Dr. David Chao
The Training Room


Is there more to Derek Carr missing OTAs?

A starting quarterback missing workouts is always news, even in the offseason. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen initially reported the Raiders first-string signal caller’s ring finger injury and then indicated it was numbness in the fourth digit on the throwing hand that has kept Derek Carr out of organized team activities.

Despite Carr’s agent squashing the finger injury rumor as “very minor”, my experience tells me there might be more to this than what is being let on. I am not saying anyone is being untruthful. I am positive the agent is doing his job in supporting his client; however, the glass can always be viewed as “half-full” or “half-empty”.

How minor is any injury that keeps a young quarterback from learning a new system and acclimating to new teammates and coaches? At this point, he has missed two weeks of practice. When talking about the likelihood of Carr being able to throw before OTAs end, his agent uses the word “probably”, not “definitely”. He also claims even if Carr is not ready by end of OTAs on June 4, he expects Carr to be 100% by minicamp, which begins June 9.

Nerve issues typically don’t act this way. Numbness can be fleeting, but if it does last for weeks, as this one seems to have, feeling doesn’t come back in a matter of days. I am not saying Carr won’t participate in minicamp but going from non-participation one week and being 100% the following week on a nerve issue would be very unusual.

My bigger concern is why is Carr being held out completely? I understand holding him out from throwing, but what about run game installation and learning calls? If it is a minor numbness issue that temporarily affects passing, why not participate in limited fashion to learn a new system?

There must be a reason Carr is being held out as Raiders management, coaches and medical staff are not dumb. I am not being a Raider-hater here. To the contrary, last offseason, I defended their failing Rodger Saffold on physical examination after agreeing to a free agent deal when others were critical of the situation. Carr is known as a good leader, conscientious player and hard worker. He has to be following medical precaution to have him sidelined.

I doubt the Raiders are being overly cautious in holding Carr out. I have the utmost respect for head coach Jack Del Rio. I first met him as the starting middle linebacker in Minnesota when I was a young physician for the Vikings and our paths have crossed several times since. He knows the value of young QB learning a new system. Del Rio does not dismiss the injury, only saying “time missed in May is better than time missed in September”. However, it is best never to miss any time, especially when your name is not Peyton Manning or Tom Brady.

The agent has added that Carr doesn’t need hand/finger surgery. I would agree with that assessment, although I have not examined Carr or seen his medical records. Based on publically available information, if surgery became necessary, my guess is it would be on his elbow in the form of an ulnar nerve transposition (approximately three months recovery) and not on his hand or finger.

According to NFL quarterbacks I have worked with, the thumb, index and pinkie are most important for grip/touch and throwing is possible with a numb ring finger. An ulnar nerve subluxation (nerve stretched and slides out of groove) might explain why he is being held out of all signal-calling duties. Repetitive elbow flexion and extension tends to aggravate this condition, which typically causes parts of the 4th and 5th finger to go numb.

Agents are paid to defend their clients. It could be true that missing OTAs is purely precautionary. I hope he is right and this injury turns out to be a non-issue, but there is a chance it becomes a bigger deal.

MMMD 1: New PAT rule may lead to more injuries

On the traditional touchdown conversion from the 2-yard line, few teams try for a block due to low yield and risk of a giving up two points on a fake. With the new PAT line of scrimmage at the 15-yard line, kicks are more vulnerable to a block and there is little risk of a fake. Strategically, defenders will become more aggressive at the point of attack.

In my NFL experience, a field goal has significant risk for head, neck and knee injury as players sell out to disrupt the line of scrimmage to attempt to block a kick. The new PAT is now essentially a 4th-and-goal from the 15, leading to aggressive block attempts. This may lead to more injuries. I hope that is not the case. These unintended consequences may be why the new rule is a one-year trial and not permanent yet.

MMMD 2: New rule change may lead to platooning quarterbacks

Barring injury, the starting quarterback traditionally takes all of the snaps. Most other positions have undergone specialization. For example, the every down running back is obsolete and is bolstered with 3rd down, short yardage and change of pace backs. The QB position also might change with the new PAT rule.

If teams are enticed to go for two on every conversion, the injury risk for a star QB may become too high. Run/pass threat is likely the most effective way to gain two yards but also exposes the quarterback to injury risk. Specialist QBs may be introduced to gain the critical two yards, potentially from wildcat type formations. After all, risk injury to a star pocket quarterback by making him a run/pass threat or let another player handle that? With this new rule, we might even see the second coming of Tebowmania.

MMMD 3: Is the league serious about its new chief health and medical advisor position?

In state of the NFL address at Super Bowl XLIX, Roger Goodell announced the creation of a chief health and medical advisor role. Cardiologist Dr. Betsy Nabel, Harvard medical professor and president of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, was named to the new position. She is charged with all safety issues including concussions, sideline injury protocol and health of players in retirement.

I applaud the NFL’s creation of this much-needed role during what is clearly defined as the health and safety era. Certainly Dr. Nabel’s credentials are impeccable. She is an outsider to the football and perhaps this is exactly what is needed to give good perspective. She presented herself well in her first public interview with MMQB.

My only question is how is this role a one-day-a-month job? Ted Wells spent considerably longer than a dozen days to investigate and produce a 243-page report on deflated footballs. If Dr. Nagel produces a 20-page report per each day of her work, it would take a year to produce what Wells did on the singular issue of pressure in game balls. How can important health and safety issues be solved by devoting only what amounts to two hours a week?

MMMD 4: J.J. Watt photo

The star Texans defensive lineman tweeted this picture on throwback Thursday. The injury was suffered in the first half of the Bills game early last season, yet he still had a monster game and returned an interception for a touchdown. Very little attention was paid to the injury at the time as Watt was listed as probable on the injury reports.

It just goes to show what NFL athletes routinely play through. 80% healthy is considered a good week in the Not For Long league.

MMMD 5: Another offseason injury: Giants lose starting left tackle

Will Beatty injured his pectoral while lifting weights and needed surgery. Typically this injury occurs during max bench press. The fact that repair was needed indicates a complete tendon tear.

A recovery of 5-6 months was reported and he will undoubtedly start the season on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. There is no guarantee of return this season but he could play in late November or December.

As I indicated previous, half of teams will lose a significant contributor to offseason injury. The Giants join the Jaguars (Dante Fowler, ACL), Broncos (Jeff Heuerman, ACL) and Vikings (Brian Robison, pec). Unfortunately other clubs will inevitably suffer the same fate before training camp arrives.

MMMD 6: Seahawk diagnosed with cancer

2013 fifth-round draft pick Jesse Williams has papillary Type 2 cancer. The Seattle defensive tackle was slated for kidney surgery. Knee injuries each of the last two years has kept him from suiting up for a regular-season game.

I am not an oncologist or nephrologist, but he likely will have all or part of one of his kidneys removed. This type of tumor detected early can be removed and cured. Assuming he has good remaining renal function, Williams can return to football. Right now, everyone’s first priority is for a return to a healthy and happy life.

MMMD 7: Virtual reality trainer: game changer?

It is not just a video game, it could help train quarterbacks and other football players. Decision-making and situation recognition is key in the NFL. Now a virtual reality trainer may become a standard tool.

At the college level, Stanford’s David Shaw and Arkansas’ Bret Bielema believe in it. In the NFL, Pete Carroll and Sean Payton see the potential. After all, the military embraces the technology for training fighter pilots, why not for quarterbacks?

Follow David on Twitter: @profootballdoc

Dr. David Chao is a former NFL head team physician with 17 years of sideline, locker and training room experience. He currently has a successful orthopedic/sports medicine practice in San Diego.

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Matt Pearce
NFP Fresh Voices


Technically speaking, unrestricted free agency is over for the 2015 offseason and has been for more than a week.

On May 12, all free agents became street free agents, compared to previous years when it was June 1. After this date, all free agent signings don’t count against compensatory draft picks in the following draft, hence the reclassification of the players.

With this in mind, there are still some players on the market who could help your favorite team reach the playoffs in the 2015 season. As teams suffer injuries in minicamps and other team activities, expect to see these free agents sign with teams.

The defensive free agents will be posted at a later date.

