Duke Shelley Jersey

Duke Shelley faced an uphill battle to the NFL when his senior year at Kansas State was cut short with a toe injury.

Shelley, a former defensive back for the Wildcats, missed the final five games of his college career and was then unable to participate in any all-star games leading up to this week’s draft. His only opportunity to show off for NFL scouts came at K-State’s pro day in early March.

Turns out that was enough for him to make an impression.

The Chicago Bears selected Shelley in the sixth round of the NFL Draft with the 205th overall pick on Saturday.

He is the second former K-State player to hear his name called in the 2019 draft. The first was right tackle Dalton Risner, who went to the Denver Broncos in the second round with the 41st pick on Friday.

That comes as a bit of a surprise, considering running back Alex Barnes and fellow defensive back Eli Walker both arguably entered the draft with more buzz.

But Barnes went undrafted and signed a free agent deal with the Tennessee Titans.

Shelley is capable of excelling at the next level. A four-year starter for the Wildcats, he proved himself as a quality cover corner in the pass-happy Big 12 and was having an excellent senior campaign before going down with an injury.

His season actually ended after he made an interception against Oklahoma State last October when he tore a ligament in his big toe while trying to return the pick for a touchdown.

Just when it seemed like Shelley was turning into the unquestioned leader of K-State’s defense with 33 tackles, nine defended passes and three interceptions, his college career was over.

But he recovered quickly enough to turn heads at K-State’s pro day, and now he’s headed to the NFL.

Barnes will also get a shot to make a NFL roster, even if he didn’t get drafted as expected.

He left K-State a year early to get a jump start on his professional career after putting up strong numbers as a junior last season. The Pittsburg native was an absolute workhorse in his final year at K-State. He turned 256 carries into 1,355 yards and 12 touchdowns, while also catching 20 passes for 194 yards. He led the Big 12 in rushing and earned all-conference honors.

His draft stock seemed to rise when he showed off his strength at the NFL Scouting Combine earlier this year, making some think he might be selected in the middle rounds. But expectations dipped a bit in recent weeks, and he was viewed more as a late-rounder. He ended up going undrafted and will need to prove himself over the next few months.

Riley Ridley Jersey

Now that the dust has settled following the completion of the 2019 NFL Draft, Bears general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy met the media to answer questions regarding the Bears newest draft class.

Both decision-makers spent a considerable amount of time raving over their fourth-round selection, WR Riley Ridley from Georgia, who was not expected to be available when the Bears picked in the fourth round.

When asked about Ridley and if the Bears were surprised he was still on the board at pick no. 226, Pace said “honestly, we were. All of us had high grades on him so we were excited to get him at that point in the draft.” Pace went on to say the Bears continue to approach the draft with the best-player-available mentality and said picking Ridley comfortably at their spot was a “no-brainer.”

Pace and Nagy both gushed about Ridley’s route-running ability and explained how route running is becoming a hard-to-find skill among wide receivers. Ridley also has a knack for winning the 50-50 ball, or as he told Pace, “I’m not a 50-50 guy, I win all of them.”

Ridley joins a WR corp that includes Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, Taylor Gabriel, former teammate Javon Wims, as well as free agent signee Marvin Hall and undrafted free agent Emanuel Hall from Mizzou. The Bears rookie minicamp is set for May 3-5, 2019.

David Montgomery Jersey

It was 2 a.m. and Louis Ayeni, the Iowa State running backs coach, had been home for about two hours after a late-night return from Oklahoma State, where the Cyclones had squandered a 17-point second-half lead and suffered a gut-wrenching Big 12 loss.

The coach’s phone rang, never a good thing in the middle of the night.

After the Bears traded up 14 spots in the third round of the NFL draft Friday night to select Montgomery at No. 73, general manager Ryan Pace said there were numerous stories coming out of the Ames campus detailing Montgomery’s work ethic. Ayeni, now the running backs coach and recruiting coordinator at Northwestern, is the best man to tell those stories about a player he considers a son.

Montgomery FaceTimed Ayeni immediately after he got off the phone Friday night. They spent a half-hour on the phone after lunch Saturday. Ayeni believes the Bears nailed it by adding Montgomery to the defending NFC North champion’s improving offense. He has no doubt Montgomery, in time, will emerge as a leader at Halas Hall.

“We’re doing a recruiting function after David’s freshman year and we got done at like 10:30, 11 o’clock at night and we were going back to the facility to get our cars and we noticed the lights were on in the indoor facility,” Ayeni recalled. “I walked over there with coach (Matt) Campbell to see what was going on in there. The lights are on and music is blaring.

“What’s going on? It’s David in there by himself and he’s going through running back drills by himself. He’s in there just perfecting his craft. The crazy thing is you go back at night a couple weeks later and it’s David and all the running backs. A few weeks after that it’s David and all the skill guys on offense. And then you get to the summer and it’s offense and the defense. He captured that whole team with his work ethic and character and they followed him.”

It was Montgomery, a quarterback at Mt. Healthy High School in Cincinnati, that led the revival of the Cyclones program, from a 3-9 season his freshman season to an 8-5 record and a victory in the Liberty Bowl the next year.

How things shake out in the Bears backfield with free-agent signing Mike Davis will be determined on the practice field and through the preseason, but Montgomery is accustomed to competition. When he arrived at Iowa State, Mike Warren was coming off winning Big 12 freshman of the year honors after he rushed for 1,339 yards in 2015, one of the best seasons in Iowa State history and one of the best for a freshman in the history of the conference. By the middle of Montgomery’s freshman season, he overtook Warren.

“We envision a scenario where they’re all contributing in different areas,” Pace said. “We feel good about that room now. Really good about that room. They all bring a little bit of different things to the table. Matt (Nagy) and I were just talking about it — the different things we can do with all the backs in that room.”

Scouts have compared Montgomery to Browns running back Kareem Hunt, who won the rushing title as a rookie with the Chiefs in 2017. Ayeni is the man who recruited both backs to college, bringing Hunt to Toledo and then landing Montgomery at Iowa State. He’s careful in drawing comparisons between them as players and chuckles when describing how the Cyclones got Montgomery. Ayeni was already in Ames when Campbell was hired and was retained because he had worked with the staff previously at Toledo. Iowa State did not recruit the state of Ohio before Campbell arrived but began immediately because the coaches had ties to the area.

“Our receivers coach, Bryan Gasser, showed me his video, and I was like, ‘Where is this kid going? Ohio State?’ ” Ayeni said.

But Montgomery had no offers at the time.

“His film was really good,” Ayeni said. “Now David was playing quarterback in high school. He was a dual-threat quarterback and when you watched him run the ball, I thought it was something special. He was 220 pounds, he had those thick legs, he looked like a running back. He just had the traits and qualities you would want in a guy, and we were fortunate enough to have enough time to recruit him and get him.”

Once Montgomery got on the field at Iowa State, it was clear he was the program’s best offensive player.

“The similarities between David and Kareem are their contact balance,” Ayeni said. “They can make people miss and break tackles. It’s ridiculous. In 2017, Kareem was a rookie with the Chiefs, David led college football in forced missed tackles and Kareem led the NFL in forced missed tackles.

“They both can catch the ball out of the backfield, short and down the field. They both are willing pass blockers and can protect the quarterback and they both run with a chip on their shoulders. Those guys both compete and don’t want ever want to go down. You know when you watch a running back and it’s like, ‘Whoa!’ It can be a business decision to tackle the guy. You have to gang-tackle them. Both have that desire to never let one guy bring them down.

“I know Kareem was a third-round pick and he kind of came out of nowhere when he burst on the scene. I am just telling you Kareem looked the same way in high school that he looked in the NFL on Sundays and the same he was at Toledo. Whereas Dave, his make-you-miss ability was the same in high school as it was in college, and I’m looking forward to it staying the same in the pros because it’s special what he’s got.”

Montgomery has more natural hands as a receiver than Hunt and he is more refined as a route runner, according to Ayeni. They are areas of his game that can continue to be developed because he has been a running back for only three seasons.

“The sky is the limit for the kid,” Ayeni said. “I told him he is living in the basement.”

Ayeni is confident, too, that if Montgomery calls again in the middle of the night, it won’t be because he’s in trouble.

Aaron Lynch Jersey

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The Bears on Monday bolstered their defense by re-signing outside linebacker Aaron Lynch to a one-year contract.

Lynch, 26, appeared in 13 games with three starts in his first season with the Bears in 2018, recording 16 tackles, three sacks, one interception and four tackles-for-loss.

“Where else would I want to be?” Lynch told ChicagoBears.com. “This is where I want to be. It’s where I see my future.”

Before joining the Bears last year, Lynch spent his first four NFL seasons with the 49ers after being selected by San Francisco in the fifth round of the 2014 draft out of South Florida. He played in 44 games with 19 starts for the 49ers, registering 83 tackles, 15 sacks and 28 tackles-for-loss.

Lynch is excited to remain with the Bears and help the 2018 NFC North champions reach the next level.

“We get to build on last year,” Lynch said. “We didn’t [reach the Super Bowl], so now we really want to get there. I feel like that’s a huge motivational ladder that we get to climb up this year.”

Lynch is the seventh Bears player the team has re-signed since the end of last season, joining right tackle Bobby Massie, tight end Ben Braunecker, punter Pat O’Donnell, quarterback Tyler Bray, safety DeAndre Houston-Carson and defensive tackle Nick Williams.

In addition, the Bears have inked six players from other NFL teams since the start of the new league year March 13: Receiver/return specialist Cordarrelle Patterson (Patriots), running back Mike Davis (Seahawks), nickel back Buster Skrine (Jets), safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (Redskins), offensive lineman Ted Larsen (Dolphins) and receiver Marvin Hall (Falcons).

Trey Burton Jersey

Trey Burton on Monday clarified the strange, 11th-hour injury that sidelined him from the Bears’ 16-15 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles that knocked his team out of the playoffs.

Burton said he came into the Bears’ practice Friday feeling a little stiff, but was able to fully participate for the duration of practice. When he got home on Friday, his groin felt stiffer, and then when he woke up Saturday morning it was “completely locked.”

“I had a tough time walking, tough time really doing anything,” Burton said. “Tried to do everything we could Saturday, Saturday night, really all day, and then Sunday morning. But it wouldn’t loosen up and let go. I wasn’t able to play.”

Burton initially said he thought he was fine after Friday’s practice and would be able to push through it, so he didn’t get any treatment. But he did mention his body has a history of locking up like it did when “it feels any threat,” and even in doing “everything possible” on Saturday, he said, he wasn’t able to go.

Burton, too, didn’t think the stiffness that led to him being inactive was due to any sort of mental block.

“I was in a really good spot mentally going into this game,” Burton said. “I was extremely excited to play my former team. And obviously a playoff game as well. I was really looking forward to competing with those guys that I played with for four years. I don’t think — you know, I thought about it. I just don’t think it had anything mentally to do with it. But, it’s over now.”

In Burton’s absence, the Eagles were able to key more on running back Tarik Cohen, contributing to the Bears’ explosive playmaker only getting four touches. The Bears’ offense, too, looked out of sync for the majority of the game — at least until the fourth quarter — and Burton’s absence certainly impacted it.

“I let my team down,” Burton said. “I hate it. Especially going against one of my former teams, playoff game, all the implications. It was tough.”

Cody Parkey Jersey

Like a lot of NFL fans, I sat down to watch the Philadelphia Eagles take on the Chicago Bears. (Full disclosure: I did so from Auckland New Zealand, where it was actually Monday morning) I was curious if the Eagles’ late-season magic would wilt beneath the Bears’ new Monsters of the Midway.

So, like a lot of NFL fans, I was fully invested when the Bears kicker, Cody Parkey, stepped out onto the field with 10 seconds left in the game. The Bears, down 16-15, were one seemingly routine 43-yard Parkey kick away from their first playoff win since 2011. I was surrounded by a group of Bears fans in a small restaurant and we watched as the ball was snapped, and Parkey’s kick sailed through the uprights—only to be declared void. The Eagles’ head coach, Doug Pederson, had called a timeout, milliseconds before the play. Parkey would have to kick it again.

For most people, this might seem like no big deal. There are lots of folks who don’t believe icing a kicker (which is what you call a timeout before a big kick) is a smart tactical strategy.

But for Cody Parkey, it was a HUGE deal.

You see, Parkey not only had the game on the line, he was carrying baggage from the season. Five times this year, Parkey doinked a kick off the goalposts—including four in one game. He’d missed 10 kicks (field goals and extra points) on the year. And the NBC broadcast crew came back to those facts over and over again during the timeout.

My guess is those misses were running through his head, too. I asked the guy at the next table, replete in his vintage Mike Singletary jersey, how he thought Parkey would handle the extra pressure. He looked down and said he couldn’t stand to watch.

Moments later, we had our answer. The timeout ended, the ball was snapped, and millions of people watched in stunned amazement as Parkey’s kick doinked off the left upright, doinked off the crossbar, and then fell, helpless, into the end zone. No good.

The Eagles took possession and quickly knelt, running out the clock and preserving their unreal run under Nick Foles. Cameras captured stunned Bears players on the sideline in between replays of Parkey’s miss.

Taylor Gabriel Jersey

Ryan Pace took a bit of a gamble when he guaranteed $14 million to Taylor Gabriel, a guy who never had more than 36 receptions or 625 yards in a season, last March. It was a bet on the 27-year-old being not only an ideal fit for Matt Nagy’s offense, but being able to handle a significantly larger workload than he did with the Cleveland Browns or Atlanta Falcons.

Four games doesn’t mean Pace’s gamble has paid off, but what the 5-foot-8 Gabriel has done to begin his Bears career has been nothing but promising.

Gabriel has quickly proven to be one of Mitch Trubisky’s favorite targets, if not the quarterback’s favorite, with 22 receptions on 29 targets. While one-fourth of the season isn’t enough to predict what Gabriel’s production could look like at the end of the year, it is worth noting that he’s on pace to breezily eclipse his career highs in targets, receptions and yards.

“He’s a speedy receiver and I think the neat thing about Taylor is he wants to get away from that whole gadgety deal or label that is with him,” Nagy said. “He’s done a great job at really embracing who we are as an offense and then filling his role as that other receiver.”

While with the Falcons, Gabriel was solidly a third receiver and a “gadget” guy, as Nagy said. He played 53 percent of Atlanta’s offensive snaps in 2017 and 41 percent in 2016, and prior to that played 45 and 58 percent of the Browns’ snaps in 2015 and 2014, respectively.

So perhaps the most impressive part of Gabriel’s strong start to 2018 is how much the Bears are able to use him. Gabriel has played 83 percent of the Bears’ offensive snaps, the same percentage as Trey Burton and behind only Allen Robinson (93 percent) among skill players.

His usage is more impressive, too, given Gabriel missed a good chunk of training camp with a foot injury. But even then, the work Gabriel put in during July and August was enough to convince his coaches he was ready for a larger role than he’s ever had.

“You project it by making sure that he gets those reps in practice because I think the biggest thing is with your legs getting used to that,” Nagy said. “If you’re not on the field as much then your production can go down because you’re not strong. Your legs get tired and that. He’s conditioned and he’s done a great job of that.

“Then, mentally can he handle all the stuff we’re asking him to do? He’s done that too. So, that’s great, that’s a benefit for us and I think for where we’re at right now with the depth that we have at wide receiver it just enables guys like Taylor and these other guys that are behind Allen Robinson a chance to really go out there and do their thing.”

That Gabriel is able to be on the field so much allows the Bears to use him in a number of different ways. He can be brought in jet motion across the line of scrimmage to create confusion or a mismatch (and, when he does take a handoff, he’s carried four times for 27 yards). Trubisky can pick him out for quick screen throws on the perimeter. He can stretch a defense downfield with his speed. And he’s still effective on those gadget plays — he was the one who scored a touchdown on “Willy Wonka,” after all.

“No. 1, he can roll,” offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich said. “Everyone in this league knows that he can really run. That, in itself, matters. Wherever he is on the field they have to maybe open their hips a little earlier or align a little bit differently, and you can do a lot of that with him and other guys underneath that. But he’s a guy, yeah, that we’re excited about. A guy that has never been ‘the guy’ on his team, but we just need to keep building his packages.”

Wide receivers coach Mike Furrey said earlier this month that Gabriel’s breakout game against Tampa Bay — he caught all seven targets for 104 yards with two touchdowns — was the culmination of him gaining an even better grasp of what the team expects his role to be.

“He’s been trying to figure out how to do this thing the right way coming into a system here where you’re expected to practice hard, expected to do things right, and try to get better every day,” Furrey said. “He’s been doing that over the past couple weeks and he’s starting to buy in to what we’re trying to do. He was rewarded with that yesterday, so it was good to see that because it’s something he’s been working on, he’s been wanting to get better, he’s been wanting to be a reliable target for Mitch and he wants Mitch to trust him and he’s been working on that the past couple weeks so it’s good to see that happen.”

Allen Robinson Jersey

Despite Penn State Football lettermen Adrian Amos, Donovan Smith and Allen Robinson having each recently signing their second contracts with the NFL, they talked about their struggles with financial literacy and the business of football in Penn State’s HUB-Robeson Center Friday afternoon as part of Blue-White weekend.

Robinson, a wide receiver, signed a three-year, $42 million contract in 2018. Amos, a safety for the Green Bay Packers, signed a four-year, $37 million contract last month as well as Smith, an offensive tackle, who signed a $41.5 million contract extension with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Robinson, a second-round draft pick in 2014, emphasized the importance of “knowing your own value as a player once free agency starts and bullets start flying” because a decision sometimes must be made before the end of a phone call.

Amos reminisced upon playing through injury at Penn State to reach his goal.

“I wanted to play at the next level,” he said. He knows “there’ll be ramifications after football, but “that’s where the money comes in.”

Amos, Smith, and Robinson agreed that much of their financial literacy was learned through financial advisors or older players in the locker rooms.

Allen, admitting he did not “overly apply” himself in school, expressed frustration at the lack of money management education in high school and college, saying “If you can’t manage $100, you can’t manage $1 million.”

Smith did not know how to write a check when he left Penn State.

Amos has four younger siblings, and he is trying to teach them to value responsibility rather than “the awe affect.”

“Don’t look up to me because I’m good at football, but because of how I got good at football,” he said. Robinson chimed in, saying he “uses football to chase life goals.”

Amos, Smith, and Robinson each recognized the platforms they have as professional football players, but Smith pointed out that the platform only exists for about eight years.

Regarding the recent cases of abuse by NFL players, Robinson said it is disappointing that his colleagues have “a very big platform but a very short window to use it,” and they misuse it in that time frame.

Smith agreed, drawing upon the Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell contract situations and saying the risk for 20 or 30 seconds of attention is not worth it.

Despite these controversies being played out in the news, Robinson said there is rarely any talk about these matters inside the locker room because it is a “safe haven from the media.”

Smith nodded in agreement, saying it’s “like an unwritten rule” to check on your close friends and leave the conversation at that.

Eric Kush Jersey

That gives the Bears the continuity every team likes to have. This will be the fourth consecutive season that Leno, Long, Whitehair and Massie will be together.

And, perhaps just as important, this will be their second year with offensive line coach Harry Hiestand, who made a big impact last season. The Bears were ranked second in the NFL in pass-blocking efficiency by Pro Football Focus. They allowed an NFL-low 117 pressures on 519 pass-blocking snaps, according to PFF.

Leno and Massie are far from the most heralded pair of tackles in the NFL, but coach Matt Nagy was quick to credit them as a solid foundation.

“We fully understand some of these bookend defensive ends that we’re going to be seeing in the future and the direction of speed and talent [there], so you better have those edges protected,” Nagy said. “We have two guys that we feel really good with on the edges. Credit goes to Pace and his guys for building that unit.”

Grading the Bears’ need: Low. The Bears return all five starters, plus swing tackle Bradley Sowell. Eric Kush, a valuable reserve who started seven games last season, signed with the Browns in free agency. But the Bears seem to have ably filled that hole by signing Ted Larsen, who filled a similar role to Kush in 2016.

On the roster: Tackles Charles Leno Jr., Bobby Massie, Sowell, Rashaad Coward, Dejon Allen and Cornelius Lucas, guards Kyle Long, James Daniels, Larsen and Willie Beavers and center Cody Whitehair.

The five best draft prospects: Florida tackle Jawaan Taylor, Alabama tackle Jonah Williams, Washington State tackle Andre Dillard, Oklahoma tackle Cody Ford and North Carolina State center Garrett Bradbury.

Keep an eye on: Don’t sleep on Alabama State tackle Tytus Howard, a former 6-2, 225-pound prep quarterback who grew into a 6-5, 322-pound offensive tackle over the last four years. With big hands and long arms to go with his natural athleticism, in the right hands, he has the makings of a quality NFL lineman who could be a great one.

Close to home: Former Downers Grove North quarterback David Edwards arrived at Wisconsin as a 6-7, 245-pound tight end and grew into a 6-7, 315-pound right tackle. He earned All-America recognition in 2017 and a first-team All-Big Ten selection in 2018. “I knew that O-line was kind of the writing on the wall for me,” Edwards said at the scouting combine. “But this is a dream come true for me. I have always dreamed of playing in the league and competing at this level.”

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix Jersey

Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix joined Green Bay as the 21st player picked in the 2014 NFL Draft, and the former Alabama All-American played in the next 71 Packers’ games — until he was traded to the Washington Redskins on Oct. 30.

But the first game of the NFL’s 2019 season will reunite Clinton-Dix with the Packers — as an opponent. The NFL will kick off its 100th season with the league’s most-played rivalry when Green Bay visits the Chicago Bears on Sept. 5.

Clinton-Dix joined the Bears in March when he signed a one-year contract with Chicago as a free agent. He’ll return to Lambeau Field when the Bears visit Green Bay on Dec. 15.

The NFL announced its regular-season schedule for the 2019 season on Tuesday night. Instead of the traditional Thursday night opening featuring the defending Super Bowl champion, the league decided to highlight its history for the centennial season with the Thursday night meeting between the Bears and Packers, who’ll be squaring off for the 199th time (including two playoff meetings). Green Bay leads the series 97-95-6.

The New England Patriots, who won the NFL’s 2018 championship by beating the Los Angeles Rams 13-3 in Super Bowl LIII, will headline the first Sunday night game of the season, when they host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 8.

Clinton-Dix won’t be the only player with Alabama football roots who’ll find himself on a strange sideline in 2019. Among the players from state high schools and colleges who’ll be opposing their 2018 teams in the coming season are:

· Linebacker Kwon Alexander (Oxford High School) played his first four NFL seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and he’ll be back in Tampa on the first Sunday of the 2019 season — even though he signed a four-year, $84 million contract with the San Francisco 49ers in March. The 49ers kick off the campaign by visiting the Bucs on Sept. 8.