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Bears kickers convert under high stakes for team



LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Bears head coach Matt Nagy turned up the pressure on Chicago’s place-kickers on the final day of minicamp.

After an offseason full of kicking woes, Nagy called on Elliott Fry and Eddy Pineiro to each attempt a 40-yard field goal on Thursday.

The stakes were high.

If either field goal missed the mark, the entire roster would have to endure a team conditioning test during the second half of practice.

With the entire team watching in absolute silence, Fry and Pineiro both nailed their kicks, and Nagy abruptly ended practice and sent everyone home for summer break.

“We put a little heat — shocking — on the kickers for conditioning for the team,” Nagy said. “They both nailed two 40-yard’ers down the middle so our guys got out of gassers, which was nice. So if you heard any cheering, that’s why.

“It was a win for them today. And then the cool thing was that I kind of got ahead of myself and I said, ‘You wanna go double or nothing for the start of training camp?’ I thought they’d balk but they hawked me down and wanted more, and the two kickers were the first to jump at it and say, ‘let’s go.’ So that was good.

“They called my bluff. But they’re running when we get back [to training camp].”

Fry and Pineiro rebounded after a sluggish start to minicamp.

On Tuesday, the Bears missed all three kicks at the end of practice in front of the entire team and approximately 25 ex-players that were on hand to watch the workout. The next day, the Bears cut kicker Chris Blewitt, narrowing the field to two kickers, at the moment.

But Nagy said on Wednesday that the club would leave all options open over the summer as the search to replace veteran kicker Cody Parkey continues.

Chicago cut Parkey after he misfired on eight kicks last year, including a heart-breaking double-doink 43-yard miss at the end of the Bears’ home playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Parkey’s decision to appear on a national television morning show just days after his fateful miss expedited his release.

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Le’Veon Bell doesn’t regret bowling trip — ‘I wasn’t a distraction until now’



FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — A flu-stricken Le’Veon Bell went bowling last Saturday night and the result was a split.

New York Jets coach Adam Gase said Tuesday the star running back’s late night on the lanes was a bad optic for Bell and the organization, considering he was too sick to play in Sunday’s game.

Bell responded later Tuesday, showing no remorse and claiming his only regret was that he was spotted in public. He joked about it, noting he bowled a career-high 251 “coming off the flu.”

“I don’t feel bad about what I did,” Bell said. “I didn’t break any rules. I wasn’t a distraction until now.”

This became more than a bowling story.

Bell added layer of intrigue to his closely scrutinized relationship with Gase, claiming he feels under-utilized in the offense. This wasn’t the first time he voiced his opinion on the matter, but these were his most strident comments of the season.

Asked if he has been afforded the opportunity to thrive, Bell replied, “Honestly, no. I think that’s just being in a new system, with new guys up front, a new coaching staff. I’m with a new organization. Everything kind of takes time, I understand that. That’s why I’ve always been patient.

“But to be honest with you, no. I feel like when I do, I’ll be back to what people are used to seeing.”

Bell battled the flu last week and missed two practices, plus the Saturday walkthrough. At 5 p.m. Saturday, the Jets announced Bell had been ruled out for their game against the Miami Dolphins. More than five hours later, he was spotted at a bowling alley in Boonton, New Jersey, first reported by the New York Post.

Bell watched the game from a private box at MetLife Stadium. Gase got wind of the bowling episode late Monday night.

Gase said he won’t discipline Bell because no team rules were violated, but he acknowledged it was a bad look.

“Yeah, I’d say so,” Gase said.

Bell, wearing bright orange pants, bowled with family and friends from 10:30 p.m. to 1 a.m., when the alley closed.

“That wasn’t his fault that we said he’s still contagious,” Gase said. “I mean, that’s what the doctors told him. I’d rather him not be [bowling]. I’d rather him be at home, getting better. But that will be a conversation we have.”

They spoke late Tuesday about the incident. According to Bell, Gase reminded him about the perception it created.



Stephen A. Smith disagrees with Le’Veon Bell’s decision to go bowling after being ruled out by the Jets with the flu.

Asked if he plans to impose a penalty, Gase said, “What am I going to discipline him for? I can’t tell him, ‘You have to stay in your house.'”

Bell gave his side of the story, saying he wanted to play but that he had dropped nine pounds.