Quarterback: Michael Vick

As Vick has aged, his play has declined and he is no longer the best athlete on the field. Soon to be 35 years old, he won’t be confused for a starting quarterback anytime soon, but he could be a backup for plenty of teams. In one of his three starts last season, he led the New York Jets to a 20-13 upset over the Pittsburgh Steelers, while throwing for two touchdowns. His quarterback rating in these three starts was 83.1.

Running Back: Pierre Thomas

A staple of the Saints’ offense for years, the 30-year old Thomas is one of the better pass catching running backs in the league. He is coming off an injury-shorted season, but still caught 45 passes for 378 yards. While he has never played outside of Sean Payton’s diverse scheme, Thomas has attributes that can be transferred to any offense in the league. He can contribute as a third down running back for most teams.

Wide Receiver: James Jones

Released by the Oakland Raiders after the draft, Jones was the best receiver in Oakland last season. With a rookie under center (Derek Carr) and a lack of other talent on the offensive side of the ball, Jones caught 73 passes for 666 yards and six touchdowns. Prior to that, he played in the receiver friendly Packers’ offense. There won’t be any repeats of 2013 where he caught 14 touchdowns, but the 31-year old Jones can still be a solid receiver in the NFL.

Wide Receiver: Donnie Avery

Injuries limited Avery to just six games (three starts) in 2014, but prior to that he was a productive receiver for Kansas City and Indianapolis. Between the 2012 and 2013 seasons, he caught 100 passes for 1,377 yards and five touchdowns. Soon to be 31 years old, Avery isn’t a spectacular receiver, but he can be a contributor for a team looking to add a veteran presence to their offense.

Wide Receiver: Wes Welker

One of the best slot receivers in history, Welker’s performance has sharply declined recently. Last season, he caught 49 passes for 464 yards and two touchdowns and appeared to be a shell of his former self at times. At 34 years old with a concussion history, his career is close to over. There is a chance he could come in and contribute as a fourth receiver for some teams.

Tight End: Jermaine Gresham

If not for back surgery earlier in the offseason, Gresham would have been off the free agent market by now. Teams are waiting for his back to heal before giving him a look. Soon to be 27 years old, Gresham caught 62 passes last season, but this is an inflated number from Andy Dalton regularly checking down to him. Assuming his back progresses nicely, expect him to be with a new team by training camp.

Offensive Tackle: Jake Long

A former first overall pick, talent isn’t the question with Long––it is his health. The 30-year old hasn’t played a full 16-game schedule since 2010 and is currently rehabbing a torn ACL, which was suffered in week eight. This is the second year in a row that he has torn his ACL, causing teams to stay away. Once healthy, Long should sign a contract with playing time incentives and little guaranteed money.

Offensive Tackle: Anthony Collins

One of the prized free agents in Tampa Bay’s 2014 haul, the 29-year old Collins lasted just one season with the Buccaneers, in what was his first season as a full-time starter. He fell from Pro Football Focus’ (PFF) 23rd rated offensive tackle in 2013 to 63rd in 2014. With the ability to play either tackle position, most teams would love to have him on their roster, but he is likely holding out for a starting position.

Guard: Justin Blalock

Since entering the league in 2007, Blalock has started 125 out of a possible 128 games for Atlanta, the only team he has ever played for. Released in a salary cap move, the 31-year old has been a top 30 guard the last two seasons according to PFF. He isn’t a top guard, but he could be a quality starter for a team.

Guard: Rob Sims

Sims is in a similar situation to Blalock, being 31 years old and having started 94 out of the last 96 games for Detroit and Seattle. Sims wasn’t as good according to PFF, ranking in the top 40 the past two seasons, but that is still a serviceable level. Sims is the type of guard who you can improve upon, but you could also do much worse than him.

Center: Chris Myers

One of the best centers in the NFL over the last few seasons, Myers has started 128 straight games for the Texans and Broncos. At 286 lbs, he is undersized for the position, but has thrived in zone blocking schemes as a run-blocking center. The 33-year old has received a few looks as a free agent after Houston cut him for salary cap reasons. If he goes to a team with a zone-blocking scheme, he should have another successful season.

Matt Pearce is a graduate of National Football Post’s Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp. Follow him on Twitter @Matt_Pearce13

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Greg Gabriel
The Director's Report


Anthony Johnson – DT – Miami Dolphins

Going into the 2014 NFL Draft, it was thought that Johnson had the talent to be a premium round draft choice. Because of some off field issues and an inconsistent motor on the field, Johnson didn’t get drafted and ended up an undrafted rookie free agent.

Regardless, the talent is there and if Johnson decides he wants to play to his potential he can be a top player in the Dolphins’ defense. He is big, strong and athletic and can both play the run and rush the passer. Granted, the Dolphins signed Ndamukong Suh and drafted Jordan Phillips, but most clubs now are playing their defensive linemen in a rotation, and there will be plenty of reps for Johnson to show his ability. Having strong depth on the defensive front can help Miami challenge New England for AFC East supremacy.

Cyrus Kouandjio – OT/OG – Buffalo Bills

Before the 2014 Scouting Combine, the general consensus was that Kouandjio had a strong chance of being a first round draft choice. Medical testing at the Combine found that Cyrus had an arthritic knee, and that dropped him to the second round.

Once camp opened in July, Kouandjio was not in the best of shape and was beaten out for the right tackle spot by seventh round pick Seantrel Henderson. Henderson played well at the right tackle position, and it is doubtful that Kouandjio can beat him out. Both of the guard positions are open, however. The Bills signed Ritchie Incognito to play on one side, but Kouandjio can and should challenge Kraig Urbik for the other position.

Reportedly, Kouandjio has lost weight, is in top condition, and is looking good in the offseason program. If that is the case, he should put up a strong fight for one of the guard positions. The talent is there, does he want it?

Dominique Easley – DT – New England Patriots

Easley was the Patriots first round pick last year. He was a bit of a surprise pick in that he was coming off two ACL injuries while at Florida. As a rookie, Easley was still bothered by knee issues and only played in 11 games.

This year, the Patriots are taking their time getting Easley ready, but all reports indicate that he will be 100% by training camp. If that is the case, the combination of Easley and rookie defensive tackle Malcom Brown will give New England a very quick and athletic pair of defensive tackles.

The Patriots decided not to bring back perennial Pro Bowler Vince Wilfork, and while Easley doesn’t have Wilfork’s combination of bulk and power, he is far more athletic and will be able to do much more as an interior pass rusher.

Jimmy Garoppolo – QB – New England Patriots

Going into the appeal hearing of Tom Brady, it is not known if Brady’s suspension will be held up or reduced by a game or two. No matter, Garoppolo has to be ready to play as he will start some games this season.

Garoppolo put up some huge numbers in college leading Eastern Illinois. In his little bit of play time in 2014, Garoppolo showed that he was ready to make the jump to the NFL. While he will never be the passer that Brady is, Garoppolo is far more athletic and gives the Patriots a player who has to be accounted for as both a runner and a passer. It will be interesting watching how he develops this year.

Jace Amaro – TE – New York Jets

Amaro didn’t play badly as a rookie, but he didn’t do quite as well as expected either. He finished the season with 38 receptions for 345 yards and two touchdowns. With his athleticism and natural talent, he should be able to almost double that output in 2015.

Today’s offenses are designed for an athletic tight end to put up big numbers. Amaro can be almost like a big wide receiver and create some big time mismatches. His presence can help Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, and rookie deep threat Devin Smith. If quarterback Geno Smith puts it together, the Jets passing attack can be something to be reckoned with.

Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

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Ken Crippen and Matt Reaser
Football History


NAME: Eddie Meador
POSITION: DB
TEAMS: 1959-70 Los Angeles Rams
UNIFORM NUMBER: 21

Overall Analysis

STRENGTHS
• Excellent tackler
• Quick and Aggressive

WEAKNESSES
• Can get caught out of position due to his aggressiveness

BOTTOM LINE
A very good defensive back. Quick and aggressive. Always around the ball. Very good at reading the play and adjusting. A solid tackler and can take on the ball carrier one-on-one. His aggressiveness can get him in trouble. Receivers can get behind him to cause damage. There are times that he can recover quickly, but there are times when he is too far out of position. Very good instincts and competitiveness.

GRADING SPECIFIC FACTORS
OVERALL ATHLETICISM (QAB): 8.0
QUICKNESS: 8.2
AGILITY: 8.0
BALANCE: 7.9
STRENGTH AND EXPLOSION: 7.5
COMPETITIVENESS: 7.9
MENTAL ALERTNESS: 7.9
INSTINCTS: 7.9

OVERALL GRADE 7.7

NUMBER OF GAMES REVIEWED: 7

GAME: October 31, 1965 – Detroit Lions: 7.3
BOTTOM LINE: This was a NFL Play by Play Report film. Meador showed quickness and aggressiveness throughout the game. However, several times he was caught out of position or too far downfield to make a play. Receivers were able to get behind him. This was evident early in the game as Joe Don Looney (#32) ran past him for the first score of the game. Later in the first quarter, Terry Barr (#41) also got behind him to catch a touchdown pass. Meador showed excellent tackling skills. However, in the third quarter, Joe Don Looney ran through him for a touchdown. When in position, Meador was able to make a play. However, frequently, he was caught out of position and the Lions were able to capitalize.

GAME: September 25, 1966 – Green Bay Packers: 7.8
BOTTOM LINE: This was a Game of the Week film. As a result, not all plays were shown. Meador played the weak-side safety position in the game. Overall, he played well. He showed excellent speed and mental awareness to always be around the ball. His speed was on display in the third quarter, when he chased down Paul Hornung (#5) to not only tackle him, but to strip the ball away from him for a fumble. He was quick to react to the play and was in on a few tackles. He was very good in run support. A very good game for Meador. He showed excellent quickness and aggressiveness.

GAME: December 18, 1966 – Green Bay Packers: 7.6
BOTTOM LINE: This was a Game of the Week film. As a result, not all plays were shown. Meador had a very good game. He was injured in the third quarter, but returned in the fourth quarter. In the first quarter, he chased down Elijah Pitts (#22) on a screen pass to knock him out of bounds. He made a good solo tackle in the second quarter, but had a few missed tackles throughout the game. In the third quarter, he was run over by Jim Taylor (#31). When he returned in the fourth quarter, he undercut a receiver to intercept a pass. He left the game again later in the fourth quarter. He showed very good competitiveness and quickness.

GAME: December 9, 1967 – Green Bay Packers: 7.6
BOTTOM LINE: This was a Game of the Week film. As a result, not all plays were shown. Meador played free safety throughout the game. He made an excellent touchdown-saving solo tackle on Donny Anderson (#44) in the first quarter. He also made another tackle later in the game to prevent a long gain. However, there were few plays of his shown in the film.

GAME: December 8, 1968 – Chicago Bears: 7.7
BOTTOM LINE: This was a Game of the Week film. As a result, not all plays were shown. There were few plays of his shown in the film. Meador played right safety throughout the game. He showed very good mental awareness. He also had a very good 39-yard punt return in the second quarter.

GAME: November 16, 1969 – Philadelphia Eagles: 8.1
BOTTOM LINE: This was a Game of the Week film. As a result, not all plays were shown. Meador showed excellent quickness, speed and mental alertness. He made a few downfield tackles, but occasionally was sealed away from the play. This was seen twice in the second quarter. He had an outstanding third quarter. He showed excellent toughness on a fake field goal, where he ran the ball to the right and powered his way through a few defenders for a five-yard gain and a first down. Later in the quarter, Meador recovered a fumble by Tom Woodeshick (#37). Still in the third quarter, Meador cut in front of Leroy Keyes (#20) to intercept a pass and return it for a touchdown. His excellent third quarter made up for a few shortcomings earlier in the game.

GAME: October 26, 1970 – Minnesota Vikings: 7.7
BOTTOM LINE: This film was an original television broadcast. Meador played free safety throughout the game. The field conditions were rainy and muddy, making footing difficult. Meador showed excellent tackling skills throughout the game. He was consistently around the ball. In the first quarter, he was looked off by quarterback Gary Cuozzo (#15) on a touchdown pass to Bill Brown (#30).

HISTORIC REPORTS GRADING SCALE

Hall of Fame
9.0 – Rare
8.5 – Exceptional to Rare
8.0 – Exceptional

Hall of Very Good
7.5  – Very Good to Exceptional
7.0 – Very Good
6.5 – Good to Very Good

Other
6.0 – Good
5.5 – Above Average to Good
5.0 – Above Average
4.5 – Average to Above Average

Ken Crippen is the former executive director of the Professional Football Researchers Association. He has researched and written about pro football history for over two decades. He won the Pro Football Writers of America’s Dick Connor Writing Award for Feature Writing and was named the Ralph Hay Award winner by the Professional Football Researchers Association for lifetime achievement on pro football history.

