Chicago Bears special teams coordinator Dave Toub was dealt a tough blow this offseason when the competition committee voted to move the kickoff line from the 30-yard line to the 35. Ostensibly, this will reduce the number of kickoff returns and curtail Devin Hester's impact on each game.
Last season, the Bears led the league in average starting field position, a factor that played heavily in their success. For 2011, that may not be the case, which is why Toub and his staff have been using the extra time to revamp a system that produces a top-tier special teams unit each and every season.
"We basically revamped our whole playbook," Toub told Larry Mayer on the team's official Web site. "We took all the different things that we've done over the last three years from the game plan books and compiled them and put them into a new book. We hadn't redone our playbook in about three years, and this was a good time to be able to do that.
"Basically the playbook is just for us," he said. "It's something that we go to and pull out plays from. We'll just select stuff each week. It's like a library for us."
On offense, coordinator Mike Martz has spent an inordinate amount of time going over game film from last season, studying player performances ad nauseum.
"What we've been able to this year that's different is be a lot more detailed and clean things up, and spend more time analyzing ourselves and what changes we need to make," Martz said. "We have a much better idea about who we have and what we're asking them to do. So we're analyzing personnel and then how we're going to do things differently in all phases of the game."
Each specialty coach has had an opportunity to conduct a presentation on their respective positions. Running backs coach Tim Spencer recently sat the rest of the staff down and went over last year's rushing attack.
"Tim presented all the runs to us," Martz said. "We went through and cleaned them up twice. We looked at all that stuff. He made some nice cutups and did a real nice presentation to us on all our runs and we discussed them. We've been through our runs several times now.
"Everybody's got a different project to work on and to present to the staff. It's just different each day and each week. We don't come in and have a normal routine. I don't like that. I'm a ‘whole-part-whole' guy. I always have been. That's how I was raised as a teacher and that's how I was raised in this business."
Briggs not getting excited … yet
LB Lance Briggs
With NFL owners and players recently finishing up a third round of private meetings, optimism is swirling about the chances of completing a new collective bargaining agreement within the next month. Bear linebacker Lance Briggs, though, won't be satisfied until things become official.
"To me, it is what it is,'' Briggs told Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune. "The thing that's bothersome is not knowing what our schedule is going to be. Whether this thing is done in two weeks or done in a month, then where do we go from there? We obviously must start the next day.
"I don't like the gray area. Not a fan of the gray area. I guess we just have to stay strong.''
His long-term hope is that the result of these negotiations will produce a better playing environment for future NFL players.
"I want things to be right for players for as long as we play this game,'' he said. "If it happens that my son is blessed enough to play in the NFL, I want the things that we do now to affect him positively.''
He believes fans are justified in their disgust of the situation.
"Fans have the right to be upset,'' he said, "but when football resumes, you're still going to have your team, your city to represent and cheer for. It's not like we've missed a year. We haven't missed a year ... yet.''
Peterson lands in UFL
Adrian Peterson played for eight seasons with the Chicago Bears, serving as a backup running back and a quality special teams player. He was cut by the team before last season, had a brief stint with the Seattle Seahawks during training camp but spent most of the year at home.
Yet his career playing football isn't over, as he was recently selected in the third round, 14th overall, of the United Football League (UFL) draft. For those unfamiliar with the UFL, the organization's mission statement sums it up:
"The UFL provides high-quality professional football during a traditional fall season while embracing innovation and fan interaction. The UFL serves its local communities with pride and dedication, and aims to provide every fan with an exciting and memorable game experience. The two-time UFL champion Las Vegas Locomotives will battle the Hartford Colonials, Omaha Nighthawks, Sacramento Mountain Lions and Virginia Destroyers for the William Hambrecht Trophy in 2011. The UFL is led by Commissioner Michael Huyghue and is funded by a consortium of private investors."
The hope for the 32-year-old Peterson is that he shows enough on the UFL field to get picked up by an NFL team. This scenario is highly plausible, as running backs tend to get injured at a high rate during the season. A team whose runners start to fall due to injury could call for Peterson to fill a roster spot. At the very least, he'll provide great value on special teams.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport com To read him every day, visit BearReport com and become a Chicago Bears insider