on offense, which conceivably will help with chemistry as the offense eyes a turnaround.
Paul Chryst: The Wisconsin Badgers are looking to rebound from a disappointing 2018 campaign where they finished with an 8-5 record and second place in the Big Ten West. The Badgers faced more intense pressure after winning a program-best 13 games and the Orange Bowl in 2017.
They haven’t been receiving as much attention this offseason. Still, Wisconsin will be primed to contend for the Big Ten West, as they look to reestablish their footing atop that division. However, they will face a particularly tough schedule featuring five teams who will be coming off their bye weeks.
I think you have to take it week to week. That’s when you as a team are at your best, if you can be in a moment and make the best out of that moment.Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst
Arguably the best running back in the country, Junior Jonathan Taylor will be leaned upon just as much in 2019. However, Wisconsin will have to adjust to a new quarterback, as Junior Jack Coan is battling redshirt freshman Chase Wolf and Graham Mertz for the starting job.
James Franklin: Penn State is another perennial contender that will have to face a quarterback transition for the 2019 season. Sean Clifford and Will Levis have become the likely contenders for the job, since Tommy Stevens transferred in July. Clifford is the only one with in-game experience.
Penn State took a bit of a step back in 2018, after back-to-back 11 win seasons in 2016 and 2017. The Nittany Lions, finished with a 9-4 record after losing in the Citrus Bowl. Despite the changes for an overall young team, Penn State is still very much in the mix in the Big Ten East in 2019 thanks to strong returning talent on both sides of the ball. The leading receiver a year ago, redshirt sophomore KJ Hamler’s presence will be key on offense for a team that will be using an inexperienced quarterback.
Our Predictions: Each side of the conference has multiple realistic contenders in 2019, with the west being much more wide open than the east. We feel that Michigan will finally surpass Ohio State in the east and Wisconsin will re-emerge at the top of the west. Michigan will beat Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game.
The two major takeaways from the Chicago Bears first preseason game of 2019 were the performances of David Montgomery and kicker Elliott Fry.
Montgomery, the team’s third round draft pick from Iowa State had three runs, including a touchdown and three receptions.
Just being able to be out there with the guys is the most important thing for me. Being able to get comfortable out there on the field and get acclimated to the NFL.-David Montgomery
Coach Matt Nagy discussed his rookie runner’s progress, “No, it’s been steady and just completely in one direction. OTAs (offseason training activities) was a lot of pass game, so he got good at that, and then we get to training camp and we get to put the pads on and we can see what can he digest. You can see his arrow is up. He wanted more carries. I would have loved to give him more carries, but you have to be smart.”
Another player who’s stock may have risen as a result of this game was undrafted free agent tight end Ian Bunting from Cal. His 45-yard catch and run set up a 43-yard field goal as time was expiring in the first half. Nagy was asked about Bunting brings to the offense. “His size. He’s a big kid. He’s super smart. He’s really smart. He has big hands. A lot of times when people are big hands, they’re a natural catcher. He’s a natural pass catcher. This is just a really good opportunity for him to see how much can he digest in this playbook, and when the plays come to him and he gets a chance to make a play, does he make it. He did a good job with that. He executed everything we asked him to do and it was productive for him.”
Thursday evening. Fry won the kicker battle against Eddy Pineiro, who missed a 48-yarder wide left on the previous possession. “I thought it was awesome,” said Fry. “It was really fun. Obviously I’ve never played at this level before, so it was fun to get back out there.” He didn’t even realize the significance of his kick was the same distance and end zone as Cody Parkey missed field goal to end the 2018 season until it was brought to his attention after the game.
The number’s been ingrained into my memory. But I’m not out there thinking about Cody’s kick. I’m not thinking about anything like that. I’m just going in and focusing on making it. You really tune out the fans. The fans are yelling all game, so you’re not tuned in.-Elliott Fry
Perhaps if neither kicker impresses the coaching staff, the team should look no further than Joey Slye, who is challenging Panther’s place kicker Graham Gano. Slye converted a 55-yard attempt early in the game, that could easily have been good from sixty yards out.