Matt Reaser is a member of the Professional Football Researchers Association and serves on multiple PFRA committees. He has written articles on football history and recently contributed towards a book on the 1966 Packers. He has researched high school, college and professional football. He is a former high school quarterback.

Follow Ken on Twitter @KenCrippen

































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Greg Gabriel
The Director's Report


While fans are always anxious for rookie players to have big years, coaches, on the other hand, look for players in their second year to begin make big contributions. In their second year, players are feeling comfortable in the system and have the confidence to play at a high level. That said, here are some second year players who should begin to become regular contributors for their teams in 2015.

Eric Ebron – TE – Detroit Lions

When the Lions selected Ebron with the 10th overall selection of the 2014 Draft, a lot was expected. Because of his size and athleticism, he was going to be the guy who took pressure off Calvin Johnson. Instead it was free agent acquisition Golden Tate who came up big with 99 receptions.

With a year under his belt in the system and knowing what is expected of him, I feel Ebron can be one of the top move tight ends in the NFL. His physical traits are rare, and there is no reason why he can’t become a focal point of the Detroit offense. Last year, he finished with only 25 receptions. He needs to more than double that total this year.

Caraun Reid – DT – Detroit Lions

The Lions lost Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairly during free agency. While it was expected they would take an interior defensive lineman early in the draft, it wasn’t until the fourth round that they actually pulled the trigger on a player at that position when they chose Gabe Wright from Auburn.

Yes, they signed former Baltimore Raven Haloti Ngata to play inside, but last year’s fifth round pick Caraun Reid needs to come on and I think he will. Reid was a dominant player at the Ivy League level, but it’s a big jump from the FCS Ivy League to the NFL. Reid got just spot duty in 2014. He has excellent overall athleticism, and I feel he can be the young guy who breaks out for the Lions this year.

Davante Adams – WR – Green Bay Packers

Adams flashed as a rookie and was starting to really come on towards the end of the 2014 season. Still, he finished the season with only 38 receptions for 446 yards and three touchdowns.

Adams came from a fairly simple spread offense in college, and like many receivers, it takes some time to adjust to an NFL offense. He has the size, speed, and overall athleticism to eventually become a dominant receiver in the NFL. I look for that to start to happen this year. If he comes on as expected, he helps give Green Bay a receiving corps that is as good as any in the NFL.

Scott Crichton – DE – Minnesota Vikings

Crichton did not play much as a rookie. He finished the season with only two total tackles. In college, Scott was a high-motor playmaker who flashed dominating ability. Based purely on what I saw him do while at Oregon State, I feel Crichton can become an important part of the Vikings’ defense in 2015. He has the physical tools, he just needs to remain healthy and play to his talent level. While he may not be a starter, he can play an important role in the defensive line rotation.

Kyle Fuller – DC – Chicago Bears

Fuller earned a starting role while in training camp and began the season very strong. He had three interceptions in the first three games and made a number of other big plays. He then suffered a hand injury and like the rest of the Chicago defense, disappeared.

From a traits viewpoint, Fuller has ideal corner size, speed and athleticism. He also has long arms, can tackle and has excellent ball skills. Playing in a new 3-4 scheme, Fuller needs to revert back to his early season form. If that happens, he will be one of the better corners in the NFC North.

Ego Ferguson – DT – Chicago Bears

As a rookie, Ferguson was a role player for the Bears and actually played fairly well in limited opportunities. This year, playing in a new scheme, a lot more is expected of him, and I feel he will come up big.

In the Bears’ new scheme, Ferguson will most likely be playing both as a nose and a 5-technique. He has the length, strength, and overall power to be a very good NFL defensive lineman. New defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s scheme fits Ferguson’s traits very well. While I don’t expect Ferguson to be a starter, I feel he will play 50% of the defensive snaps playing in a rotation and put up some good numbers. He will be a presence in the Bears’ defense as both a run defender and inside pass rusher.

Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

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