Joniak: Bears' Clinton-Dix Respects Ex-Teammate Aaron Rodgers

Jeff Joniak
December 12, 2019 - 7:10 pm

LAKE FOREST (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Jeff Joniak filed these reporter notes Thursday:

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-It was a boisterous and loose Bears locker room after practice, particularly surrounding the locker of safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. “This vibe in the locker room…it’s been great,” he said. “The guys are pumped up, man, and we’re just excited about this game coming up this week.”

-It is not a typical Bears-Packers game for Clinton-Dix. He was drafted by the Packers, who then traded him to Washington last season. “Green Bay and Chicago are two of the prestigious organizations in this business. High, top-quality places to play at, and I’m blessed to play football at these organizations."

-Against the Redskins in Week 3, Clinton-Dix swiped two passes from his former team. The task will be much more difficult against quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. “If A-Rod decides to bless me and throw me the ball twice, I’ll be happy as hell. Unfortunately, A-Rod doesn’t work that way. He’s the best quarterback in the game, and we just have to go out there and execute and eliminate the big plays.”

-Akeim Hicks is not saying for sure he is cleared to play Sunday, but it will be a major upset if he does not. “I’m not going to go out and make any declarations,” said Hicks. “I’m going to say I’m going to do my best to be available to play football for the Chicago Bears this Sunday.”

-His return to the lineup is a boost, no matter how you slice it.  Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano is keeping a close eye on Hicks, looking for clues to determine his readiness. “Watching him on tape, watching him at practice, getting a feel,” Pagano said. “Communicating with him, talking to him, seeing how he’s doing, seeing where he’s at with the cardio stuff. He did a great job, and the trainers did a great job while he was out of taking care of himself. He’s rehabbing that elbow. but at the same time he was taking care of his body.”

-Temperatures are expected to dip into the teens, with the wind chill into single digits, which will affect the kicking game and the football in general. Bears kicker Eddy Pineiro is learning this week how the temperature changes the depth on his kicks. “It’s probably not going to go as far,” as Pineiro said. “It’s all part of the process.”

-Pineiro’s rookie season is nearly complete. His mental toughness has sharpened with every successful and unsuccessful kick. “For sure, I have definitely gotten mentally stronger,” Pineiro said. “Obviously, hitting a game winner in week two…you’re up here, you’re down here…it’s all a learning experience.”

-Offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich believes coaches and players are better equipped to perform against the Packers than maybe they were in the Week One loss. “I think guys are certainly playing with a different level of confidence at this point, for sure. We talked about it after that first game, it seemed like after the first couple of drives everybody was shell-shocked and we didn’t react well.”

-Quarterback Mitch Trubisky’s turning-point pass of the season may have been the touchdown throw to tight end Ben Braunecker against the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field in Week Ten. “We just started kind of putting things together,” Head Coach Matt Nagy said. “I think over time we’ve just felt like it just started to click. I don’t know if it's specifically one play or not, but that’s probably my best guess.”

-The Bears' special teams unit is top ten-rated by Football Outsiders and by Pro Football Focus. In general, it is a unit getting a big bounce from the return game, punt coverage, Patrick O’Donnell’s punting and a better overall return from rookie kicker Eddy Pineiro. There are a handful of young players maturing and growing on the coverage and blocking units as well, like Ryan Nall, Josh Woods and Joel Iyiegbuniwe. Contributions from Kevin Pierre-Louis, Nick Kwiatkoski and the excellence of Cordarrelle Patterson are significant.

-Interesting nugget regarding opponents kicking against the Bears and Packers: Each team has benefited from eight combined missed kicks and extra points by the opponent. Meanwhile, Mason Crosby has one miss, Pineiro has seven.

-The Bears have to contain the overall production of Packers' running back Aaron Jones. “He’s been very, very productive, obviously,” said Pagano. “I think he’s one helluva running back. He’s good when they hand the ball off to him. He’s good in space when they throw it to him. He’s a good protector. They’ve got him split out in empty formations and becomes a matchup issue.”

-The Packers' running backs are huge in the passing game. Combined, they are fourth among running backs in receptions, third in receiving yards, and second in receiving touchdowns, with eight. It is going to be a big challenge for the Bears' linebackers.

Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play announcer for the Bears broadcasts on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJoniak.