By Jeff Joniak-
(CBS) The Bears (4-6) host the Bucs (2-8) on Sunday at noon at Soldier Field. Here’s what’s on my mind heading into the matchup.
Roberto Garza played his 200th NFL game in Sunday’s win over the Vikings. The 14-year center has started 170 of those games.
“I never thought I would have a 14-year NFL career,” Garza said. “I feel honored to continue to play and play with the guys I am playing with. I love what I do.”
Only four active players in the league have started 200-plus games, led by Peyton Manning, and Garza is one of only 13 active players who have started in at least 170 games.
“I still love it,” he said. “Those four weeks when I was hurt and I couldn’t play, it definitely showed me that I still love what I do. You know when you can’t go out there and you can’t get on the field … It was a terrible feeling.”
It has been tough for Garza this season, with an early season ankle injury and an underachieving 4-6 season. Still, he does things the right way from his preparation to how he handles himself in practice and the meeting rooms.
With the benefit of perspective, players typically gain a deeper appreciation for the coaching they received over the course of their careers. Hall of Fame linebacker Mike Singletary once explained that he didn’t talk to his college linebacker coach at Baylor for 15 years after he left the program for the NFL.
He didn’t like him — that is, until he realized that coach saw something in Singletary that no one otherwise had previously seen. That hard-nosed coach used tough love on and off the field on Singletary and other players, including Hall of Fame running back Earl Campbell at Tyler High School in Texas.
Singletary was saddened to learn that his coach died Monday after a long illness. Clark “Corky” Nelson was 75.
Bears defensive end Jared Allen was charged up against the Vikings, and his enthusiasm spread through the rest of the defensive line. He sacked Teddy Bridgewater and led the team with seven solo tackles. On Monday night on the Bears Coaches Show on WBBM, defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni gave credit to Allen for doing a great job against the run by setting the vertical edge on the tackle.
“He plays against big people every single week,” Pasqualoni said. “In order for us to have good run defense, those defensive ends have got to do that. Jared buys in completely to the notion of, ‘Let’s play well together, let’s play as a unit,’ and at the end of the day the hits on the quarterback, the disruptions, the sacks will be there.”
In a quick glance at Lovie Smith’s Tampa Bay Bucs, their defense has produced a trio of pick-sixes and forced enough negative plays to rank in the top four in the league. Offensively, they will run it enough for quarterback Josh McCown to use play-action to push the ball downfield to big targets Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson, throwing to areas and having them win contested throws.
Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play announcer for the Bears broadcasts on WBBM Newsradio 780. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJoniak.