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January.“I know many of us were itching to get back

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 13, 2019 7:59 am    Post subject: January.“I know many of us were itching to get back Reply with quote

LAKE FOREST , Ill. (AP) — General manager Ryan Pace understands the idea that the Chicago Bears need to draft a running back.He’s just not necessarily buying it.Pace doesn’t see too many big holes on the roster with the draft starting Thursday after Chicago made a worst-to-first jump last season. The Bears don’t pick until the third round — at No. 87 — so it could be quiet for them in the early going.“I kind of know what the narrative is out there, but we feel fortunate with our roster right now,” Pace said Tuesday.“This press conference feels a little different in that there’s no pressing, huge needs. We can honestly select the best players. That’s a great spot to be in.”The Bears traded their first-round selection to Oakland in the blockbuster deal for Khalil Mack just before the start of last season. And they sent their second-rounder to New England when they traded up in last year’s draft to get receiver Anthony Miller.Pace has no regrets about those deals, particularly the trade for Mack. And when Oakland picks in Chicago’s place at No. 24?“When our pick comes up, Khalil Mack highlights will come on instantly (in the draft room), so that’s the first thing that will happen,” Pace said in jest.“But it’s still going to be a professional draft room. It’s fascinating to watch it unfold. There’ll be a lot of friends around the league. We’ll see how it all goes down.”The Bears are in a far better position than they were a year ago, after winning the NFC North at 12-4 in coach Matt Nagy’s first season. Chicago ended a run of four straight last-place finishes and made the playoffs for the first time since the 2010 season.The Bears are loaded with a defense that ranked among the NFL’s best last season and are counting on an offense led by quarterback Mitchell Trubisky to make a jump in its second season in Nagy’s system. But they’re also short on trade assets, with just five picks in this year’s draft and no obvious candidates to be dealt on the roster.The Bears already traded one when they sent Jordan Howard to Philadelphia last month, opening up a spot at running back.“I think there’s probably always a story line with every draft,” Pace said. “I understand why it’s that way, but I don’t feel like we go into this draft saying, ‘Man, we have to take this position or we’re in trouble.’ We’re in good shape.”Howard struggled to fit in a system that favors pass-catching running backs and wound up with career lows in yards rushing (935) and attempts (250) in his third season.Even so, he had more combined carries than Tarik Cohen, Mike Davis, Taquan Mizzell Sr. and Ryan Nall — the running backs currently on Chicago’s roster.But Pace insisted the Bears “feel good” about who they have.He can envision Davis playing a bigger role after carrying 112 times for 514 yards with Seattle last season. He sees two-time Pro Bowl kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson chipping in as a receiver and ball carrier after signing a two-year deal. And he dismisses the idea that the Bears could have gotten more for Howard than a conditional sixth-round pick next year.“I think there’s always a narrative out there , ‘Oh, you could get this,'” Pace said. “This is the reality. You know what I mean? We work those channels all the time. We’re doing them right now. That’s the reality of what it is. We feel good about it. We feel good moving forward. Again, we feel really good about that room and we wish Jordan the best.”The other big issue for the Bears is at kicker.Chicago released Cody Parkey in the wake of a double-doink miss off the upright and crossbar in the closing seconds of the wild-card loss to Philadelphia at Soldier Field and a “Today” show appearance a few days later that did not sit well with the team’s hierarchy.The three kickers on the roster — Redford Jones, Chris Blewitt and Elliott Fry — don’t have NFL experience. But Pace is certainly open to the idea of drafting another one.“It just depends on where you have the kicker graded,” he said. “If he’s graded at that value and we get to that place in the draft and that (name) is sticking up there that high, I think you have to explore it.” GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — New Packers coach Matt LaFleur had a long to-do list even before his players arrived for the start of offseason workouts this week.The drama that started in Green Bay with the December firing of coach Mike McCarthy has bubbled into the spring, with McCarthy ripping the front office for how it handled his dismissal, and star quarterback Aaron Rodgers defending himself after coming under fire over his performance and leadership.Enveloped by controversies that predated his arrival in January, LaFleur faces the challenge of turning around a franchise that reached the playoffs eight consecutive seasons — including one Super Bowl victory and two more appearances in conference championship games — before having back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since the early 1990s.It’s going to take more than a fresh coat of paint down the hallway that leads from the locker room to the field and reassigned seats in the team meeting room to get the Packers back into championship contention.“We had a standard here of going to the playoffs every single year,” Rodgers said Wednesday. “We did that eight years in a row and we were competitive and in the mix, and then the last couple of years, obviously, have been frustrating to finish.“I think we’re in a good spot. I think there isn’t a grace period. This isn’t like other transitions where you maybe give a pass for the first year or two as you get acclimated to the system. We have a veteran quarterback, veteran offensive linemen, we signed some big free agents. There’s an expectation living and playing here that you’re going to compete for championships, and I think we all expect to do that.”Rodgers and LaFleur will be at the center of reaching those expectations. Rodgers Devin Bush Jersey , 35, played through a serious knee injury to start all 16 games last season, but endured one of his worst years of his career. LaFleur, 39, will be tasked with getting Rodgers back to his two-time MVP form and changing the culture of a team that had hit hard times during the final two seasons of McCarthy’s 13-year tenure.After running McCarthy’s offense throughout his first 11 seasons as starting quarterback, Rodgers is getting his first taste of what LaFleur wants to do. At the scouting combine in February, LaFleur said offensive success required a “partnership” between himself and Rodgers.“Matt’s whole idea,” said Rodgers’ No. 1 target, receiver Davante Adams, “he’s really open and receptive to how Aaron and I want to attack this season and how we feel moving forward, bringing certain things from the past that we liked, and just having an open mind, which is a great thing when you’re coming in trying to get a team to buy in.”A new coach and new playbook aren’t the only big changes. Two longtime stalwarts, receiver Randall Cobb and linebacker Clay Matthews, departed in free agency. Meanwhile, they added outside linebackers Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith, safety Adrian Amos and offensive lineman Billy Turner in free agency. A pair of first-round picks will infuse more talent.“Change, it can be really good if you embrace it ,” Rodgers said.Echoing what LaFleur has said, Rodgers added the play caller/quarterback relationship will be critical to reversing the team’s fortunes. Rodgers talked to one of LaFleur’s former pupils, a Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, to get a gauge on his new boss.Impressed by what he heard, and with his injured knee healed, Rodgers was eager to get to Green Bay to start fostering that relationship and to shake off the sting of last season’s 6-9-1 debacle.“Having that much time off was different,” said Rodgers, who had grown accustomed to playing into January.“I know many of us were itching to get back here and get started. Anytime you’ve gone through a stretch like we went through where everything was very similar — similar faces, there might be some changes, similar plays, similar environment you’re working in — you get used to that and accustomed that.“When things change, it kind of jogs the system a little bit. It’s exciting, though, to see the energy and the excitement. It’s usually like this the first week, but I feel good about the potential to sustain this type of energy as we move into it later this month and get into the minicamp. And then obviously we have a number of high picks, so there should be a lot of excitement with our fan base. There is definitely in the locker room. It’s been a good start to the change.”
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