The Independent

Major League Contracts Reach All Time High

Major League Contracts Reach All Time High

April 23, 2013

  It is only three and a half months into the year and we have already seen many sports records broken. These records did not include touchdowns, point...

The NFL has Changed Their Heading

The NFL has Changed Their Heading

April 12, 2013

Change is a good thing, right? Ask a majority of former and current players in the NFL and they’ll probably disagree. After one rule cha...

So Long Brian

So Long Brian

April 12, 2013

For the first time since the 2000 season, the Chicago Bears will be without middle linebacker Brian Urlacher. Since winning Rookie of the Year in 2001, Urlacher...

Drafting Well Could Save the Bears

Drafting Well Could Save the Bears

March 6, 2013

  The Bears defense has always been their strength. Even this year they were one of the best defensive teams in the league by boasting the fifth best yards allowed...

NFL: Free Agents and Retirement

NFL: Free Agents and Retirement

February 20, 2013

  - [post-date] - The NFL season is over. The Baltimore Ravens have won the Super Bowl...

Superbowl Surprise!

Superbowl Surprise!

February 8, 2013

  - [post-date] - The Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers clashed in the New Orleans Sup...

It’s About Building Trest…man

Gregory Adler

February 8, 2013

  - [post-date] - After struggling the past nine seasons under Head Coach Lovie Smith, the Bears have chosen their next leader. Enter Marc Trestman. The question remains on the minds of Bears fans everywhere: Was this the right choice? After all, Trestman has been out of the NFL for more than eight years in order...

The Bears Falling Out of Lovie

The Bears Falling Out of Lovie

January 25, 2013

  Ahhhhhh the new year, a time to reflect on the things that need to change in order to live better, lose a few pounds, and make positive changes. T...

Lack of NFL Elite

Matthew Greenberg

December 5, 2012

By Matthew Greenberg – Sports Editor The theme of the NFL this year can be summed up in a single word: parody. There are great teams with terrible records, and mediocre teams that are in the playoff race. The so-called “elite” teams of the NFL have been anything but, and even with star players and easy schedules, teams have been struggling to assert their dominance within their divisions. This year’s model for the top team is the Houston Texans. At 10-1 heading into week 13, the Texans have proved time and again that they are the best team in the league and deserve their place atop the AFC. Their only loss came against the Green Bay Packers, a team with a powerhouse offense that will be discussed later. By defeating top teams like the Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos, and the Baltimore Ravens, the Texans have shown that they can win against high-quality teams, as well as against insurgent teams like the Detroit Lions. The Atlanta Falcons are the other 10-1 team in the league. As the top team in the NFC, they have seemingly stumbled into their position. Four of their wins have been by four points or less, and their knack for pulling out close wins has defined their turnover-laden offense. Matt Ryan is on the cusp of becoming an elite quarterback, but pulling off a win by throwing for 300 yards with 5 interceptions and 0 touchdowns is not evident of a Super Bowl quarterback. Three of the four teams of the “Black and Blue” NFC North have already been mentioned, and being arguably the toughest division in the NFL, all four teams deserve recognition. There is variance within this division that requires explanation. The Lions are at the bottom of the division with a 4-7 record, but they are not as bad as those numbers reflect. Nine of their games have been lost by one score, and six of those have been by four points or less. A 0-4 divisional record is the main reason why the Lions didn’t make the grade this season. The Vikings are in third place in the division at 6-5, and have shown their true colors after a fast start to the season. They are 2-3 in their last five games, and have been forced to rely heavily on league rushing leader, Adrian Peterson. The Vikings remain contenders in the playoff picture due to the large number of 6-5 teams vying for the sixth seed in the NFC. The Bears and Packers are a different story. They have gone back and forth leading the division, with the tie-breaker going to the Packers since they defeated the Bears in week 2. An asterisk should be noted on the Packers record due to the debacle against the Seattle Seahawks in week 3, which would have the Bears and Packers tied going into week 13, instead of the Bears being up by a game. The Packers and Bears have the same basic issue: their offensive lines. The Packers have allowed the most sacks in the league with 37, and Aaron Rogers has not had enough time to throw to his high-powered receiving core. Add in debilitating injuries to receivers Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson, as well as the loss of key defensive players Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson, and Desmond Bishop, and the Packers appear to be limping their way into the playoffs. The Bears are a slightly different story. With arguably one of the easiest schedules in the league, the Bears have earned their 8-3 record by beating mediocre teams or having quality teams beat themselves. The Bears’ three losses have come against the only top teams they have faced, and have proved that the Bears cannot compete against the NFL’s best. With the Soldier Field Turnstiles of J’marcus Webb and Gabe Carimi failing to protect Jay Cutler, the Bears have been relying primarily on turnovers by their heavy-hitting defense in order to win games. Turnovers are important, but they are too sporadic to be a team’s necessity for success. The playoffs are only a few weeks away, and the playoff picture, especially in the NFC, changes with every game. The NFC North is the division to watch. The potential for a three-team swap between the Bears, Packers, and Vikings, who all have matchups against each other in the next five weeks, should make for some intense football as the regular season comes to a close....

Injuries to key players could decide fate of certain teams

Greg Adler, Staff Writer

October 31, 2012

“Are you hurt or are you injured?” Anyone who has ever played a sport, any sport, has probably heard this at one time or another. It is simple, injured means medically unable to continue playing, while hurt means rub some dirt on it and get that butt back in the game. At this point in the NFL season coaches of every team in every division are frantically asking this question, with their hopes of hoisting the Lombardi trophy slowly getting closer and further away at the same time. Heading into week eight, it’s that time to take a look at where players and coaches stand on injuries that could very well make or break a season. But before we take on this task let’s go through a breakdown of the terminology of an injury report. The levels are quite simple: “Out” means there is a 0% chance that the player will return, “doubtful” indicates a 25% chance of the player returning to the field, “questionable” means the odds are fifty/fifty for the player’s return, and “probable” shows a 75% chance a favorite or key player will be suiting up to bring their special set of skills to the turf. The Green Bay Packers have suffered the loss of defensive tackle B.J. Raji to an ankle injury while on the other side of the line wide receiver Greg Jennings is out with a groin injury and is scheduled to have surgery. Nothing has been more of an agent of change to the “GO PACK GO” chant to “STOP PACK STOP” than the injury to safety Charles Woodson in the week seven match-up against the St. Louis Rams. Woodson suffered a broken collarbone which will keep him out for six weeks and has definitely hindered the Packers defensively. The defining downside of losing Woodson was that he’s consistently known as a player that can rally the Pack to victory. Players that play are one thing, but players that clearly motivate their teammates to perform better and dig deeper are another. A perfect example of this type of player is the Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. No. 52 has been with the team since their super bowl win a few years back and is clearly a driving force on and off the field. Add to that big loss cornerback Darius Webb tearing his ACL and the fate of the Ravens no longer lies with their infamous defense, but in the hands of quarterback Joe Flacco, who has been inconsistent at best. With a current record of 5-2 and one of the toughest divisions in the NFL, it is unclear what the final weeks of the season will hold for the Ravens. With the Monsters of the Midway currently having the best defense in the NFL, it is critical that the Chicago Bears stay fit and ready to tackle any opposition in order to maintain their impressive 5-1 record. That being said, it is important that wide receiver and special team dynamo Devin Hester gets back into the swing of things as soon as possible since suffering a strained quad. Quarterback Jay Cutler is also under scrutiny after suffering a debilitating hit to his ribs in the week seven match-up against the Detroit Lions. As if the Bears slowing down weren’t bad enough, it seems that Coach Lovie Smith has made a decision to pull Linebacker Brian Urlacher from practice. With one their defensive leaders out of the mix it is uncertain if the Bears can growl their way to a solid season. The question is simple, “Are you injured or are you hurt?” No matter what team you root for, it can be guaranteed that fans across the country are hoping for the lesser of two evils, and have the response simply be “hurt.”...

NFL vs. NFLRA: Rules of the Replacement Refs

Matthew Greenberg, Sports Editor

October 3, 2012

  Anyone watching football this season is well-versed in the antics taking place around the league. Coaches are shouting and trying to intimidate officials. Players are taking cheap shots at each other. Penalties are being missed, miscounted, misused, and at times, it seems they are plainly being invented. So what’s the cause of the ruckus? In June of this year, the NFL locked out the members of the NFL Referees Association (NFLRA) over contract disputes. Some of the key topics on the debate platform include: The NFL wanting to rescind an apparent guarantee made to current league officials of a defined benefit pension package. The NFL also wants all members of the NFLRA to become full-time employees of the NFL. They are currently part-time employees, and many of these officials work other jobs during the NFL season and do not wish to lose this source of income. Also, the NFL wants to increase the number of officiating crews, which would thereby limit the amount of games per year current officials would be assigned. Finally, The NFLRA wants substantial increases to their pay grades. While there are other issues at play in this debate, the argument over the pensions is at the forefront.  Mike Florio of NBC Sports writes that, “In an open letter written by NFLRA executive director Tim Millis, the locked-out officials urge the NFL to compromise on the pension issue by continuing to provide all current officials with a defined benefit pension plan (which puts the investment risk on the employer), and converting all new officials to a defined contribution pension plan (which puts the investment risk on the employee).” Basically, if the NFL is going to increase the ranks of referees, the current officials want their money guaranteed and couldn’t care less about the new hires. The NFL and NFLRA have met with each other on multiple occasions to discuss the issues at hand, with little ground being gained by either side. Currently, the NFL has put crews of replacement officials in place to take over the officiating responsibilities of all NFL games. While the locked-out officials remain as such, these replacement refs have an itinerary mapped out through week five of the regular season. The NFL Players Association (NFLPA) has sent a letter to the NFL demanding the return of the locked-out officials, citing player safety as their primary concern. The NFL has maintained their stance that the replacement refs are doing a fine job of officiating, and that there is no overwhelming concern for player safety based on the performance level these crews are providing. Unfortunately, this is false. There have already been multiple cases of players getting injured and no penalties being called, but the most severe example would be in the week three matchup of the Oakland Raiders against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Raiders receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey was injured while attempting to catch a pass in the end zone when Steelers safety Ryan Mundy delivered a debilitating shot to Heyward-Bey’s head. With the replacement refs in place, the officiating has been so inconsistent that players are taking advantage of the refs’ inexperience and inability to control the game. The head referee in the San Francisco 49ers versus the Minnesota Vikings matchup stated after the game that he made some drastic mistakes during the game, admitting that he didn’t know the rules. Nothing should be more scrutinized than the debacle that ended the Monday night matchup of the Green Bay Packers against the Seattle Seahawks. It finally happened: a wrong call by the replacement refs cost a winning team the game. As long as the NFL keeps the officials locked out, they are making the statement that proper officiating, player safety, and the integrity of the NFL does not matter, so long as their profit margins remain unaffected. Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young gave the best explanation of the entire situation when he said, “Everything about the NFL now is inelastic for demand. There's nothing they can do to hurt the demand for the game. So the bottom line is they don't care. Bring in the Division III officials–doesn't matter. Because in the end, you're still going to watch the game, we're going to all complain and moan and gripe and say there's all these problems, all the coaches say it, the players say it—doesn't matter. So just go ahead, gripe all you want. … There's nothing that changes the demand for the NFL ... It doesn't affect the desire for the game. If it affected the desire for the game, they'd come up with a few million dollars.” On Wednesday, September 26, the NFL and NFLRA reached an eight-year agreement to end the lockout. According to the NFL, the terms of the agreement are that the current defined benefit pension plan will remain in place for current officials through the 2016 season (or until the official earns 20 years of service). The defined benefit plan then will be frozen. Beginning in 2017 retirement benefits will be provided for all officials through a defined contribution arrangement through 401(k) accounts. Game officials' compensation will increase from an average of $149,000 per year in 2011 to $173,000 in 2013, rising to $205,000 by 2019. Beginning with the 2013 season, the NFL will have the option of hiring officials on a full-time basis to work year-round, including on the field. The NFL will have the option to retain additional officials for training and development purposes and can assign those additional officials to work NFL games. The number of additional officials will be determined by the NFL....

Looking Forward: Team Profile of the Chicago Bears

Ashor Jajou, Assistant Sports Editor

October 3, 2012

  Trying to predict the future of the Chicago Bears is not a simple task. If their history of early offensive struggles repeats itself, the Bears will be in trouble to start the season. After an impressive performance in the season opener versus the Indianapolis Colts, the Bears offense is doing their best to avoid one of those early season slumps. In the game versus the Colts, the Bears put up 41 points, but in the next two games combined they managed to put up only 33 points. Bears head coach Lovie Smith believes that his team is making progress. Given the past years, offensive slumps for the Bears seem to come in spurts, and history suggests that the Bears offense will find their rhythm and begin to put up above strong offensive numbers in the next few weeks. This will be accomplished on the shoulders of the Bears’ offensive stars: quarterback Jay Cutler, receiver Brandon Marshall, running backs Matt Forte and Michael Bush. Cutler and Marshall are reconnecting from their time together on the Denver Broncos, and are expected to put up big numbers together. Forte will see his role diminished with the acquisition of Bush from the Oakland Raiders, but the one-two punch combo they provide makes the Bears running game even more of a threat than it already was. The Bears defense has played well so far. Cornerback Tim Jennings has been a pleasant surprise, leading the league with four interceptions through the first three games. After week three, the Bears were leading the league with 14 sacks. Their defense finished with 33 total sacks through 16 games in 2011, and are on pace to surpass that number this year. The attractiveness of the defense is that everyone contributes. Eight defensive players account for the 14 sacks (through week three). Since the preseason, there were questions about Brian Urlacher’s ability to perform and if he would be impacted due to his knee injury, but it doesn’t seem to be a major concern due to the team’s strong defensive performance. Through week three, Urlacher is third on the defense with 14 combined tackles. The defense even performed well against one of the most explosive offenses in the league in their loss to the Packers. The Bears’ special teams are outperforming their opponents in kick and punt return yardage, but are yet to score a touchdown (through week three). The true measure of a team is the ability to find ways to win even in tough situations. So far, they have done just that. During the Bears second game versus the Green Bay Packers, an altercation occurred when Cutler exchanged hostile words with left tackle J’Marcus Webb. The offensive line has not been up to par with regard to protecting Cutler, but Cutler must come to grips with his role as the team leader and be able to better communicate with his teammates who protect him. The lack of blocking cannot be blamed on one person. Football is a team sport, and until Cutler can embrace his role as a leader he will not get past his childlike demeanor and arrogant attitude. The main issue that needs to be immediately addressed is the offensive line. It was apparent during the Packers game that J’Marcus Webb was getting beat off the ball on multiple snaps. Offensive coordinator Mike Tice should have pinpointed the problem immediately and added a tight end to assist the tackle. There is no problem with adding an extra tight end for pass protection to make sure the best quarterback the team has had in decades is not eating dirt on every play. It is simple, watch a game and make adjustments from the couch, but some changes can be easily made. The Bears have a tough schedule coming up to show what they’re made of, but there shouldn’t be any concerns about their playoff chances. The Bears will make the playoffs, but how well they do there will depend on how healthy they stay, whether their stars step up and deliver star performances and how quickly they acclimate to tough situations during games....

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