Ryan Pace, Thursday at Halas Hall. (Photo Credit: @ChicagoBears)

The Chicago Bears on Thursday took the most important step in rebuilding their franchise with the hiring of Ryan Pace as general manager:
Pace replaces the recently fired Phil Emery as Bears general manager, and becomes the sixth general manager in Bears franchise history.

Just 37 years old (making him the youngest general manager in the NFL), Pace spent the last 14 seasons as a member of the New Orleans' Saints front office, with a focus in the Saints' player personnel department, and actually served as their director of player personnel in the final two seasons.

Here are the players the Saints drafted in the two years Pace held the title of director of player personnel:

15. Kenny Vaccaro
75. Terron Armstead
82. John Jenkins
144. Kenny Stills
183. Rufus Johnson

20. Brandin Cooks
58. Stanley Jean-Baptiste
126. Khairi Fortt
167. Vinnie Sunseri
169. Ronald Powell
202. Tavon Rooks

Over Pace's time in New Orleans, the Saints put together a 115-93 record, reached the playoffs six times since 2006, and of course won the Super Bowl in 2009.

Larry Holder of The Times-Picayune took a great look in 2013 at the players signed by the Saints in free agency since 2006, headlined by quarterback Drew Brees.

The Pace hiring came as a surprise, as Kansas City Chiefs director of player personnel Chris Ballard was considered the heavy favorite for the Bears' general manager job. The Bears also interviewed Houston Texans director of pro personnel Brian Gaine, and Tennessee Titans vice president of player personnel Lake Dawson.

Even though Ballard was considered the favorite for the job, the reaction to the Bears hiring Pace has been very positive for the most part. Here's a sampling of reactions and other interesting tidbits in regards to the hiring:

Now, Pace has his hands full dealing with a roster that is coming off an embarrassing 5-11 season and is greatly lacking long-term assets (in my opinion, Alshon Jeffery, Kyle Long, and Kyle Fuller are the only Bears players under contract that you really feel good about three+ years down the road). It will especially be interesting to see what Pace envisions for the Bears at the quarterback position, and if he has anything to say about it in his introductory press conference on Friday, as Matt Eurich points out:

Oh, and then there's the whole issue of the Bears not having a head coach yet either (kind of a big deal). And Pace didn't wait very long to make himself a part of those efforts, as he reportedly was a part of the Bears' interviewing of Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles on Thursday:

So, Pace is going to be a very, very busy man and we will get a great idea of his overall plan and vision on Friday in his 11 AM CT introductory press conference at Halas Hall.

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Da Bear Necessities and State Farm have partenered up for a scavenger hunt involving Chicago Bears prizes that include two tickets and sideline passes to the Bears game against the New Orleans Saints on Monday night (December 15, 7:30 PM CT) at Soldier Field. Other prizes include Bears jerseys, shirts, and hats.

So what do you have to do to follow the scavenger hunt and be eligible for the prizes?


1. Follow State Farm on Twitter- @StateFarm

2. Follow the hashtag #DoubleCheckDaBears for clues on where the prizes will be given away by State Farm representatives.

So give it a shot, and good luck!

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While Bears fans won't soon forget the team's stunning come-from-behind 28-20 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night to open up Levi's Stadium, there was unfortunately a heartbreaking moment they won't soon forget either.

In the third quarter, Bears cornerback Charles Tillman got tangled up with a 49ers offensive player and his right arm was clearly in pain. It was soon revealed that the injury was to Peanut's right triceps, the same triceps he tore to end his 2013 season last November.

And then NBC showed Peanut on the sidelines:

That was all we needed to see to realize that Peanut had likely torn his triceps again. And on Monday, that injury was unfortunately confirmed:
The 33-year-old Tillman signed a one-year deal in the offseason to remain with the Bears, and it felt like there was a very good chance this would end up being his last season in the NFL. So, it's very possible this is it for Peanut, and you certainly wonder that even more after seeing tears fall down his face.

If this is the end for Peanut, what a career it's been. The greatest cornerback in Bears history and as classy of a man as you'll find in the NFL (he was just named the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year in 2013).  36 career interceptions, nine career defensive touchdowns, 42 career forced fumbles... just eye-opening numbers left and right.

The Bears add more on Tillman's statistical accomplishments:
If you need any more convincing on how good of a career Peanut has had and what an incredible role model he's been (in a league full of disturbing accusations and stories of late), here's just a small sampling of what some people in the football world are saying about him on Twitter:

And I think Jeff Hughes of Da Bears Blog summarized it perfectly:

Lastly, here are Peanut's comments following the injury news on Monday:

Classy as always, and Peanut will make a great coach to have for the rest of the year, especially for rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller.

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A brutal opening loss for the Chicago Bears against the Buffalo Bills also included some injuries to key players.

Wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery (they're kind of a big deal) left the game with leg injuries, though Marshall tried to play through his and came up lame trying to catch a pass on what would've likely been a big play in space (summarized how things went on this day). There don't seem to be concerns that Marshall's injury is serious, though.

And as for Jeffery, reports from the Bears' sideline kept saying he was probable to return to the game after a hamstring injury, but never did. It seems like the Bears were just being extra cautious on their star third-year receiver.

While Marshall and Jeffery were each out with injuries on Sunday, the Bears were down to Santonio Holmes, Josh Morgan, and Micheal Spurlock at wide receiver. If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I've made it clear that I don't think Spurlock should be on the team and I don't understand what he showed during the preseason/camp to earn a precious 53-man roster spot. The Bears talked about Spurlock's return abilities and obviously have been full of question marks there, but he muffed two punts in the preseason, without even having a single good return to top it off. And at wide receiver, he showed very little. It just seemed like there were a few players more deserving of a roster spot than Spurlock out of camp.

Well, on Tuesday, the Bears finally released Spurlock (after he had a bad drop on Sunday... after Cutler for some reason threw to him), and re-signed veteran offensive lineman Eben Britton:

The Britton move was about the most predictable move ever, as two other players that suffered injury on Sunday for the Bears were starters on the offensive line: left guard Matt Slauson and center Roberto Garza. Reports are that Slauson and Garza suffered the dreaded high-ankle sprain, an injury that frequently takes 4-6 weeks to heal.

Britton is a veteran known for his versatility on the offensive line and probably would've made the team if not dealing with an injury himself during the preseason. The Bears even lined up Britton as a "tight end" at times last year as an extra blocker.

Brian de la Puente will be the starting center with Garza out, and many would like for de la Puente to keep the job even when Garza is healthy. Here's what Pro Football Focus said about de la Puente, whom they gave their second-highest grade on the Bears for Sunday's game (the grade has since been increased to +3.7):

Brian De La Puente, C: +3.2 

Breakdown: Playing 45 snaps in relief of the injured Garza, De La Puente was integral in the Bears’ comeback attempt. Routinely exhibiting strong work in the run game, he helped open the door for Matt Forte’s solid day. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, though, as De La Puente put up a combined +40.8 grade in three years starting for New Orleans. How he ended up in a back-up role is mind-boggling, and if he continues playing as he did yesterday, he shouldn’t stay a backup for long. 

Signature Stat: Perfect in 33 snaps of pass protection.

And guess which Bears player had PFF's highest grade vs the Bills (and PFF's highest grade for any guard in the NFL through week one, actually, at +4.8))? None other than the guy that replaced Slauson at left guard, Michael Ola.

So, there's reason to believe the Bears will be fine on the starting offensive line while Slauson and Garza are out, but their depth obviously took a hit, and that's where Britton comes in. Provided Britton is healthy, quite a fortunate situation to be able to bring back a guy off the street that was solid and very versatile for them in 2013.

In another move on Tuesday, the Bears signed Greg Herd (was with the Bears for a part of preseason) to the practice squad and released defensive tackle Roy Philon from the practice squad:

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Bills rookie WR Sammy Watkins (Ribs) is listed as 'probable' to face the Bears

The Chicago Bears and Buffalo Bills released their official injury reports on Friday, in preparation for their 2014 season opener coming up Sunday at Soldier Field.

Let's take a look at the Bears' injury news first...

Chicago Bears' Injury Report

David Fales, QB (Shoulder): OUT; Did Not Practice

Tony Fiammetta, FB (Hamstring): Questionable; Limited Participation In Practice

Chris Conte, S (Concussion): Probable, Full Participation In Practice

Brian de la Puente, C (Knee): Probable; Full Participation In Practice

The main storyline here is in regards to (much-maligned) safety Chris Conte, after Conte suffered a concussion in the Bears' third preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks. Conte passed concussion protocol on Thursday, and fully participated in practice on Thursday and Friday.

Conte appears good to go on Sunday, although Marc Trestman plans to ease the safety back into game action, considering Conte also missed training camp and the first two games of preseason following shoulder surgery. Here's what Trestman had to say about the Bears' safety situation on Wednesday:

“We’re going to roll them in,” coach Marc Trestman said Wednesday. “If Chris is up, we’ll rotate the safeties. We’ll rotate them between Ryan, Danny and Chris. Are we set on who’s going to start? No. But I expect all three of them will play and Brock [Vereen] will get some work as well.”
Source: ChicagoBears.Com

The whole "rotating safeties" thing was an eye-opener, but as ESPN Chicago Bears beat writer Michael C. Wright explains, this appears to be a temporary tactic while Chris Conte gets back into game condition; the Bears envision Conte and Ryan Mundy as the eventual starters:

Fullback Tony Fiammetta is listed as 'Questionable' with a hamstring injury, and appears to be the only starting Bears player in danger of missing the game. Quarterback David Fales has already been ruled out with a shoulder injury, but it's unlikely we see Fales on the gameday roster anytime soon anyway (barring an injury to Jay Cutler or Jimmy Clausen, of course).

Now for the Bills' injury news...

Buffalo Bills' Injury Report

Jonathan Meeks, S (Neck): Doubtful; Limited Participation In Practice

Lee Smith, TE (Toe): Doubtful; Did Not Practice

Anthony Dixon, RB (Hamstring); Questionable; Did Not Practice

Stephon Gilmore, CB (Groin): Questionable, Did Not Practice

Randell Johnson, LB (Ankle): Probable; Full Participation In Practice

Brandon Spikes, LB (Knee): Probable; Full Participation In Practice

Sammy Watkins, WR (Ribs): Probable; Full Particpation In Practice

The Bills also are in pretty good shape health wise, with backup safety Jonathan Meeks and blocking tight end Lee Smith the only players listed as 'Doubtful' to play in the game.

Starting Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore has dealt with a nagging groin injury and is listed as 'Questionable', but is expected to be able to play. Running back Anthony Dixon is also listed as 'Questionable' but is Buffalo's third-string back known more for special teams contributions.

The big news on the Bills' injury front is that wide receiver Sammy Watkins (the fourth overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft) should be able to play on Sunday. Watkins has dealt with a rib injury in the preseason, and even was forced to leave the Bills' fourth preseason game after aggravating the injury. But, the electrifying rookie participated fully in practice on Friday and is expected to start at wide receiver vs the Bears.

Still, the injury has limited Watkins' work in preseason and recent practices, and it usually takes rookie wide receivers a bit of time to be major threats in the NFL. So, the Bears may not face quite the same Sammy Watkins that other Bills' opponents likely will as the year goes on.

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