Several of the starters, including Mitch Trubisky were in for a series or less. As Nagy explained, “That’s what I was telling him earlier here, is that it’s mentally preparing himself. There were other guys that just played a few plays. I think it’s so important for some guys, and it could be good for Mitch, too, that’s why I did it, was to just stay mentally prepared, pregame warm-ups, before the game, the pat and go, getting underneath the lights, taking snaps from center, and even though it was just a couple of hand-offs, I feel like just that part is good for him.”
Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano’s defense played well against the run, but looked a little suspect on passing plays. That will need to be tightened up before the season begins.
Dave and Steve are joined by Jeff Rich to discuss the start of training camps for the 2019 season NFL. We talk Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, and Arizona Cardinals, and more. Also covered are updates on the Chicago White Sox, Chicago Cubs, and Milwaukee Brewers.
Featuring audio from Packer GM Brian Gutekunst, coach Matt LaFleur, along with Chicago Bears players Khalil Mack, Tarik Cohen, and Mitch Trubisky. Don’t miss cameos from Chris Berman and Bob Uecker.
The 2019 NFL season in Chicago gets underway in earnest as Bears players began arriving at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois.
Mitch Trubisky is looking ahead at 2019, but mindful of how 2018 ended. “We want to pick back up where we left off. At the same time we didn’t accomplish what we did last year because we were worried about expectations. Nobody expected us to do what we did last year. Now it’s flipped where there’s all these expectations. We have to do a good job of staying focused and blocking all that out, and doing exactly what we did last year to help us win those games. On top of that do even more, so we can accomplish more than we did last year. There’s a lot of work to be done.”
Tarik Cohen described his approach to this season, “We hold ourselves to a higher standard now. The older guys that have been here who watched us go from last place to winning the division, know what it takes to have that success, and to have that work pay off in the regular season coming out of camp, so we’re all going to put our best foot forward. Help everybody that’s new to the team. Help the rookies, so we can achieve a higher goal this year.”
Trubisky insists he hasn’t even shown his best stuff yet. He wants to get rid of mistakes and “continue to make those good plays and being a consistent overall quarterback. Doing the little things like working hard and being a good teammate, and taking care of my brothers.”
Khalil Mack stressed that success starts in training camp. “It starts with camaraderie, and the focus, determination, and the will to win, ultimately. One game at a time, one week at a time. It’s going to be a long season.”
One of the biggest hurdles the team faced last year, was learning coach Matt Nagy’s offense. Having that behind them is big plus for 2019. “It allows us to go further within the details. It allows us to watch more film and install, and talk about every other thing. It allows us to accomplish a lot more throughout meetings. We are also allowed to add more. We can teach the new guys. As a quarterback, you want to master every part of it, so if you know a play insid out, you can teach it to someone else, then when you are on the field, you’re not thinking about it, you’re just playing ball.”
@radiomogul tags: Chicago Bears, training camp, Mitch Trubisky, Tarik Cohen, Khalil Mack
UNC point guard Coby White is making his first long term foray outside of his home state. White didn’t have to go far from his Wilson, North Carolina home to join the Tar Heels. The city of nearly fifty thousand people was once a major center for tobacco cultivation. Now it’s better known for Interstate 95, a major north-south route along the eastern seaboard, and as the birthplace of Julius Peppers, another illustrious UNC alum.
On draft night, the Chicago Bulls made him the first Tar Heel first-rounder the team has selected since Michael Jordan, with the seventh pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Most mock drafts had him going to the Bulls, who finished the 2018-19 season with a paltry 22-60 record.
I felt a sense of relief for Coby because he was at a spot where people recognized what a great player he was for us. He was in serious consideration for the third, fourth, fifth and sixth picks before the Bulls took him at seven. Chicago wanted him from day one, so I am very pleased he went there. They are getting a fantastic player.– UNC coach Roy Williams
John Paxon stressed that, “the most important thing is that Coby White is a nineteen year-old young man, that’s going to get better. He’s just starting his career. Our job is develop him and help him develop into the best player he can be.” Paxon went on to state, “all of our background on him is that he is the type of young man that will take the challenge on. You have to play faster in today’s game. You have to get the ball up the floor. This young man can play an up tempo game. Jim (coach Boylen) has spoken often how we want to have multiple ball handlers. Guys who can take the ball off the board and push it up. Coby can run. He can shoot the ball. At North Carolina, he took on a leadership role with a lot of older guys. We feel he’s just a really good fit for us.”
He is spot on in that assessment. White led the break for one of the highest and quickest scoring teams in college basketball. Coby averaged a tad over 16 points per game, scoring almost 100 more total points than Michael Jordan did his freshman season.
Bulls coach Jim Boylan had high praise for his new draftee. “We loved his positional size. We loved his multi-position defender and multi-position ball handler. He can play on the ball. He can play off the ball. He can create. He can receive. Above all that, he looks you in the eye when you talk to him. He’s coachable.”
I love being here. I’m glad they drafted me. My goal is to win. I’m all about winning. All the individual awards, that’s gonna come. My main goal is to come in here and win.-Coby White
The slender guard was spoting a neatly trimmed beard, and his now trademark crazy hair. He wore a beige suit and white shirt with no tie. His voice is quiet but confident when he adderssed the media, family, friends, and Bulls employees at the press conference. “At this level,” he says, “you are going against great players every night. Being in the ACC helped. I was playing against great college point guards. Every night you had to come ready to compete. You had to show up every game. For me personally, the ACC was the toughest conference in the country. Playing in that conference helped me bring that competitive spirit, that heart, and that will to win.”
The guys are back to discuss the Toronto Raptors’ first ever NBA Championship, the St. Louis Blues and their seven-game Stanley Cup win over Boston, as well as talk of the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers offseason football. John also gives his thoughts on the Major League Baseball season. Lastly, Jeff Rich joins us to talk Cleveland Browns football and the upcoming NBA Draft. We also discuss the trade between the Lakers and Pelicans that sent Anthony Davis to Los Angeles for the fourth overall pick and three players.
Khalil Mack and Mitch Trubisky were the story this week.
Last year, head coach Matt Nagy had to learn his new players, and the Chicago Bears in turn had to absorb his offensive scheme. In 2019, it is all about building on the success of the previous season.
Nagy talked about Trubisky’s growth. “He’s learning this offense. But now what he’s trying to do, is master it. Last year he learned it. This year he’s trying to really master it. He’s done a wonderful job right now at trying to get to some of the adjustment s we have withing the plays and the concepts and the schemes.” Nagy intimated that we would see that come to fruition in training camp and preseason games. He added, “He’s watching tape. He’s leading meetings. He’s vocal in the meetings that we have. He’s understanding that when we teach this offense that there’s different levels to it.”
When asked about having Mack for the entire offseason, Nagy commented, “It’s amazing how much he affected everybody (last year.) Now that he’s here, you get to see that he’s does things by his actions. He continues to do that. He shows some of these younger kids who want to be leaders. There’s different ways to do it, by showing up every day. By making plays.”
Khalil has been looking forward to the camaraderie, and getting a deep understanding of the defense early on. Unlike last year where, “having a one and a half weeks before the season wasn’t enough time to prepare.” As typical of his approach last season he vowed to let his play do the talking.
“It’s feels really great out there,” says Trubisky. “It’s a lot of fun to be back in Chicago, with the boys playing football again. Everyone’s on the same page. Everyone knows what they’re doing. Being year two in this offense. It’s a lot of fun going through it. Having fun executing it.” The third year QB was asked about the new acquisitions. “We got a ton of weapons on offense. It’s a lot of fun for a quarterback. We got a lot of talent around me in free agents we signed, that came in here and learned the offense. They picked it up real quickly. We continue to add great guys that contribute to our culture.” He went on to confirm Allen Robinson’s assessment that the team was way ahead of last year. “Everyone knows what they’re doing. We don’t have to spend a lot of time going in depth on each play, because we know most of the details. We’re helping the new guys, the rookies.”
The Chicago Bears begun 2019 organized team activities on Tuesday, kicking off the team’s first edition of on-field work as a team. Other than the imminent possibility of injuries, OTAs serve as an introductory and refresher period. It is a time for install and little else.
Last year’s session of OTAs focused on the installation of Matt Nagy’s offense. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky and the rest of the team got their first look at Nagy’s playbook, and some of them got their first look at each other. Trubisky got his first reps with a then-revamped receiving corps of Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Trey Burton. This season, however, Trubisky has an established connection with his targets and a familiarity with Nagy’s system.
“Versus last year, which is all I have to compare it to,” Nagy said, “The speed of the plays, especially offensively, breaking the huddle, they know where they’re going. Now they just get to play football. They don’t think as much.”