“They weren’t sure about my energy and hydration, so they held me out of the game,” Bell said. “But they advised me to get out of the house and move a little bit. I had a lot of family and friends there because they were expecting me to play. Everybody was at my house, just kind of looking at me. I felt better, I felt a lot better, so we went out bowling and had fun.”

Bell has regained some of the weight and is expected to play Thursday night against the Baltimore Ravens.

“Yeah, he’d better,” Gase said. “We’re out of guys.”

Bilal Powell, who replaced Bell last week and rushed for 74 yards (a team-high for the season), likely will miss the game because of an ankle injury. He also has the flu.

This has been a disappointing season for Bell, who arrived with big expectations after signing a four-year, $52.5 million contract in March. He hasn’t rushed for more than 70 yards in a game, and his numbers for the year are the worst of his career — 589 yards, a 3.2 average and three touchdowns. He’s second on the team with 55 catches.

Bell seemed particularly frustrated after the Jets’ Week 13 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, a game in which he rushed only 10 times. Gase was opposed to signing Bell, sources said, prompting speculation that he’s trying to reduce his role.

After New York’s Week 8 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, Bell was so frustrated that he approached Gase and they talked it out. Bell said he’s done talking about it.

“I don’t like to keep harping on the same thing,” he said. “I said what I said. We had the conversation. That was that. I’m not about to have the same conversations over and over. We both understand each other. As time goes on, things will get better.”

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Ravens QB Lamar Jackson (quad) says he’s playing Thursday night



OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson said he will play Thursday night against the New York Jets despite being limited the past two practices with a quad injury.

“I feel great. I feel good. I’m 100 [percent],” Jackson said after Tuesday’s practice. “I’m going to be out there Thursday night.”

After having a slight limp Monday, Jackson looked much better during the media viewing portion of Tuesday’s practice. He moved well while dropping back for passes and didn’t appear to be concerned with a leg injury, horsing around with wide receiver Marquise Brown.

On Monday, coach John Harbaugh said Jackson’s injury wasn’t serious but he considered him day-to-day.

There were no team drills during the media viewing period Tuesday, so it’s unknown how many reps Jackson took. It didn’t sound like the MVP front-runner expects to be limited for Thursday’s game.

“I’m playing to win the game,” Jackson said. “If I have to be out there all four quarters, that’s what it’s going to be.”

Jackson made the point to say he was injured in the pocket and not when he was running with the ball. He acknowledged that teams are targeting his legs more the past two games.

Asked if teams are trying to injure him, Jackson said, “I don’t know. We’re playing football. It’s an aggressive game. They’re trying to make a tackle and I’m trying to make them miss.”

Safety Earl Thomas III said refs need to pay attention to where defenders are hitting Jackson and protect him more.

“I’m not saying they’re trying to hurt Lamar, but they’re definitely going at his legs more than they were doing at first,” Thomas said.

The Ravens (11-2) can clinch their second straight AFC North title by beating the Jets (5-8).

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Source — Eagles lose WR Alshon Jeffery for season due to foot injury



PHILADELPHIA — Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery will miss the rest of the season with what coach Doug Pederson called a “significant” foot injury, a source confirmed to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Jeffery was taken to the locker room on a cart during the second quarter of Monday’s 23-17 win over the New York Giants. He was not contacted on the play, but left the field limping before throwing down his helmet and entering the medical tent. He then sat in the front seat of a cart that headed into the tunnel.

The injury left Carson Wentz with just two active receivers for the rest of the game: JJ Arcega-Whiteside and Greg Ward. With Nelson Agholor still dealing with a knee injury, the Eagles are expected to make a move at receiver in the near future. They have three receivers on their practice squad, including Marken Michel, who had a strong offseason for the Eagles. Michel is the brother of Patriots running back Sony Michel.

“We’re going to work through that today and try to get something in place here pretty quick, and we’re back on the field [Wednesday],” Pederson said.

Jeffery finished the season with 43 catches for 430 yards and four touchdowns.

Eagles offensive lineman Lane Johnson, meanwhile, is week-to-week with an ankle injury, Pederson said. Halapoulivaati Vaitai replaced him at right tackle Monday and appears to be the leading candidate for the job moving forward.

NFL Network first reported that Jeffery would miss the rest of the season.

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