“Mitch is in and out of the huddle, he sees the defense, and so from the time that we’ve been out here, it’s exciting. You stay cautiously optimistic that he’s going to take that really big jump, which, I’ve been saying that since I got here that it takes time. You see the vision from him within the huddle and at the line of scrimmage.”
The above quote on Trubisky was an unprompted comment, highlighting how great of an offseason storyline the third-year quarterback has been. As great as the Bears’ defense was last year, and likely will be this year, it will keep that “next step” that Nagy referred to for the Bears to break through their ceiling and into the Super Bowl.
Along with the familiarity that comes with the second year of a new system, changes have been made on the offensive side of the ball, namely that James Daniels and Cody Whitehair appear amidst a position switch and that swing tackle Bradley Sowell is switching to tight end.
“We’re going to try it out and see what he can do,” Nagy said of Sowell’s position switch. “It’s a position right there of that Y-tight end type spot that we could use some more depth, and Bradley has shown us the ability, not just off a two-point play or a touchdown play, but he’s shown it repetitively in practice that he has the athletic ability, the hands, he’s very smart, he knows how to block, all that stuff. So let’s test it out and see. And when I tell you he’s all in, he’s all in.”
You may recognize Sowell more for his appearance in Nagy’s funky plays that turn linemen into receivers, and you may recognize him specifically for this touchdown celebration:
However, Bradley Sowell’s position change signals a possible solution to the need for an in-line blocking tight end that Nagy refers to as the “Y.” Ideally, that role would go to Adam Shaheen, but durability and performance issues have necessitated depth. One of Nagy’s lynchpin philosophies is being as versatile as possible, and Sowell’s presence on the field may tell the defense a run is coming more than Shaheen’s presence. However, depth was needed at the spot and the in-house position change could be an answer to that need.
The other piece of big news was James Daniels and Cody Whitehair switching positions, sending Whitehair to guard and Daniels to center, where he played in college.
“That’s what we’re looking at,” Nagy said. “You know, we’re giving them a chance to look at it and see where it’s at. We feel comfortable with it”
The move was slightly clamored for last year in response to Whitehair struggling with snaps at times. But the chemistry between Trubisky and Whitehair was too important for the installation of the offense to be messed with. With the offense now familiar to Trubisky, existing quarterback-center chemistry is not as prioritized.
Whereas this year’s OTAs is a refresher for the offense, the defense will be introduced to a new coach and system in defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano.
Pagano, who was fired from the Indianapolis Colts’ head-coaching job is energized and excited to work with the league’s number one scoring defense from a year ago: “When what you have has been taken away from you, and now you have an opportunity to be back doing what you love, that’s coaching and being around great coaches and great players and guys that love ball, it’s really easy.”
Pagano has said in the past he won’t mess with a great thing in the Bears’ defense. Other than the language, the Bears’ defense will likely look similar to last year’s from a schematic standpoint. One of the anchors of that defense is second-year linebacker Roquan Smith, who led the team in tackles last year.
“You talk about football character and you talk about football IQ, we know the measurables, he’s one of the brightest, smartest guys I’ve been around for just a second-year player,” said Pagano, who coached Hall of Famer Ray Lewis in Baltimore.
The Bears drafted Smith with the eighth pick in 2018 with the hopes that he could be a dominant presence in the middle of the field for years to come, and so far, that seems like a wise investment. Smith had 121 tackles last year, despite missing all of training camp in a contract holdout. He now gets the experience of a full offseason without any contract stalemates, allowing maximum improvement.
“It feels great to be out here with my guys,” Smith said. “So I’m just focusing on getting better with the guys each and every day, so you can’t ask for more than that.”
OTAs are either the first taste of massive changes or a continuation of previous schemes and coaches. Fortunately for a still-growing Bears offense, they fall into the second category. The defense, with such stars Khalil Mack, Eddie Jackson and Smith, is good enough that new terminology won’t be a barrier in its success. The Bears’ mandatory minicamp takes place June 11th-13th. We’re still months away from the Week One kickoff against Green Bay, but the Bears are in a good position after OTAs.
Follow on Twitter: @crbevins11 @radiomogul
Hear audio from Matt Nagy, Chuck Pagano and Roquan Smith: