Fright Fest returning to Six Flags later this month

San Jose Mercury - Wed, 09/07/2022 - 05:08

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom have announced plans to offer an all-new and more immersive experience for their guests this year during its annual Halloween event, Six Flags Fright Fest.

On select nights from Sept. 24 through Halloween, visitors to Six Flags Fright Fest will find a lineup of experiences that will include five haunted attractions, three scare zones, two shocking shows, and seven supernatural transformations of park rides, in a new area of the park where no tombstone will be left unturned.

When the clock strikes six, an entire section of the park becomes infested with nightmarish monsters, ghouls, and zombies only accessible with a Fright Fest ticket package, separate from General Park Admission. Along with the terrifying frights, Fright Fest revelers will have access to rides that have been transformed for the season, lively entertainment, and special late hours at the event.

Ushering in the festivities is the new icon of the event, MAIM. MAIM holds court each evening at the Dead Man’s Party to unleash MAIMhem across Fright Fest.

During the daytime on Saturdays and Sundays, including Monday, Oct. 10, through Oct. 30, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom will offer guests Kid’s Boo Fest and Oktoberfest, included with general park admission. A family-friendly Halloween experience, Boo Fest includes a trick-or-treat trail, a new mirror maze, and Halloween themed animal shows.  Oktoberfest brings new specialty food and beverage options to the park for guests to enjoy for a limited time.

Fright Fest, Kid’s Boo Fest, and Oktoberfest are included with a valid Six Flags Annual Membership or Pass. Additional fees apply and reservations are required for Fright Fest.

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“We are incredibly excited to unleash an all-new Fright Fest that ups the scare factor for our guests,” said Six Flags Discovery Kingdom Park General Manager Dameon Nelson in a news release. “Six Flags is about creating fun and thrilling memories, while providing an exceptional guest experience, and this year’s edition of Fright Fest will be no different. When you add the family-friendly offering of Kid’s Boo Fest during the daytime and the special food and beverage options that are part of Oktoberfest, there won’t be a better place to celebrate the Fall season in Northern California.”

Fright Fest at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom will be offered on the following evenings:

  • September: 24-25, 30
  • October: 1, 2, 6,-9, 13-16, 19-23, 26-31

Fright Fest is a separately ticketed event that requires advance reservation for admission.  Additional fees apply for some haunted attractions and the event is not recommended for children 12 and under. For more information on Six Flags Fright Fest, visit

Categories: Local News

Bloody arrest in San Rafael prompts protests, investigation

San Jose Mercury - Wed, 09/07/2022 - 05:05
  • Demonstrators march past police headquarters on their way to City...

    Demonstrators march past police headquarters on their way to City Hall in San Rafael, Calif. on Sunday, Sept.4, 2022, to protest an arrest that injured a man in the Canal area. (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal)

  • A man arrested by San Rafael police sits in a...

    A man arrested by San Rafael police sits in a patrol car on July 27, 2022, in an image captured by an officer’s body camera.

  • Some 200 demonstrators rally outside City Hall in San Rafael,...

    Some 200 demonstrators rally outside City Hall in San Rafael, Calif. on Sunday, Sept. 4, 2022, to protest an arrest that injured a man in the Canal area. (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal)

  • Some 200 demonstrators rally outside City Hall in San Rafael,...

    Some 200 demonstrators rally outside City Hall in San Rafael, Calif. on Sunday, Sept. 4, 2022, to protest an arrest that injured a man in the Canal area. (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal)

  • Emilio Pineda of Larkspur speaks to demonstrators outside City Hall...

    Emilio Pineda of Larkspur speaks to demonstrators outside City Hall in San Rafael, Calif. on Sunday, Sept. 4, 2022. Some 200 people protested an arrest that injured a man in the Canal area. (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal)

  • A San Rafael police officer monitors a march along Fourth...

    A San Rafael police officer monitors a march along Fourth Street in San Rafael, Calif. on Sunday, Sept.4, 2022. Some 200 demonstrators protested an arrest that injured a man in the Canal area. (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal)

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Two San Rafael police officers are on leave, even more are under investigation and the city is clamoring for answers after an encounter with police left a man with blood streaming down his face.

The conflict happened while the man, whose name has not been released, was drinking beer with associates in the Canal area. Some initial questioning from police officers quickly turned into a scuffle and handcuffs, according to his attorney and police body cameras.

Body can video of violent police encounter now under investigation in San Rafael @marinij

— Alex N. Gecan (@GeeksterTweets) September 7, 2022

“He was treated like he didn’t matter as a human being, and he was treated with, really, an absolute contempt for his personhood,” said the attorney, Charles Dresow. He said his client suffered a concussion and broken nose.

Protests erupted downtown over the weekend after video of the encounter, first reported by ABC7 News, came to light.

San Rafael police Officers Daisy Mazariegos and Brandon Nail approached the group on Windward Way at about 7 p.m. July 27, according to footage from the police body cameras. Windward Way in that area is little more than an assembly of parking stalls between the Marin Health and Wellness Campus to the west and a grassy lot to the east.

A voice in the footage directs the people in the group to sit on a curb, and then to produce identification.

“Hey, sit the f— down,” an officer says when a man stood up to take identification out of his pants.

“Hey, you don’t have to talk to me,” the man said. He sat back down as he and the officers speak over each other.

More footage from SRPD incident @marinij

— Alex N. Gecan (@GeeksterTweets) September 7, 2022

The man stood again as if to pull out his identification, and an officer repeated the order to sit. As the man tried to explain something, at least two officers took hold of him and dropped him to the street. By the time the scrum ended, the man’s blood had pooled on the pavement.

Police put the man in a squad car and firefighters arrived to begin a medical assessment. Someone in a video clip asked the man if he was OK.

“I’m not OK,” he said.

Someone said, “Don’t fight with the police.”

In one clip, Nail told another police officer the man “tried to put me in a headlock.” Dresow said that never happened, but nevertheless was the basis for a felony charge that was filed by the district attorney’s office.

“You’re giving me great experiences with use-of-forces, dude,” one officer says to another in a video clip.

Police sent the man to a hospital for treatment, after which he was booked into the Marin County Jail, Dresow said.

The man was charged with felony resisting an executive officer, but after reviewing footage from the officers’ body cameras, prosecutors decided they would not pursue the charges. They were dropped Aug. 26, according to court records.

Dresow said his client has not yet filed a claim against the police department or the city.

Community leaders say the violent encounter was a huge step backward in relations between the police department and the residents they’re meant to protect.

“We are all in shock with the situation,” said Omar Carrera, chief executive of Canal Alliance, a San Rafael nonprofit that provides services for Latino immigrants and their families. “For us the best strategy on public safety is when the community trusts the police and when the police trust the community.”

He said his organization and the police department had been working for years to build exactly that kind of trust. He said that while “the relationship is not perfect,” and residents have complained about police interactions before, none had risen to this level of violence.

“This is not the type of relationship we have built, this is not the type of actions we’re going to tolerate,” Carrera said.

More fundamentally, Carrera said, the fact that the man felt as though he could not kick back inside his home with a beer after a day’s work was emblematic of larger issues with housing discrimination and lack of services in the Canal neighborhood specifically and Marin County generally. Many Marin residents, particularly the Latino community, are funneled into multi-family housing “where you cannot enjoy drinking a beer after work.”

“This is a reality for many people,” said Carrera, clarifying that he did not condone public consumption of alcohol. “What’s captured in that video is just one symptom of a bigger problem.”

Following the first news report on the encounter, police Chief David Spiller issued a prepared statement saying the department would address any possible “shortcomings.”

“Rudeness, lack of professionalism, or any unnecessary force are all examples of expressly prohibited conduct and such behavior is not at all condoned in our delivery of public safety services,” Spiller wrote. “The actions and conduct of all department members involved are being examined.”

The police department opened an internal investigation, and Spiller vowed that “appropriate” discipline for any officer who violated standards of conduct or department expectations.

The incident set off street protests in recent days in San Rafael, including a march to City Hall and police headquarters. By Tuesday, the investigation had been taken away from the department. The city administration announced it would hire outside investigators to conduct the probe into the officers and supervisors involved, but that Spiller would “decide what discipline, if any, to impose, up to and including the potential of termination of employment.”

Mayor Kate Colin said she was “deeply saddened and distressed by this incident” in a prepared statement accompanying the announcement of an outside investigation.

“I am listening to the community’s anger and concerns and am putting aside my personal emotions to ensure that the involved officers are given their legally mandated due process,” Colin said.

Colin and City Attorney Rob Epstein did not immediately respond to requests for interviews on the incident.

Through a spokesman, Spiller declined to be interviewed.

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The police department will review its use-of-force policy as a result of the incident, said police Lt. Scott Eberle.

“We are also not only critically examining this incident but we are examining the behaviors of all our department members, and this includes leadership,” Eberle said. “For those department members who have fallen short, they will be held accountable.”

Eberle confirmed that the two officers involved are on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

Dresow said the onus was on the police department to rebuild trust with a community that is legitimately outraged.

“In our criminal justice system, either everyone matters or no one matters, and he was treated like he doesn’t matter,” Dresow said of his client. “You just should not treat human beings like that, period.”

Categories: Local News

Car crash near Santa Cruz Boardwalk injures passenger; San Jose man arrested

San Jose Mercury - Wed, 09/07/2022 - 05:03

SANTA CRUZ — A 20-year-old man was arrested after allegedly ending his date by drunkenly driving a car off the side of the trestle bridge with a female passenger inside, police said.

Emergency responders were called at 5:19 a.m. Sunday to a single-vehicle crash at East Cliff Drive and the San Lorenzo River Railroad Bridge. On the beach beneath the bridge, not far from the river mouth, responders found a red Toyota Prius on its roof, Santa Cruz Police Department spokesperson Joyce Blaschke said. The female passenger was airlifted to an out-of-county trauma center and was hospitalized in serious condition, Blaschke said.

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Driver Gian Paul Cardona, of San Jose, remained held on suspicion of DUI causing bodily injury Tuesday at the Santa Cruz County Jail, according to county jail logs.

Investigators believe the car was traveling at a high rate of speed when it traveled onto the railroad trestle from the direction of Beach Street, Blaschke said. Blaschke said Cardona told police that he had spent the day with the woman at the beach and that they were headed home at the time of the crash.

Categories: Local News

Judge rules Santa Cruz not obligated to provide drinking water to UCSC north campus

San Jose Mercury - Wed, 09/07/2022 - 05:01

SANTA CRUZ — A judge has sided with the city of Santa Cruz authorities’ assertion that it is not obligated to provide water service to match future UC Santa Cruz expansion.

Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge Timothy Volkmann’s Aug. 30 ruling comes as a result of a breach of contract lawsuit filed against the city in October 2020. At the time, attorneys for the University of California Board of Regents and UC Santa Cruz announced the suit in a joint statement with the city. UCSC Chancellor Cynthia Larive and then-Santa Cruz Mayor Justin Cummings described the legal action as the university’s effort to “seek clarity,” a mutually agreed-upon step to settle an impasse in a long-brewing disagreement.

In subsequent court filings, university attorneys claimed that the city had committed to supplying the campus — particularly the northern edge that falls outside Santa Cruz’s borders — with water utilities, as codified in contractual agreements in 1962 and 1965.

In response to an inquiry Tuesday related to the recent ruling, UCSC spokesperson Scott Hernandez-Jason stressed that the court proceedings were focused on service access, rather than the more hotly contested local water usage debate sparked during recent droughts. Campus water usage has declined even as its student body has grown in the past 25 years, he said.

“UC Santa Cruz is only asking that the City of Santa Cruz fulfill the promises it made when it sought to persuade the Regents to build a campus in Santa Cruz — promises set out in plain language — to provide water service,” Hernandez-Jason wrote in an emailed response to the Sentinel. Related Articles

In a release from the Santa Cruz City Attorney’s Office on Tuesday, the city said the judge agreed the 1962 and 1965 contracts only required the city to provide water delivery infrastructure of a specified capacity to the university campus border, and to bill the university at rates comparable to other water customers — a service currently ongoing by the city. A copy of the judge’s ruling was not available in court records Tuesday afternoon.

City leaders had previously balked at the asserted water service requirement when UCSC officials laid out the potential for future campus expansion during its 2005 Long Range Development Plan update. In more recent court filings, the city argued that it was not automatically required to provide the additional water service. Attorneys wrote that UCSC also would need to apply to the Santa Cruz Local Agency Formation Commission, which oversees jurisdictional boundary issues, to add a new water connection serving unincorporated county land. UCSC officials disagreed, saying it was exempt from such requirements.

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Volkmann also ruled that UCSC will need to seek an opinion from the Local Area Formation Commission on whether or not the city is exempt from seeking the body’s permission to provide water service outside its jurisdictional boundary.

Asked how the judge’s decision affect future campus development strategies, Hernandez-Jason said water service across the residential campus “would help UC Santa Cruz build housing, classrooms, and space for research and creative scholarship, and fulfill its commitment to the local community and faculty, staff, and students.”

“We are disappointed with the court’s ruling and are determining our next steps,” Hernandez-Jason added.

Categories: Local News

Oakland school’s community remembers Bill Russell, says his generosity will continue well into the future

San Jose Mercury - Wed, 09/07/2022 - 05:00

OAKLAND – Held up by several McClymonds students a little before sunset, a banner with Bill Russell’s many accomplishments was both expansive and far too short to list all the basketball legend had done.

Flanking the display honoring Russell, who died this summer at the age of 88, was a collection of Oakland’s public figures and former McClymond icons.

A McClymonds staff member said the banner would be displayed at a prominent location at the school, a constant reminder of the consistent excellence Russell embodied.

McClymonds paid tribute to Russell (Class of 1952) before the school’s season-opening football game Friday night against Bellarmine, a game the home team dramatically won in overtime.

Afterward, McClymonds football coach Michael Peters said Russell was looking down on them.

“There’s a lot of great people who came out of McClymonds high school,” said Peters, himself an alum of the school. “But for him to win all the championships, and then to be the first African-American coach in the NBA is huge for the area.”

Russell has a resume beyond reproach, both as a man and an athlete.

He was at the forefront of the Civil Rights movement. He won two NCAA championships at USF. As a star with the Boston Celtics in the late-1950s and ‘60s, Russell created the modern archetype for the NBA’s superstar centers, stacking up an American-record 11 championships. 

He went on to become a player-coach, which made him the first Black coach in the four major American sports leagues. He also was a TV broadcaster. 

After retirement from basketball, Russell continued his Civil Rights work, authored several books and traveled the world.

“Bill saw the complete and holistic view,” said Bill Patterson, who had been close with Russell since the two met when Russell was a young man in Oakland. “He could see all the improprieties in the things that took us back. The reason he was so effective was because he was moving in different segments, bringing people together from those segments and exerting leadership to give national attention to the problem.“

Outside of the public eye, Russell gave back to his community through philanthropic contributions. His donations will continue to help McClymonds students well into the future.

“Bill Russell was part of a group that was anonymous and donated $3 million,” McClymonds athletic director Humphrey Garrett said. “That money is in the bank and the students are being awarded for that by the interest that accumulates on the money Bill Russell donated.”

Garrett said that McClymonds students who attend college will receive a merit scholarship to help with expenses.

Peters, even as his team was getting ready to play Bellarmine, explained how the financial assistance will work.

“When you’re at a four-year school, you get four stipends,” Peters said. “And as long as you’re at a junior college, you get two and then you get more if you go on to a four-year school. That helps the kids out in college.”

It’s his off-the-court work that McClymonds dignitaries hope today’s students take most to heart.

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“I’m proud to have gone to the same high school and played on the same court,” said McClymonds alum and former NBA standout Antonio Davis, who attended Friday’s football game. “More than anything, it has forced me to take on that persona of greatness, to be as good as I can be. It doesn’t mean I’m gonna be Bill Russell, but what it means is you’re going to see the best Antonio Davis at all times.”

Patterson, who has dedicated much of his life to helping Oakland in numerous roles, hopes McClymond’s future graduates use Russell’s posthumous contributions in a way the man himself would.

“He was concerned about the rest of the people,” Patterson said. “That’s what we always said, that you’ll be in a position to pull people up, to help people and have others follow in your footsteps.”

Categories: Local News

New evacuations ordered for Big Bear area as Radford fire advances

San Jose Mercury - Wed, 09/07/2022 - 04:59

The Radford fire burning on the mountain slopes just south of Big Bear Lake continued to chew up acres of dry forest on Tuesday, Sept. 6, as fire crews attempted to get a handle on the growing blaze.

New evacuation orders were announced around 4:30 p.m. for the Moonridge neighborhood, from Summit Boulevard to the west,  to Club View Drive to the east and Evergreen Drive to the north,  the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said.

  • The Radford fire ignited Monday afternoon, Sept. 5, in the...

    The Radford fire ignited Monday afternoon, Sept. 5, in the San Bernardino National Forest south of Big Bear Lake. (Photo courtesy of Caltrans)

  • The mountainside is aglow with flames as the Radford fire...

    The mountainside is aglow with flames as the Radford fire continues to burn in the San Bernardino Mountains near Big Bear early Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022. (Via LoudLabs photo)

  • The mountainside is aglow with flames as the Radford fire...

    The mountainside is aglow with flames as the Radford fire continues to burn in the San Bernardino Mountains near Big Bear early Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022. (Via LoudLabs photo)

  • A San Bernardino County firefighter looks on as the Radford...

    A San Bernardino County firefighter looks on as the Radford fire burns on a mountainside near Big Bear on Monday, Sept. 5, 2022. (Photo courtesy of San Bernardino County Fire)

  • The mountainside is aglow with flames as the Radford fire...

    The mountainside is aglow with flames as the Radford fire continues to burn in the San Bernardino Mountains near Big Bear early Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022. (Via LoudLabs photo)

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An evacuation warning was issued around 5:45 p.m. for areas east of Club View Drive to Angeles Camp Road, as well as from Highway 18 to the north to the areas between Deer Canyon and Sand Canyon Road to the south, according to county officials.

By 8 p.m., the fire had grown to 917 acres with 2 percent containment, the San Bernardino National Forest said.  Fire officials said they were attacking the fire with at least 16 air tankers that were dropping water and fire retardant on the blaze.

Containment is the amount of the fire area that is surrounded by a line that officials believe the flames will not jump.

The blaze ignited Monday afternoon amid a scorching heatwave, bringing with it days of record-breaking heat and calls for residents to conserve energy. An excessive heat warning remains in effect through Thursday evening.

At least 471 firefighters and other personnel assigned to the fire continued to work amid those high temperatures as they trudged through steep terrain.

The high temperature for Tuesday at Big Bear Lake was 88 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. Big Bear Lake and the San Bernardino Mountains are often a place for Southern California residents to seek reprieve from the searing heat in the valleys below. San Bernardino’s high temperature reached 108 degrees Tuesday, the NWS reported.

With the fire advancing near the property of the Snow Summit Ski Resort and Skyline Drive, a looping forest service trail, the Sheriff’s Department started ordering more evacuations Tuesday.

Residents living in the area between Pineknot Trail in the north to the Skyline Trail in the south, and from Castlerock Trail in the west to Knickerbocker Road in the east were asked to leave.

The Sheriff’s Department later added evacuations for Beverly Lane South and the forest road 2N08.

Evacuations were still in place from Glass Road to South Fork River Road, according to the Sheriff’s Department.

At the nearby Bear Mountain and Snow Summit ski resorts, staff were using the sprinklers associated with snow-making equipment in both defensive and offensive efforts, according to Justin Kanton, spokesman for Big Bear Mountain Resort, which manages the resorts. At the direction of fire crews, the resorts have used their snow-making equipment to both wet surrounding fuels as well as fight flames, Kanton said.

“We’ve been soaking down facilities to make sure they have some defense and there have been some incidents of flares today where the sprinklers have been used to suppress them,” Kanton said.

The fire prompted the closure of Highway 38 between Mill Creek and Lakewood roads, according to Caltrans. As of Tuesday afternoon, those closures remained in place, with no estimated reopening immediately clear, Caltrans said.

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Update 3: SR-38 closure remains in place from Mill Creek to Lakewood. No estimate of reopening at this time. Unified command for #RadfordFire is @SBCOUNTYFIRE and @SanBernardinoNF. Check out what a kind neighbor sent to us via a Timelapse video of the fire overnight. #Caltrans8

— Caltrans District 8 (@Caltrans8) September 6, 2022

The American Red Cross opened an evacuation center at Big Bear High School, 351 Maple Lane.

The Big Bear Chamber of Commerce in a Tuesday afternoon statement said people were evacuating safely and no structures had burned.

“Many (Big Bear) Village businesses have closed. Everyone is watching it carefully,” the statement said.

The cause of the fire was under investigation.

The Bear Valley Unified School District announced several school closures in areas affected by the fire for Wednesday, Sept. 7. The closures included North Shore and Baldwin Lane elementary schools, Big Bear Middle School and Big Bear and Chautauqua high school, the District said Tuesday evening.


Categories: Local News

From the U.S. to China, Major Economies Are Stalling. But Not India.

N.Y. Times - Wed, 09/07/2022 - 04:58
The Indian government expects growth to exceed 7 percent this year, though that pace may be hard to sustain as the global economy continues to slow.
Categories: Local News

Blackmail typically the reason for cyberattacks, but LAUSD says no demands have been made

San Jose Mercury - Wed, 09/07/2022 - 04:57

While Los Angeles school officials said Tuesday they have not received a ransom demand since their computer system was hacked over the holiday weekend, experts say blackmail is typically the reason for cyberattacks.

The objective for some hackers is to simply cause chaos — sometimes for political reasons — but most of the time they are trying to get paid, demanding a ransom to unlock the disabled computer system or refrain from leaking sensitive data, cybersecurity experts say.

“The bottom line is the attackers are really just looking to make money, that is their job,” said Tyler Hudak, a security expert for the Ohio-based TrustedSec firm.

“I’ve seen ransoms paid in the low five figures to millions of dollars,” Hudak said. “Nobody is publicizing whether or not they are paying.”

In 2021, hackers caused the shutdown of oil from the Colonial Pipeline, which supplies half of the fuel used by the East Coast. The company paid $4.4 million in ransom to a suspected Russian-based group called DarkSide  to restore its system, according to news reports. Federal law enforcement was able to recover $2.3 million in bitcoin from the attackers, reports said.

The cyberassault was on the pipeline’s billing system and didn’t affect operations, but officials turned off the oil flow to keep the virus from spreading. The shutdown hampered commercial air flights and drained gas stations in Florida, Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Panic-buying motorists lined up at gas stations and had to be warned against putting fuel into plastic bags.

The attack was so massive that President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency. The pipeline was turned back on after six days.

In Chicago, hackers hit the public school system, stealing four years worth of data for nearly 500,000 students and almost 60,000 employees. However, no private financial information was obtained, according to news reports. The breach was reported in April but actually occurred in December to a vendor used by Chicago Public Schools.

Last year, two Southern California school districts, in Newhall and Rialto, were hacked as well, disrupting operations, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“It happens more frequently that we could count,” said Scott Ray, chief operating officer of Denver-based NexusTek, an IT service. “That’s the reason cybersecurity companies are growing like crazy.”

Hacking for money happens so often that it has spawned an industry of “ransom negotiators” for computer systems, experts say.

At Los Angeles Unified, experts say the district is probably still trying to figure out the extent of the damage and how it happened. “They may not know how much trouble they are in,” Ray said.

By Tuesday afternoon, school officials said the digital attendance reporting system was back online and classes were operating as scheduled.

The Los Angeles hack was discovered on Saturday of Labor Day weekend. Holidays are an especially ripe time for cyberattacks.

“(Attackers) know IT staff will be thin and the reaction will be delayed,” Ray said.

Sometimes hackers will enter by obtaining a VPN password to access the system from off site. It is rare, but sometimes an attacker will get the password from a disgruntled employee, experts say.

“You just need one person to give you access and an attacker can get pretty deep into the organization,” Hudak said.

Once in, the attacker will run a program on the compromised computer system to encrypt important files. A ransom will be demanded to unlock the encrypted files. Hackers also will look for valuable data that can be sold or held hostage for a price. Sometimes they’ll look for insurance policies to get an idea of how much insurers will pay.

“They’ll explore the house” like a burglar, Ray said.

Experts say hackers typically have entered their targeted system long before the attack is discovered. Their preparations could send up red flags — provided someone is watching.

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Sometimes the attackers will leave behind an internet address, but nearly all the time they are anonymous, experts say.

Hudak said one way to track hackers is on “the dark net.” Typically, the hackers will post the names of victims who refuse to pay the ransom or they’ll leak out partial data as a motivator.

In the end, Hudak said, no system is impenetrable.

“Everybody eventually gets compromised,” he said. “Part of the whole protective tactic is to assure everybody you will have the right people watching for suspicious activity.”

Categories: Local News

Skelton: Newsom enjoys his most successful legislative session yet

San Jose Mercury - Wed, 09/07/2022 - 04:50

Despite lots of private grousing about him, Gov. Gavin Newsom emerged a big winner at the end of the California Legislature’s two-year session.

The griping was over his waiting until the last minute before sending legislators an ambitious package of climate-fighting proposals.

Most of it was passed, nevertheless, demonstrating the awesome power of a governor — especially one from the same party that controls the Legislature. In this one-party rule, one person generally does the ruling when he wants: the governor.

But not always.

Sources requesting anonymity told me that some Assembly Democrats loyal to Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, blocked one major climate bill that Newsom sought. They just refused to vote. Their purpose allegedly was to punish the governor for delivering the measure too late for careful scrutiny. Rendon himself voted for the bill.

Legislators don’t like to be jammed by a governor, even one from their own party.

Games are always played in the Legislature, particularly on the last night of a session.

An important gun control bill died just before midnight when it fell one vote short of the two-thirds majority needed for passage. It would have imposed strong limits on carrying concealed weapons. California’s old limits were ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

But Newsom scored several major victories as the legislative session ended — the biggest being his bill to keep the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant open for an extra five years.

Many Democrats would have preferred to close the plant in 2025, as was agreed in 2016 by owner Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and environmental groups. Environmentalists worried about earthquake safety and wanted California to focus more on developing renewable energy.

Newsom supported closing the plant back then. But he recently concluded that by 2025, California won’t have enough renewable energy to replace Diablo, a carbon-clean power source that produces 8.5% of the state’s electricity. There’d probably be blackouts — shutting off lights, air conditioning and electric vehicle chargers.

Newsom deserves credit for flip-flopping — usually considered a political no-no — and having the guts to change his mind. Of course, he also feared being blamed for summer blackouts.

Most Democratic legislators bought into that view — and so did Assembly Republicans.

It was strange and unprecedented to watch a Republican legislator be the floor jockey of a Democratic governor’s bill. Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham, R-Templeton, was wisely selected to handle the bill on the lower house floor because Diablo is in his district.

Most Republicans followed in support — 16 of 19 voting “aye.” Wonder if there’d be less partisanship if Democrats occasionally cut Republicans in on the action.

The measure passed easily, 69-3. Rendon didn’t vote.

“The speaker was supportive of the initial legislation to close Diablo Canyon and generally maintains that position today,” said his spokeswoman, Katie Talbot.

In the Senate, there was the usual partisan divide. Sen. Brian Dahle, the underdog Republican gubernatorial nominee from tiny Bieber in Lassen County, declared he was “not going to bail the governor out” from past poor decisions. He accused Newsom of setting climate change goals without adequately planning how to achieve them.

But that’s what the governor was trying to do with this climate package.

The bill breezed through 31-1.

The measure was significantly altered from Newsom’s original proposal because Sen. John Laird, D-Santa Cruz, insisted on it. Diablo is in his district.

The plant extension was cut from 10 years to five. A $1.4-billion loan to PG&E for maintenance and upgrades will be handed over incrementally, starting with $350 million. The loan is expected to be repaid with federal grants anyway. The California Coastal Commission must approve the extension. Newsom wanted to cut out the agency. There’ll be $1.1 billion spent on green energy.

The legislation “only does the minimum things necessary,” Laird said.

Newsom also muscled through several climate bills. One will legally bind California to become carbon neutral by 2045. And to ensure that 100% of California’s electricity is noncarbon by 2045, there’ll be interim targets of 90% by 2035 and 95% by 2040.

The bill that failed — and was maybe sabotaged — would have set a target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions 55% below 1990 levels by 2030. The goal now is 40%. But there’s some doubt even that can be reached.

Newsom also scored with legislation barring new oil wells within 3,200 feet of homes, schools, hospitals and other “sensitive” places. He had to buck strong oil industry opposition.

It was Newsom’s most successful legislative session.

But next year, assuming reelection in November, he’ll start being a lame duck with diminishing clout. State tax revenues are bound to decline in this screwy economy. So, enjoy the moment, governor.

George Skelton is a Los Angeles Times columnist.

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Categories: Local News

Opinion: Latino voters’ nuanced political views are often overlooked

San Jose Mercury - Wed, 09/07/2022 - 04:45

During a time that has brought the shock of the Uvalde mass shooting, restrictions on reproductive rights, and climate-related disasters, a large national poll of Latino voters found that their priorities have experienced a significant shift. For example, abortion is now among the top five issues for Latino voters for the first time ever. Worries about gun violence and crime, health care and abortion are rising dramatically. Jobs and the rising cost of living, as in the past, also remain priorities.

As the second-largest group of voting-age Americans, with many not solidly aligned with either party, Latino voters can be a powerful and stabilizing force in American politics. But misconceptions about this diverse and multiracial voting community persist. This has led to ineffective engagement with these voters, who already face increasing obstacles on the path to the voting booth.

Attempts to put Latino voters in an “either/or” box have consistently led to oversimplifications and mistaken assumptions about this community. The poll released by our organizations provides a trove of new data to show the nuanced views too often ignored in politics.

For instance, the survey respondents highly value self-reliance, but also believe that government has an important role to play in ensuring a level playing field. We found that Latinos tend to reject taking away people’s rights. On abortion, for example, 75% agree that no matter their own personal beliefs, it’s wrong to make abortion illegal and to take that choice away from others (this includes 76% of Catholics and 68% of non-Catholic Christians). On gun violence and crime, 72% of Latino voters were concerned about easy access to guns, and 60% say that elected officials need to find a way to put an end to school shootings. Inflation and jobs that don’t pay enough to make ends meet are top issues that Latinos want elected officials to address.

Given these priorities, it is not surprising the poll found that two-thirds of Latinos see greater alignment with the Democratic Party, with one-third favoring the Republican Party.

Yet neither party should take comfort from the recent poll results. The fact that Latinos are overwhelmingly concerned about inflation and the economy is a warning to Democrats who control the White House and Congress. And Republicans should be alarmed that continued GOP silence or endorsement of white supremacy is a big negative for Latino voters. Some 84% of these voters say it is important to them for elected officials and other leaders to speak out against hate groups, and 55% say they could not vote for a candidate supported by white supremacist/nationalist groups.

Both parties fall below previous peaks in Latino support. A big reason is limited long-term engagement with these voters, with more than two-thirds of voters reporting no contact from either party, including in many battleground states.

To fill this gap, our organizations have joined forces in a multistate partnership, bringing together the largest national Latino field electoral operation and a network of community-based organizations and programs serving millions of Latinos annually to expand civic participation. This extensive $15-million civic engagement effort will work with Latino voters in eight states: Arizona, California, Georgia, Florida, Nevada, Colorado, Pennsylvania and Texas. This year the partnership aims to register over 100,000 voters and to reach out to the nearly 2 million voters whom we connected with in 2020 to prevent voter drop-off this year.

At a time when this country is experiencing unprecedented challenges to democracy, we need to join forces to defeat those seeking to undermine our power to advance solutions. We are not alone in this commitment, but it’s time for Democrats and Republicans to make engaging with Latino voters a central priority.

Janet Murguía is the president and CEO of UnidosUS. Héctor Sánchez Barba is the executive director and CEO of Mi Familia Vota. ©2022 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.

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Ravens film study: What could QB Lamar Jackson and the 2022 offense look like? We asked the experts.

San Jose Mercury - Wed, 09/07/2022 - 04:41

If the most polarizing question in Baltimore sports is about quarterback Lamar Jackson’s value to the Ravens, the most consequential one could be about the 2022 offense he’ll lead.

As the Ravens prepare to face the New York Jets in Sunday’s season opener, the narratives are as inextricable as they are divisive. From week to week, Jackson’s apparent worthiness of a record-breaking deal will rise and fall within the structure of coordinator Greg Roman’s attack. There’s no consensus on how much money Jackson deserves in his next contract extension, just as there’s no consensus on how much the Ravens’ scheme will help or hurt his bid for more.

Not even former NFL quarterbacks can agree. Last month, ESPN analyst Steve Young said Jackson “keeps getting held back by the Ravens year after year because they keep doubling down on this [rushing] thing.” Two weeks later, NBC analyst Chris Simms said Roman is a “phenomenal” coordinator and called criticism of Jackson and the Ravens “over the top.”

The debates will evolve in step with the Ravens’ offense, which could be arriving at a handful of pivot points in the Jackson-Roman partnership. The Baltimore Sun spoke recently with two analysts, ESPN’s Matt Bowen and Football Outsiders’ Derrik Klassen, about what could (and should) be next.

Running in a new direction

In Roman’s three years as offensive coordinator, the Ravens have started two undrafted players and a sixth-round pick at center and still rolled over run defenses. With Matt Skura, Patrick Mekari and Bradley Bozeman in the middle, and Jackson serving as conductor, the team’s ground game has finished first, third and 11th in rushing efficiency over the past three years, according to Football Outsiders.

Injuries could again weigh on the 2022 group’s effectiveness, especially early. The early-season availability of running back J.K. Dobbins (knee) and left tackle Ronnie Stanley (ankle) is unclear, and running back Gus Edwards (knee) has not yet returned to practice. But Simms called Roman “one of the run-game master designers in all of the NFL,” and Tyler Linderbaum, one of the best center prospects in years, should add even more dimensions.

The first-round pick’s influence will be most obvious on the Ravens’ zone schemes. As the Ravens’ play-caller, Roman has typically preferred gap, or power, schemes, in which blockers wall off defenders from the ball carrier’s path and pulling linemen climb upfield to take on linebackers and safeties.

Zone schemes, which ask blockers to move in unison and block either an area or the first defender to arrive in their gap, have been less prominent and less effective in Baltimore. Last year, when the Ravens ran read-option plays, which make defenses account for Jackson as a potential runner, Devonta Freeman had a team-high 14 attempts for 137 yards on zone schemes, according to Sports Info Solutions. No other Ravens running back had more than four carries.

Linderbaum thrived as a zone blocker at Iowa, and his comfort with the concepts should bolster the Ravens’ rushing attack. With more zone-read looks from the pistol and shotgun formations, Roman could also diversify the Ravens’ menu of run-pass-option plays, exploiting overeager defenses with quick hitters.

“Linderbaum is great for this offense because he can play in zone and gap schemes,” Bowen said. “He is incredibly, incredibly talented as a mover, a positional blocker that can cut off defenders on the back side, reach defenders on the front side, play in space and fit up on linebackers. I thought it was an excellent pick. It kind of fits their offensive profile, in terms of the versatility they have on the call sheet and the versatility they have up front.”

Linderbaum doesn’t have the girth of a typical Ravens lineman — at the NFL scouting combine, he measured in at just 6 feet 2, 296 pounds — but his mobility has invited comparisons to Eagles All-Pro center Jason Kelce. In Philadelphia, the similarly sized Kelce has been used on “pin and pull” concepts that get him out in space, almost as a lead blocker.

“[Linderbaum] is such a smart player, he’s so insane athletically, that when you put those second-level players in a bind, if he can climb up there,” Klassen said, “he’s going to clear those dudes out pretty well.”

Blitz bounce-back

Jackson’s most surprising reversal in fortune last season came against man-to-man coverage and the blitz. Over his first three years in Baltimore, Jackson’s elusiveness and improvisational ability were maybe the NFL’s best deterrents against “Cover 1″ (man-to-man coverage, with one safety in the middle of the field) and “Cover 0″ (man-to-man coverage, with no safety help) schemes. One wrong angle was all Jackson needed to burst free into the open field.

Last year, though, the offense’s struggles seemed to embolden defenses. Because the Ravens’ patchwork line couldn’t hold off edge rushers for long, because their wide receivers’ route-running occasionally faltered, because Roman often found himself facing third-and-long, because Jackson struggled at times to trust what he was seeing, opponents came after him.

And to great effect. Against five or more pass rushers, Jackson completed just 59.4% of his passes for a meager 6.3 yards per attempt, according to SIS. He was also sacked 19 times and pressured 69 times on those 128 drop-backs. Against the all-out blitzes of Cover 0 looks, he was 6-for-18 for 41 yards. Against man coverage, including scrambles, Jackson’s expected points added per drop-back — a measure of relative efficiency that accounts for situational factors — was the worst in the NFL over the past three seasons among passers with at least 300 attempts.

Bowen said Jackson would have to settle for more quick-hitting, first-level throws, and pointed to the Ravens’ Week 13 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, who flustered him with the blitz.

“Pittsburgh really dialed up the pressure against Lamar, right?” he said. “And they got sacks on him. They made him rush some throws. But there were still some throws to be made on that tape. And that’s just really a thing of trusting your offensive line, seeing it fast in the pocket and getting the ball out. Because even if you blitz every time, there are still going to be throws that are available underneath. You throw the quick game, you throw hot [against an overwhelming number of pass rushers], you throw the crosser, you throw the slants. …

“If you’re going to pressure Lamar, you have to contain him. Because if you miss and he gets outside, it’s a touchdown. But if you do contain him, and you force him to throw the ball, it’s just seeing those throws and taking the throws that are available.”

Jackson’s struggles against heavy-pressure looks, according to the analysts, aren’t worrisome over the long term. But Klassen said the Ravens would need to be better prepared for curveballs like the Miami Dolphins’ hair-on-fire approach in their Week 10 upset last season.

Jackson faced 24 defensive back blitzes in that 22-10 loss, according to ESPN — the most any quarterback has faced since 2015 — and he struggled to adjust. Against one of the NFL’s lowest-rated defenses, the Ravens made just two red-zone trips. Klassen said Roman needed better answers in pass protection.

“They just wouldn’t go to any other answer but throwing those quick wide receiver screens,” he said. “And that’s just not a really good way to handle that. It’s a nice way if that’s one of your four or five options to handle it. If that’s the only thing you’re doing, it really sucks. So I’m kind of hoping they just find more protection answers against stuff like that. Because I do think, if Lamar has a fair chance against stuff like Cover 0 and man coverage, just athletically, he’s unbelievable. And I still think he commands the pocket really well and I do think he’s a smart passer. So to me, it’s just a blip, and you hope that Greg Roman learned a lesson.”

Heavy-duty approach

Before the draft, the Ravens’ personnel seemed to be trending toward normalcy. In Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay, they had a trio of talented, complementary wide receivers who could grow with Jackson. In Mark Andrews, they had one of the league’s best tight ends. There were still unique pieces in place — fullback Patrick Ricard, tight end Nick Boyle — but the Ravens’ talent allocation looked less like it did in 2019 and more like the rest of the NFL’s.

Then the Ravens traded Brown to the Arizona Cardinals for a first-round pick, didn’t draft a replacement wideout and, in fourth-round pick Isaiah Likely, found a potential instant-impact tight end. Suddenly, 2019 didn’t seem too far removed.

In that record-breaking year, the Ravens stressed defenses with more size than speed. They were ruthlessly efficient through the air and on the ground in both “12″ personnel (one running back, two tight ends and two wide receivers) and “13″ personnel (one running back, three tight ends and one wide receiver). Another 15% of Roman’s play calls relied on “22″ personnel packages (two running backs, two tight ends and one wide receiver) that featured Ricard, though their passing and running effectiveness waned with the grouping.

This group of Ravens tight ends might not have the depth of blocking talent that the 2019 team did, especially if Boyle can’t recapture his pre-injury form. But Andrews and Ricard have developed as both blockers and receivers in the years since. Likely, meanwhile, could offer more as a downfield target than Hayden Hurst did, thanks in part to his presnap versatility as a receiver.

“When someone says three-tight-end personnel, everyone thinks you’re going to run the ball downhill, right?” Bowen said. “And there is a run-game element to that. But when you draft someone like Isaiah Likely, what we’ve seen him do in the preseason … that gives you multiplicity on offense.

“When you add Likely to Mark Andrews, who’s a top-tier tight end, to someone like a Nick Boyle, now you can go three tight ends and say, ‘What are you going to do defensively to us? Are you going to go big to stop the run game? But with these three tight ends, we can line up and spread. We can line up in any formation you want because they’re versatile players.’ And that gives you a tactical advantage to be able to counter whatever the defense produces on the field.”

Jackson has pushed back on the notion that he’s most dangerous when surrounded by tight ends, but the Ravens could have the NFL’s best collection of them. Andrews broke the Ravens’ single-season receiving record last season. Ricard is a three-time Pro Bowl selection. Likely got Pro Football Focus’ best-ever preseason receiving grade for a tight end. And Boyle remade his body this offseason to better withstand the pounding of the position.

“I do think the Lamar offense is at its best when it does get heavier, it operates out of pistol, it really leans on the running game,” Klassen said. “Because Lamar is truly, in that sense, a one-of-a-kind player. And I think when you have a player like that, you kind of need to lean into the idea of ‘Styles make a fight.’ And there’s just nobody like Lamar, and there’s nobody that can run this kind of offense. So I think you kind of lean into it.”

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For Orioles pitcher DL Hall, a teal-and-orange glove is a reminder of how far he’s come

San Jose Mercury - Wed, 09/07/2022 - 04:39

Looking back now, there are many ways DL Hall wishes he could alter his major league debut. The performance, for one. The mindset he held going into that outing against the Tampa Bay Rays last month, for another.

And also the glove he wore, a light brown model he used when he first got into professional baseball.

“I was like, for my debut, I’m gonna go back to the old faithful,” Hall said. “But now I wish I wouldn’t have. There’s a lot of things that I wish I would’ve remained myself.”

The Orioles left-hander realizes now that when he took the mound with that understated glove, he lost a part of himself. When he second-guessed his ability in his first start, the 23-year-old prospect only dented his own confidence, leading to five runs against him in 3 2/3 innings before he was optioned back to Triple-A Norfolk to learn how to become a reliever for Baltimore’s playoff push.

When he returned to the Orioles last week, it was with a determination to not lose himself. And a part of that meant sporting the bright teal glove that is more meaningful to him than purely a fashion choice. With each glance at his teal-and-orange glove — or his black-teal-and-orange version — Hall is reminded of his upbringing in Valdosta, Georgia.

He used to dream of gloves such as those. Now he has them.

“I don’t come from a big town, I don’t come from a wealthy family or anything like that,” Hall said. “For me, the flashy stuff is a way that I remind myself that I am who I think I am. I try to create that mindset for myself. That’s why I wear my big gold chain. It’s all a reminder of where I came from and how far I’ve gotten.”

The practice began in high school, after he met the owner of WebGem Custom Gloves at a baseball tournament. With that introduction, Hall’s world opened to custom designs, and he created a black and gold one to wear while playing with the Valdosta Wildcats, his high school team. When Hall made All-American teams in high school, he pulled out a red and blue version.

With each one, there was a feeling he’d get: He belonged. And while his first foray into professional baseball after the Orioles selected him in the first round of the 2017 draft featured primarily that light brown glove, he discovered the teal color from Rawlings in 2020. He’s never gone back.

“I like it loud. I like the loud look of it,” Hall said. “But I tell myself every time I use it, I’m like, ‘If I’m gonna use the teal, I’ve gotta throw hard.’ You can’t go out there with a bright color like that and not throw hard.”

In the locker next to Hall’s in the home clubhouse at Camden Yards on Sunday, right-hander Beau Sulser looked over at the two bright gloves in Hall’s hands.

“That’s why I wear an all-black glove,” Sulser quipped. “90, 92 [mph] with sink. I need a plain glove.”

Since entering professional baseball, Hall has accumulated as many as 20 custom gloves. The two main ones he uses with the Orioles are the teal-and-orange edition and the black-teal-and-orange version, with the former matched with white or orange uniforms while the latter is reserved for black jerseys.

The start of Hall’s major league career has been up-and-down. Adjusting to a relief role, Hall struck out two of the three batters he faced Saturday before allowing three runs in his next appearance Monday. It’s an adjustment, but he doesn’t want to turn away from who he is, or what got him here.

So he glances at his teal glove again.

“Just to remind myself, like: ‘Look, you’ve done it. You’ve made it this far. You can go even farther,’” Hall said. “I could never have any of that stuff. Now that I can, I want to be able to remind myself that I did this.”


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Blow: It’s Republicans, and not Biden, who need to apologize

San Jose Mercury - Wed, 09/07/2022 - 04:35

Republicans are outraged — or possibly simply pretending to be outraged — that President Joe Biden has, in recent speeches, warned that “MAGA Republicans” are a threat to democracy and, at one point, called the philosophy fueling Trumpism “semi-fascism.”

But there is no scandal here. Biden was simply calling a thing a thing. In fact, I would prefer that he be even more pointed and not try so hard to dodge the charge that he’s casting the net too widely.

Biden first used the term “semi-fascism” two weeks ago, at a Democratic fundraiser in Maryland, saying: “It’s not just Trump; it’s the entire philosophy that underpins the — I’m going to say, something, it’s like semi-fascism.”

Republicans quickly demanded that he apologize for insulting half the electorate. But those Republicans who voted for Donald Trump deserve to be called out for their actions. Trump has consistently exhibited fascist tendencies, as well as espoused racism, misogyny and white nationalism. Republicans supported him, defended him and voted for him. They’ve been actively courting this condemnation.

And yet, ever since the initial brouhaha over his fascism comments, Biden has insisted on walking back his assertion, seemingly determined to distinguish more genteel Republicans from the rest of their party. At a rally in Maryland, shortly after his fundraiser, Biden said: “I respect conservative Republicans. I don’t respect these MAGA Republicans.”

Personally, I have a very hard time splitting that hair. In 2020, 92% of Republican and Republican-leaning independent voters backed Trump. According to a Quinnipiac University poll released last week, 73% of Republicans still have a favorable opinion of him, and 72% want him to run for reelection in 2024.

The overwhelming majority of Republicans support Trump. The pool of respectable conservatives is shallow, and that’s assuming that they can be neatly defined as those not voting for Trump.

A poll found that a quarter of Republicans were adherents of the internet conspiracy theory QAnon and believe that “there is a storm coming soon that will sweep away the elites in power and restore the rightful leaders” and that “a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex-trafficking operation” control America’s government, media and financial system.

As PolitiFact noted in June, citing a number of polls, roughly 70% of Republicans don’t see Biden as the legitimate winner of the presidency.

Furthermore, a July accounting by FiveThirtyEight found that “halfway through the primary season, we can say definitively that at least 120 election deniers have won their party’s nomination and will be on the ballot in the fall.” Republican voters delivered primary victories to those candidates.

Republicans have a knack for persuading Democrats to pull their punches. It was the same strategy they used against Barack Obama after he said some Americans were “bitter” and “cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

He was absolutely correct, but in politics, telling the truth can be a sin.

It was the same strategy Republicans used against Hillary Rodham Clinton after she said: “You could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up.”

She was absolutely right. She may have even understated the number.

Democrats have to stop falling for the line that calling out the dangers that some voters present to the country is somehow a divisive, offensive, unfair attack on the innocent. No person who voted for Trump or supports him now is above being named and shamed.

Biden doesn’t owe Republicans an apology; they owe the country an apology.

Charles Blow is a New York Times columnist.

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Deadly Fairview fire up to 4,500 acres burned, as authorities expand evacuations

San Jose Mercury - Wed, 09/07/2022 - 04:33

The deadly Fairview fire burning in the rocky foothills several miles southeast of Hemet more than doubled in size Tuesday, Sept. 6, after an anticipated shift in the wind pushed the flames eastward through brush that had not burned in years, the Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire Department said.

Flames had burned 4,500 acres, and crews had contained 5% of the perimeter, Riverside County Fire Department spokesperson Robert Roseen said Tuesday evening. Officials previously said they believed the fire could grow as large as 7,000 acres.

As fire officials expected, the wind reversed course midday Tuesday and new plumes of dark smoke rose as flames chewed through the brush near where the fire started at around 2 p.m. Monday at Fairview Avenue and Bautista Road.

As of Tuesday evening, winds were pushing toward the southwest, according to Roseen.

“There’s erratic winds — that combined with heat and humidity are pretty dangerous for fire behavior,” Roseen said.

The fire comes amid a major heat wave sweeping Southern California. As firefighters continued battling the blaze and others in the region, the state Office of Emergency Services issued an alert Tuesday evening warning of a strain on California’s energy grid with possible power outages because of the extreme heat.

The blaze was headed toward Cactus and Bautista canyons early Tuesday, prompting an evacuation warning for Bautista Canyon Road, south of Stetson Avenue and north of the Two Streams trailhead. Bautista Canyon is sparsely populated, said Capt. Richard Cordova, a Cal Fire spokesman.

Roseen said about 3,400 residences had been evacuated as of 5 p.m. Tuesday, not counting evacuation orders added at 4:45 p.m. That newest evacuation zone spreads south from Highway 74, west of Mountain Center, north of Cactus valley and toward Anza, north of Highway 371 to the forest boundary.

  • A firefighter douses the smoldering remains of a home on...

    A firefighter douses the smoldering remains of a home on Avery Canyon Road on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022. (Photo by Brian Rokos, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Three bicycles lay charred from the flames that destroyed a...

    Three bicycles lay charred from the flames that destroyed a home on Avery Canyon Road on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022. (Photo by Brian Rokos, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Firefighters mop up the smoldering remains of a home on...

    Firefighters mop up the smoldering remains of a home on Avery Canyon Road on Sept. 6, 2022. (Photo by Brian Rokos, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • A firefighter douses the smoldering remains of a home on...

    A firefighter douses the smoldering remains of a home on Avery Canyon Road on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022. (Photo by Brian Rokos, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • A horse was unable to escape the fire retardant that...

    A horse was unable to escape the fire retardant that turned a property pink when dropped from a firefighting aircraft on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022. (Photo by Brian Rokos, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Streams of melted metal flow from a car that was...

    Streams of melted metal flow from a car that was burned in the Fairview fire near Hemet on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • A firefighter surveys the area where the Fairview fire burned...

    A firefighter surveys the area where the Fairview fire burned through Simpson Park near Hemet on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • A plane flies over the smoldering hillsides as the Fairview...

    A plane flies over the smoldering hillsides as the Fairview fire continues to burn near Hemet on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Little remains of a house on Avery Canyon Rd. on...

    Little remains of a house on Avery Canyon Rd. on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022, after the Fairview fire swept through the area near Hemet the day before. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Resident Bo Parham sprays water on hot spots around his...

    Resident Bo Parham sprays water on hot spots around his property in Avery Canyon near Hemet on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

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Monday’s evacuation orders largely remained in effect on Tuesday: South of Stetson Avenue, north of Cactus Valley Road, west of Bautista Canyon Road and east of State Street. Deputies were patrolling the evacuated areas for looters and any residents in need.

Cordova said that on Monday, the fire burned uphill in Avery Canyon, too fast for firefighters to stop it before the flames reached homes, even though two air tankers and a helicopter were launched from nearby Hemet-Ryan Air Base.

There are two drainages that act as chimneys in the area, which raised concern among fire officials even before this fire started. The talk, Cordova said, was “If everything lined up, we were going to have major issues regardless of clearance (around homes).”

“The fire was in alignment with the canyon, with the wind and the topography, so everything lined up for a critical rate of spread at that given time in that canyon,” said Division Chief Josh Janssen, the Fairview incident commander. “And that, coupled with the drought-stricken fuels in that canyon, is what allowed that fire to rapidly expand and overcome some of the citizens.”

The two people who died on Monday perished inside a car as they tried to flee a home in the 42400 block of Avery Canyon Road, said Sgt. Brandi Swan, a Riverside County sheriff’s spokeswoman. A hilltop home in that block was destroyed.

The victims had not been identified, she said, because of the severity of their injuries. A third victim from that car was being treated for moderate to severe burns, she said.

Seven structures were destroyed Monday with several more damaged, Cal Fire said. No additional homes were reported burned since.

In Avery Canyon, on Gibbel Road, at least two mobile homes burned. Those homes had cars, bicycles and other property in the yards that caught fire as well. At one of the mobile homes, the heat melted the rims of a car. The molten metal trickled down the driveway like silver lava.

Atop Avery Canyon Road, a mostly unpaved stretch barely wide enough for two cars, the flames spared almost nothing.

At one destroyed home, fire flickered late Tuesday morning in spots. On a metal pole, a cloth basketball net and metal rim survived, but the plastic backboard had melted into a grotesque shape. What appeared to once having been an off-road vehicle similar to a dune buggy was now just a frame. Quail scurried across the ash-laden ground.

For the home itself, charred wooden beams remained. Shattered glass littered the ground.

The homes in Avery Canyon sit on large lots with outcroppings of huge boulders. Those boulders, and clearance around the structures, likely saved many homes from burning.

The fire did subside enough Tuesday morning that utility companies sent repair crews up the hill. One crew replaced a charred electrical pole on Gibbel that had nearly been sawed through by the flames.

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What caused the fire was under investigation.

But Southern California Edison filed a report at 8:13 p.m. Monday to the California Public Utilities Commission, almost five hours after the fire was reported.

“Out of an abundance of caution, SCE submits this report as it involves an event that may meet the significant public attention and/or media coverage reporting requirement,” states the report filed via email.

Edison spokesperson Gabriela Ornelas said the utility’s information “reflects circuit activity occurring close in time to the reported time of the fire.”

She did not elaborate on what that meant.

Hemet Unified School District announced late Tuesday that schools would be closed again on Wednesday, Sept. 7, and until further notice.

“Our hope is that our students can return to school soon; however, the closure will continue until conditions improve,” Superintendent Christi Barrett wrote in a message to parents, students and families on the district site.

Because of the fire, the Eastern Municipal Water District recommended that residents in about 50 homes use only boiled tap water or bottled water for cooking and drinking for now. The move is a safety precaution to prevent stomach or intestinal sickness. The affected area: Polly Butte Road and the area east of 41477 Gibbel Road.

Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Anaheim Fire & Rescue and Ventura County were among the agencies fighting the fire.

Staff writer Jeff Horseman contributed to this report.

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Opinion: How scourge of originalism is taking over the Supreme Court

San Jose Mercury - Wed, 09/07/2022 - 04:30

In 1987, the Senate resoundingly rejected the nomination of Judge Robert Bork for the Supreme Court because it found his originalist views unacceptable. As a law professor, Bork argued that the meaning of a constitutional provision is fixed when it is adopted and can be changed only by amendment.

Under this view, there would be no constitutional protection for abortion or other privacy rights, no protection for women or gays and lesbians from discrimination, and no right to freedom of speech except for political expression. Bork, who was impeccably qualified, was defeated by the largest margin of any Supreme Court nominee in history.

Senators from both parties voted against Bork because his originalist philosophy was seen as nonsensical and dangerous. It makes no sense to limit the Constitution’s broad language to what was intended in the agrarian, slave society of 1787. Originalism was rightly regarded as a radical approach to constitutional law that would upend decades of precedents in a myriad of areas.

Now, though, originalism is in its ascendancy on the Supreme Court. In case after case in the last term, the conservative justices based their decisions on their cramped reading of American history. Under that erroneous analysis, they found no constitutional right to abortion, a broad constitutional right to have concealed weapons in public, a constitutional requirement for government to subsidize religious schools, and a constitutional right for high school coaches to lead prayers at school football games.

In expanding the scope of the Second Amendment and striking down New York’s law limiting having concealed weapons in public, the court said, “Only if a firearm regulation is consistent with this nation’s historical tradition may a court conclude that the individual’s conduct falls outside the Second Amendment’s ‘unqualified command.’” In other words, look to the law that existed in 1791 when the Second Amendment was adopted and perhaps to 1868 when the 14th Amendment was ratified.

The world we live in is vastly different from 1787, when the Constitution was written, or 1791, when the Bill of Rights was adopted, or 1868, when the 14th Amendment was ratified.

Under originalism, Brown v. Board of Education, which ruled that public school segregation violated equal protection under the 14th Amendment, was wrongly decided because the Congress that ratified the 14th Amendment also voted to segregate the District of Columbia public schools and there was no indication that Congress meant to outlaw segregation. Under originalism, Loving v. Virginia, which declared state laws prohibiting interracial marriage unconstitutional, was wrongly decided because most states had such laws when the 14th Amendment was ratified. Under originalism, Griswold v. Connecticut, which protected a right to purchase and use contraceptives, was also wrongly decided.

Any theory that makes Brown and Loving and Griswold illegitimate is one that should be rejected. Moreover, the assumption of originalism is that there is an “original” meaning for constitutional provisions that can be discovered. The reality is that so many people were involved in drafting and ratifying constitutional provisions, and practices were sufficiently divergent, that it is a fiction to say that there is a clear answer from history that can resolve modern constitutional questions.

The result is that originalists pick and choose from the historical record to support the conclusion they want.

The implications of a court committed to originalism are frightening. In overruling Roe, the conservative justices said that a right should be protected only if it is in the text of the Constitution or safeguarded by a long unbroken tradition. Adhering to this doctrine would put in jeopardy the right to marry, the right to procreate, the right to custody of one’s children, the right to keep the family together, the right of parents to control the upbringing of their children, the right to purchase and use contraceptives, the right of consenting adults to engage in private consensual sexual activity, and the right of competent adults to refuse medical care. None of these rights can be justified under the court’s rigid historical focus.

Chief Justice John Marshall wrote in 1819 that ours is “a Constitution intended to endure for ages to come, and consequently, to be adapted to the various crises of human affairs.” The current court ignores this historical truth, and instead misuses history to support exactly the conservative results that it prefers.

Originalism was a destructive approach to constitutional interpretation in 1987, when Robert Bork was rejected for a seat on the Supreme Court. It is no more legitimate or desirable today.

Erwin Chemerinsky is a Los Angeles Times contributing writer and dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law. ©2022 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.

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Categories: Local News

Chicago Bears Q&A: Why is the team at the bottom of NFL power rankings? How will Justin Fields’ progress be measured?

San Jose Mercury - Wed, 09/07/2022 - 04:21

As the Chicago Bears prepare to open the season Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers at Soldier Field, readers want to know why the Bears don’t get respect in NFL circles and which rookies are poised to make immediate breakouts. Brad Biggs answers those questions and more in his weekly Bears questions weekly mailbag.

The Bears are ranked 32nd by NFL Network. Are we missing something in preseason that other people are seeing? — @bwohlgemuth

More than a couple people were caught off guard by the league’s media arm ranking the Bears last in a preseason power ranking with @jon4835 asking why the Bears “get lousy national preseason reviews?”

There are a handful of factors that contribute to the Bears being at or near the bottom in a handful of power rankings (Pro Football Talk had the Bears No. 30). The Bears cleaned house after being bad last season and the prevailing thought of many outsiders is that new general manager Ryan Poles is pretty much completely tearing down before building back up.

The highest-paid player on the roster, Khalil Mack, was traded away and the Bears didn’t make any expensive additions via free agency. They were also without a first-round pick and while Poles wound up with 11 total draft picks, eight were in Round 5 or later. There are significant questions about the offensive line and wide receivers, and while there is an abundance of optimism locally regarding Justin Fields, on the outside I think a lot of folks are saying they want to see it to believe it. The Bears have changed defensive schemes and probably don’t have all of the parts they’re exactly looking for just yet. Add it all up and that is how you end up near the bottom of a power ranking.

The upside here is the Bears will be able to play the respect card all they want and accurately note that most are doubting them. Plenty of coaches love to pound home the idea that a team isn’t receiving its proper due. Power rankings shift as quickly as the wind does, and if the Bears can rip off a few early-season victories they will approach the middle of the pack, which is where the majority of teams wind up being lumped unless they’re really good or especially bad.

Local optimism has been on the rise since the preseason finale at Cleveland when the first-team offense scored three touchdowns in the first half. It was a nice showing by Fields and the offensive line did a fine job. That’s really the basis for the majority of positive vibes because the offense didn’t get a lot done in the previous two exhibitions and it was a clunky effort throughout most of training camp.

If nationals folks cobbling together power rankings overlook that Cleveland exhibition, it’s easy to understand why the Bears are in the bottom quarter of the league or worse. Ultimately, the standings are going to tell you where this team should be ranked and how it should be evaluated. There are 17 games to play.

Which of the rookies you expect to shine from day one to season end? — @just_acy

I feel like it’s a bit of a cop out to answer safety Jaquan Brisker and cornerback Kyler Gordon because they are obvious selections as the team’s top two picks, but both look poised to have an immediate impact. Brisker has a great combination of size, strength and range and could emerge as a fan favorite before midseason. Gordon has the athletic traits needed to handle the slot and has good size for the position as well.

Brisker and Gordon are only two of 15 rookies on the 53-man roster. It would be a huge development for the organization if left tackle Braxton Jones, a fifth-round pick, shines from the start of the season to the end. I’m not sure what to expect from Jones but he’s got an incredible opportunity ahead of him. Velus Jones Jr. should make an impact on special teams, if not on offense as well, and I think linebackers Jack Sanborn and Sterling Weatherford could be pluses on special teams.

How do you think the Bears plan on using Alex Leatherwood? Is he the swing tackle as opposed to Riley Reiff? — @jgarcia3290

I think you’re a little premature with the question. I imagine it’s going to take at least a few weeks for the coaches to work with the newcomer and for Leatherwood to get comfortable with the playbook for him to be considered for the game-day roster. The Bears are going to be limited to one padded practice per week, so I think it will take a little bit of time to get the former Las Vegas Raiders first-round pick up to speed.

Leatherwood projects as a right tackle or a guard, in my opinion. Could he get you through a game at left tackle if something happened? Sure. But if the Bears have a real need at left tackle, right now I believe they would look to Reiff for help.

Where do you think Lucas Patrick will start at? — @william20852834

Patrick returned to practice Monday for the first time since suffering a broken right thumb on July 28. He’s operating with a small cast and given the time he missed and how the line has operated recently, I don’t think he’s plugged into the starting lineup against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1. It’s going to be difficult if not impossible for him to snap the ball as long as he is wearing a cast. I think the answer to your question will be determined after we see how the line performs in the first few games of the season. If a player is clearly struggling on the interior, Patrick probably slides into the lineup quickly.

The Bears second leading receiver at the end of the year will be _____? — @rradulski

That is a good question. Darnell Mooney is the odds-on favorite to lead the team in receptions and receiving yards, and wide receiver Byron Pringle and tight end Cole Kmet should be productive in the passing offense. If Pringle is healthy, he ought to be able to catch 50 or more passes and I think Kmet should have some growth off last season when he caught 60 passes for 612 yards. Provided he’s healthy, there is no reason he shouldn’t approach 80 receptions and probably be around 900 yards with more red zone production, where he was largely ignored in 2021.

The growth of Justin Fields is the top priority this season, but how should we measure that growth? Is it going to be just the eye test to see if he’s processing things and making better decisions? — @dawestley

That’s a great question and one I have been wondering myself. It’s probably going to be as much of an eye test thing as it’s going to be related to numbers and statistics. Does he show command of the offense? Is he progressing as a pocket passer? Is he keeping turnovers, especially ones that are the result of poor decisions, to a minimum?

I posed almost the same question to former Bears quarterback Jim Miller and NFL analyst Ross Tucker at the start of training camp, using their responses in the 10 thoughts column coming out of the preseason opener against the Kansas City Chiefs. Circling back, here is what they said:

“I don’t want to get into cliches about incremental improvement but I like how they are using him,” Miller said. “I think they are going to take advantage of his skill sets. They will have the RPO angle of the offense. They’re going to do a boatload of chili roll stuff — play-action half roll. They’re going to do a lot of bootlegs. They will do some quarterback draws, RPO influence, and they need to run the ball well.

“I think everybody understands all of the stuff that Bill Lazor got to later in the season last year and I think they’re going to expand on that. I think if you see that incremental improvement. I see the improvement he’s already made. His footwork? He’s really worked hard at that and he’s watched a lot of tape of other guys. Probably (Luke) Getsy gave him a lot of Green Bay stuff that he’s watched. His footwork is a lot better, even how he positions his feet. He’s more in balance to throw the ball. But the talent just oozes out of him. He’s so special. But they have to cater it to him. If you’re seeing incremental improvement every week where the turnovers are cut down, if you see him improve in situational play where he’s making his adjustments and getting better every single week, there is a lot to be excited about.”

Tucker said it would be “any type of improvement.”

“Any clear improvement would be a success in my mind, especially with how limited they are around him,” Tucker said. “I’m not going to put numbers on it, but it’s almost like the famous (Supreme Court) saying: ‘I don’t know how to define pornography but I know what it is when I see it.’ I feel like we’ll be able to see his command of the offense. How often is he running for his life versus how often is he getting rid of the ball quickly? That’s a big, big thing — how fast is the ball getting out of his hand and the turnovers.

“If he doesn’t have a lot of turnovers and he is getting the ball out quick, that will be considered a success no matter what the team’s record is or the stats because they’re just not very good around him. You can make a strong argument that they have the worst receiving corps and the worst offensive line in the NFL. It’s almost hard to believe and unconscionable that a first-round quarterback would be going into his second year and you could say that is what he is being surrounded by.”

How is the field looking for Sunday’s game? — @skeet_sparkles

Efforts to lay down a completely new playing surface at Soldier Field is well underway. I would expect the field to look pretty good Sunday.

Is Velus Jones ready for Week 1? — @cmgolfs17

The rookie speedster from Tennessee missed considerable time over the last three weeks with an undisclosed injury but was on the field Monday, and that bodes well for his availability on Sunday. Given the amount of time Jones has missed, his role in the offense could be somewhat reduced, but I don’t see any reason why he would not be an option in the return game for special teams coordinator Richard Hightower.


Categories: Local News

Custom Craftsman estate graces hilltop in Diablo Country Club

San Jose Mercury - Wed, 09/07/2022 - 04:00

This custom Craftsman hilltop estate within the prestigious Diablo Country Club is an impressive piece of property that begins at the gated private driveway. The generous 1.13-acre gated property at 2358 Caballo Ranchero Drive creates an ultra-private sanctuary with lush terraced gardens and open space on a gentle slope.

About 3,825 square feet of primarily single-level living space enjoys breathtaking optimal southern exposure views that sweep 180 degrees across the Mount Diablo foothills and beyond. The design offers an effortless indoor-outdoor flow to about 2,000 square feet of wrap-around Trex decking on two levels. A romantic arch of climbing roses is the gateway to the path to raised garden beds and the open space. Consider the possibilities of adding a guesthouse, a vineyard, a fruit tree orchard and more.

Natural light pouring through walls of windows illuminates the open floor plan that showcases hardwood flooring, dramatic vaulted ceilings, fresh interior paint, skylights and recessed lighting. There are four bedrooms, three-and-a-half bathrooms, and a large bonus/game room on the lower level. This room can accommodate a pool table, an office niche and a spacious seating area in front of the fireplace with a to-ceiling ledge stone surround. A slider opens to the wrap-around deck. This room also features a half bathroom that has convenient outdoor access as well.

A comfortable elegance permeates the formal living and dining rooms. A gas fireplace anchors the living room, and the dining room features decorative crown molding and is designed to accommodate large gatherings.

The gourmet kitchen and family room’s open-concept design creates an expansive space to gather. The kitchen is beautifully appointed with granite slab counters, a decorative tile backsplash, dual-tone cabinetry and a large island/breakfast bar with wine bottle storage. Stainless appliances include a Thermador oven, a four-burner cooktop, a built-in microwave and a Miele dishwasher. The adjacent family room also has a fireplace, and two sliding glass doors offer convenient access to the decks.

Walk out to a complete outdoor kitchen equipped with a Viking barbecue, cooktop, refrigerator, granite countertop and bar seating. Gather around the cook or relax in an outdoor living room in front of the gas fireplace with a stone surround. Multiple dining venues, a level lawn and terraced gardens take advantage of the fabulous views.

The primary suite is a private retreat with a vaulted ceiling, a walk-in closet and a sliding glass door to a front-facing deck. The en suite features beautifully updated finishes, a dual-sink vanity and an oversize shower.

Two bedrooms share a Jack and Jill bathroom with dual sinks and a tub/shower combination. One bedroom has sliding door access to the deck and a nearby full bathroom with a pedestal sink.

Additional features include a two-car finished garage with an epoxy floor, a large laundry room on the lower level with front-loading washer and dryer, an extra refrigerator and cabinets, cedar floors in the closets, and rubbed bronze hardware.

Diablo Country Club’s rich history, more than a century in the making, began when Diablo was the end of the railroad line and the summer destination for wealthy San Franciscans who longed for warmer temperatures and an escape from the city’s fog.

Once filled with summer cottages, many of which didn’t have kitchens because the residents took their meals at “the club,” Diablo today consists of about 400 homes nestled within less than 1 square mile. Diablo is filled with some of the more exclusive estates in the San Ramon Valley, just a short golf cart ride away from the historic country club.

Diablo residents celebrate a rich history and recognize and honor properties for upholding the charm of Diablo’s early years by awarding homes the Diablo’s Preservation Award and the Diablo Treasure Award for beauty and historical significance.

The Diablo Country Club turned into a world-class golf and country club in 1914. Designed by Jack Neville and William Watson, the par 71 course is still recognized as one of the most desirable courses in the San Francisco Bay Area. The club’s $31 million renovation includes a three-story, 15,000-square-foot Family Activity and Wellness Center and a renovation of the main clubhouse. Tucked in along Diablo Road, Diablo is just a short drive to freeways, downtown Danville, Walnut Creek BART, and top-rated schools in the San Ramon Valley Unified School District.

Price: $3,389,000
Where: 2358 Caballo Ranchero Drive, Diablo
Website: Shown by appointment only.
Listing agent: The Agency. Michelle Torretta. DRE# 01771420. (925) 876-1213.

Categories: Local News

49ers’ big-money hire ‘Mooney’ Ward ready to face Bears’ Darnell Mooney

San Jose Mercury - Wed, 09/07/2022 - 04:00

SANTA CLARA — The 49ers’ biggest addition since last season’s playoff run could have the biggest matchup in Sunday’s season opener at Chicago.

A boxing promoter might bill it as: “Mooney vs. Mooney.”

In one corner is 49ers cornerback Mooney Ward, who prefers not to be called by his given first name, Charvarius.

In the other corner is Darnell Moody, the Bears’ leading receiver last season.

“Mooneu on Mooney, who you’ve got? Take the real Mooney, big Mooney,” Ward said with a laugh Monday at his locker. “It’s going to be fun. I haven’t played against him yet.”

After ascending the past four years with the Kansas City Chiefs, Ward brings a physical, lock-down style. Starting alongside him in the cornerback coprs will be Emmanuel Moseley and rookie nickel back Sam Womack III.

All figure at some point to face the Bears’ Mooney. He had 81 receptions for 1,055 yards and four touchdowns last season, after totaling 61-631-4 as a rookie fifth-round pick from Tulane.

“He’s versatile and they move him around a lot,” Ward said. “He’s a good route runner. He’s a complete receiver. He’s been growing as a players since he’s been in the league and I look forward to the competition.”

Ward shadowed opposing teams’ top receiver last year en route to his free agency pay day (three years, $40.5 million). Look for his 6-foot-1, 204-pound body to stick on one side in the 49ers’ scheme.

Ward started training camp strong, then a groin/hamstring issue flared up Aug. 3, and the 49ers cautiously kept him out of practice until last week.

“Against any receiver, I match up well. I’ve got the speed and the size. I weigh 204 pounds. I’ve never been this big,” Ward said. “I’m excited for the season. My confidence level has never been as high as it is now, and I feel good physically, too.”

In the Chiefs’ 13-7 win over the Packers last November, Ward helped limit Davante Adams to six catches on 14 targets for 42 yards, only 14 yards of which came again Ward’s coverage. Ward enjoys getting assigned to focus on one receiver, adding: “It keeps you locked in all game. You know you’re on the best receiver so any time that ball can be coming your way and you can’t get distracted.”

Charvarius Ward vs top WRs last season:

Week 7: AJ Brown/Julio Jones – 18 yards total
Week 9: Davante Adams – 14 yards
Week 11: CeeDee Lamb – 5 yards
Week 15: Keenan Allen – 0 yards
Week 17: Ja'Marr Chase – 83 yards,TD
AFCDG: Stefon Diggs – 1 yard
AFCCG: Ja'Marr Chase – 22 yards

— Coach Yac 🗣 (@Coach_Yac) March 16, 2022

Mooney (5-11, 173 pounds) has a different style than the Bears’ former top receiver, the bigger-bodied Allen Robinson, who’s now on the Los Angeles Rams. Whereas Robinson would high point the ball and make contested catches, Mooney is “slithery” and “crafty” with the way he runs all the routes, Ward said.

Actually, that Ward-vs.-Mooney matchup is the undercard in a game more featuring 2021 first-round draft picks at quarterback: the 49ers’ Trey Lance and the Bears’ Justin Fields.

Mooney offered up a bulletin-board quote earlier this week in noting how Fields is looking to avenge getting drafted No. 11 while Lance went No. 3. Mooney told Chicago-area reporters Monday about Fields: “He’s going to shine for sure. He’s going to blossom. He’s going to prove everything that everybody doubted him on – especially Week 1. That team (the 49ers) passed on him. So, they’re going to have to pay a little bit for that.”

Ward and the 49ers’ secondary will be without safety Jimmie Ward, whose hamstring injury last month has him out at least the first four games on Injured Reserve. Helping compensate for Ward’s absence, aside from potential replacements George Odum and Tarvarius Moore, will be a pass rush headlined by Nick Bosa.

“We have a great defensive line,” Ward said. “(Receivers) have to have time to do double moves, and the quarterback has to be able to step up into the pocket. Even if (receivers) beat a cornerback, they still have to throw and catch the ball. We have good recovery speed.”

Asked last week for clarification on his name preference, Ward responded: “It’s like ‘Mooney’ with two ‘O’s’ — ‘M-O-O-N-E-Y. Big Mooney. Big Mooney.’ ”

Fast forward to this Sunday, to which Ward says: “It’s game time, now. Do you believe in us?”

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Categories: Local News

‘You can see the hunger’: What’s driving Justin Fields to change perceptions of the Chicago Bears offense in the QB’s 2nd season

San Jose Mercury - Wed, 09/07/2022 - 03:41

If everything had gone exactly as designed, Justin Fields would have taken the shotgun snap on third-and-8, eased through his five-step drop, then waited without anxiety for Equanimeous St. Brown to pop open on a dig route.

Fifteen yards downfield, breaking across the middle, right to left.

See it. Sling it. Complete it.


That’s the way it’s drawn up. And that’s the way a quarterback is supposed to envision the sequence when he previews it mentally.

This, however, is the NFL. And every coach’s desire for a playbook concept to unfold with perfect precision is often Pollyannaish.

It’s convenient to believe 11 men will function in unison without error, allowing whiteboard strategy to come alive like a choreographed Cirque du Soleil act. But the most successful teams typically need starting quarterbacks with an expertise in making chicken salad.

Thus on Aug. 27 at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Fields had to improvise on the third-down play his offensive coordinator, Luke Getsy, sent in. As Fields hit the top of his drop, he spotted a flash of white in the pocket, the No. 96 Browns jersey of infiltrating defensive tackle Jordan Elliott.

Now it was up to the Bears quarterback to react. Scratch that dig route. Insert, instead, a clockwise tornado spin by Fields, 5 yards backward and out the back door of the pocket.

That’s how you keep a disrupted play from becoming a disaster. Now Fields had space again, determined to use the controlled tempo of his rollout and the movement of his eyes to make a play.

As taught, he began outside, eyeing wide receiver Dante Pettis beyond the sticks. But Browns cornerback Greedy Williams was sitting on that route, so Fields peeked back toward tight end Cole Kmet, enough so that his eyes puppeteered the Browns defense inside.

Now Pettis had space near the left sideline and Fields had a throwing lane. With no hesitation, he ripped a Chris Paul-esque, no-look dime to Pettis for an 11-yard gain. First down.

“My favorite play of the game,” Getsy said two days later.

That’s saying something considering the Bears offense scored three touchdowns and rolled up 198 yards on its first 29 snaps before halftime of that 21-20 preseason victory. Getsy stands by that assertion, impressed by the entirety of the sequence.

There was something about Fields’ combination of calm and focus that night, an indicator that the 23-year-old quarterback is ready to attack with the proper mentality.

Therein lies the key for the 2022 Bears. In the quest to establish Fields as their no-doubt franchise quarterback, they have to set him up for success and keep him in the proper mindset.

There’s more to that than it sounds. For Fields to stay properly calibrated, he must remain in tune daily with his preparation responsibilities — for himself and the team. He also must have a strong feel for what his new offensive system asks while trusting what each play is designed to accomplish.

Fields must continue developing serenity and proficiency within the pocket while tempering his greedy impulses and approaching each snap with an understanding of what qualifies as success and failure.

On that off-script, third-down conversion to Pettis, so much went right when a lot could have gone wrong. Start with Fields’ feel in the pocket, his wherewithal to feel pressure at the right moment and to react instinctively.

Why reverse spin there rather than roll right? Rushers coming from his blind side, Fields has learned, tend to take a flatter angle in pursuit. That reverse spin allows him to gain depth and retain his speed advantage against defensive linemen.

“Gets me on the edge pretty fast,” he says.

Once there, Fields’ composure on the move and ability to use his vision as a joystick paid off.

“We’ve been talking a lot about how we’re going to finish those plays,” Getsy says. “Whether it’s a movement play or an extended play, the process of his eyes was really fun to see. That’s the kind of stuff you’re trying to work on every single day, and he was able to apply that. … You can see the defenders following his eyes and then him finishing with the completion.”

Playmaking Artistry 101.

Sure, this was a small moment within a meaningless August preseason game. But it was also evidence of Fields’ progress and increasing comfort. And to Getsy, most important of all, it came on a night when the quarterback’s self-assurance energized the entire group.

“Anytime you can feel and have success, that’s always a positive,” Getsy says.

Make no mistake, that Saturday night in Cleveland last month wasn’t a landmark. No preseason game is. But it was a well-timed springboard for Fields and the offense as the Bears launch into the season.

“For sure,” Fields says. “It just shows everyone that if we do our jobs how we’re supposed to, our offense can be (successful). It gave us a lot of confidence going into the season.”

Command center

Little will mean more to this season — and the Bears’ future — than Fields’ ability to increase his command. That catchphrase bounces around the quarterbacks rooms of all 32 NFL franchises, but there are nuances in how each coaching staff defines “command.”

At Halas Hall, Getsy simplifies the concept as much as he can.

“Really,” he says, “you’re looking for a guy who is in complete control of himself first. And then (it’s about) being able to manipulate what’s going on around him also. When there’s awareness of what’s going on around you after you’ve mastered your own craft, that’s when you can play ball at a higher level.

“We’re working on that every day. And we’re trying to get Justin to that point where he feels like he’s in complete control.”

Before a quarterback can attain such control, though, he first must develop contagious confidence. And to do that, a level of comfort must be established.

To create such comfort, a coordinator has to establish a connection with the wheelman whom he is asking to drive the offense. That’s why, when Getsy arrived in January, he set out first to understand Fields’ wiring while also recognizing his strengths and diagnosing his current limitations.

“We put a lot of time into designing the process and not necessarily designing the offense,” Getsy says.

Critical to that process is an honest back-and-forth that requires a genuine connection. To that end, Fields and Getsy have developed a mutual admiration that should aid their development efforts.

Fields describes Getsy as “real,” appreciating his blunt honesty and level-headed perspective.

“He’s going to tell you straight up how it is,” Fields says. “He’s not going to sugarcoat anything. He has a standard for us. And we’re going to have to meet the standard.”

That standard applies to every fundamental, every drill, every detail of every play. Fields remains a work in progress as he tries to clean up his footwork, sharpen his timing and become more efficient and compact with his throwing motion.

Getsy, who spent seven seasons with the Green Bay Packers, the last three as Aaron Rodgers’ quarterbacks coach, earned instant credibility with his new student. Fields respects why the constant emphasis on footwork and timing has been so intense.

“He knows what it’s supposed to look like,” Fields says.

‘The guy wants to win’

In the earliest stages of their relationship, Getsy noticed leadership qualities in Fields he was immediately drawn to. First, there was a drive that could be used as fuel for the growth process.

“He is as competitive as I’ve ever been around,” Getsy says. “The guy wants to win.”

That’s high praise from a guy who spent seven seasons developing a tight bond with Rodgers and receiver Davante Adams in Green Bay.

Fields’ competitiveness offers a good starting point, a quality that triggers a self-starter’s instinct. Along with that, Getsy recognized, Fields has sincere care for his teammates and determination to make their improvement as important to him as his own.

“It’s going to take all of us,” Fields says.

But perhaps the greatest gift Fields has given his new coordinator is his urge to be coached hard. He brings a fully invested, thick-skinned approach to the grind that allows them, in tandem, to have candid discussions, persevere through bumpy patches and unlock new stages of the development process quicker.

“I want to be pushed hard,” Fields says. “I don’t like it when coaches try to be easy on me.”

Two years ago, Fields was a star at Ohio State, a 2019 Heisman Trophy finalist and the undisputed leader of a national championship front-runner. He had thrown 41 touchdown passes in 14 starts as a sophomore and propelled the Buckeyes into the College Football Playoff.

But that, Fields emphasizes, shouldn’t have bought him a free pass from being corrected. And there were times in 2020, he says, when he wished Ohio State quarterbacks coach Corey Dennis had come down on him with greater force.

“I felt like he was being kind of easy on me (at times) with the mistakes I was making,” Fields says.

Thus the green light Fields aimed to give Getsy, the indirect request to push him hard, is the same one he has tried to give all of his coaches since he was a kid in Georgia.

When a mistake is made, “I want you to get on my ass,” Fields says. “Let me know. And then that won’t happen again. Just coach me hard. I’m not going to take anything personally in that aspect. Because we’re reaching toward the same goals.”

In the name of winning, Fields is all-in on the dirtiest and most demanding parts of the process. Constructive criticism when handled properly, he has come to learn, not only fuels the growth process but can solidify the player-coach bond in a way that provides steadiness when times get rough.

And make no mistake, rough moments are inevitably ahead.

“There’s going to be a time when it feels like the walls are caving in,” Getsy says. “That’s this league. It doesn’t matter if you’re the best of the best or the worst of the worst. There are going to be those days. And hopefully we’re building the foundation the right way so we can survive those and come out even better because of it.”

Ups and downs

In Week 5 last season, Fields contributed to an encouraging 20-9 road upset of the Las Vegas Raiders, throwing a pretty 2-yard touchdown pass to Jesper Horsted in the second quarter, then adding a clutch third-and-12 conversion to Darnell Mooney on a fourth-quarter field-goal drive that helped seal the victory.

It was the kind of validation every young quarterback needs to soothe the growing pains and alleviate the intense pressure of the grind.

But that was also Fields’ second and final victory as a starter his rookie year — 91 days before the season ended.

The three months that followed were turbulent and full of disruption, ending with the Bears’ entire coaching staff and much of the front office being shown the door. Even after 10 starts, it felt like a lost season for Fields, a redshirt year of sorts in which the plans for his development were discombobulated and led to a total reboot as Fields crossed the bridge into Year 2.

Sure, there were unforgettable flashes of potential stardom during his rookie year.

Remember that exhilarating 22-yard touchdown run in Week 8 against the San Francisco 49ers, a fourth-and-1 thrill ride that could have earned Fields consideration for his own roller coaster at Great America?

Or his longest completion of the year, a 64-yard bomb to Mooney in a win over the Detroit Lions?

Or, most notably, the assured 75-yard, go-ahead touchdown march in the fourth quarter of a Monday night game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, punctuated with an off-script and athletic 16-yard pass to Mooney?

Even in a galling two-point, final-minute loss, former Bears coach Matt Nagy was convinced that was “a moment,” a sign that Fields’ DNA is loaded with big-moment poise and moxie.

“You can be the guy who always gets put in that position and doesn’t show up,” Fields said afterward. “Or you can be that guy who shows up in the big moments. That’s what my mindset was. I was just calm. And I was focused on showing up.”

Such stirring successes, however, didn’t come frequently enough. Fields had ball-security issues throughout the year and finished his rookie season with more turnovers (12) than touchdown passes (10).

He posted a 73.2 passer rating that ranked 28th among qualifying quarterbacks and fourth among drafted rookies.

He injured his ribs early in a loss to the Baltimore Ravens in late November and missed the next two games. After returning for two starts, Fields missed two more games with an ankle injury, then was scratched from the season finale in Minneapolis after testing positive for COVID-19.

Physically, the season’s second half was a battle.

There were also all those losses. Eleven overall, eight with Fields as the starting quarterback, including seven in a row to end his year after that triumph in Las Vegas.

In three college seasons, Fields’ teams had a collective winning percentage of .861. So, yes, last year’s experience was decidedly different. And psychologically taxing.

“That’s the most I’ve ever lost in my life,” Fields says. “I don’t like losing. I’m not used to losing. I never want to get used to losing.”

One can almost hear the New York Knights team psychologist from “The Natural.”

The mind is a strange thing. And you must begin by asking it, “What is losing?” Losing is a disease. As contagious as bubonic plague, attacking one but infecting all.

Fields has learned, however, to build resolve in the face of struggle, blessed with the mental toughness to convert losses and setbacks into motivation. If he took away anything positive from his rocky first season, it was learning that his confidence is elastic and that he has a deep reserve of patience that can help him embrace his lessons.

“Failure,” Fields says, “pushes me to go even harder.”

To that point, Getsy remains encouraged. He has seen since April that Fields has the fortitude and resolve to move beyond a bad practice or a rough week.

Inside the quarterbacks room and within offensive meetings, Getsy feels Fields radiating a combination of passion and intent.

“He’s a competitive dude, man,” Getsy says. “You get in that film room and you can see the hunger, you can see the fight. And it’s part of our job to make sure he has clarity through all that.”

‘He wants to take over the league’

Predictably, praise for Fields has poured out of Halas Hall the past five months like water from an open fire hydrant. The endorsements since the team’s first practice in April have been glowing and voluminous, enough to convince even the most skeptical Bears observer that a new dawn is coming.

Need a ready-made viral proclamation from Fields’ favorite receiver?

“He wants to take over the league,” Mooney said in June. “He’s already Justin Fields. He wants to be the best quarterback in the league.”

Want in-house confirmation of Fields’ urgency to proactively correct the little mistakes of his offensive teammates? Receiver Byron Pringle sees that constantly.

“That’s what quarterbacks do,” Pringle says. “That’s leadership.”

And what about that ultra-serious expression that seems permafixed to Fields’ face?

“He is the most focused individual I have ever been around,” says tight end Ryan Griffin, in his 10th season and a former teammate of Drew Brees in New Orleans and Tom Brady in Tampa. “Determined. Hard-working. I don’t see him smiling ever, really.

“And it’s not because he’s not having fun out there. But this guy wants to win. It just oozes through every movement he makes.”

Balance is required, of course. Fields must accept that he remains rough around the edges himself while still having the aura and authority to oversee others.

“He’s learning,” Griffin says. “But while he’s learning, he’s upset with mistakes. He’s not OK with guys being in the wrong place. He’ll tell you that. And that’s what you need in the leader of this offense.”

As an example, after Fields threw an exclamation-point 24-yard touchdown pass to Kmet on his final throw in Cleveland last month, his gut told him he needed to correct Kmet, result be damned.

That touchdown throw could have come easier had the third-year tight end taken his rail route farther outside and down the right sideline.

“I just wanted him to be a bit wider,” Fields says.

Searching for signs

As the season begins, Chicago’s yearning to attach a stack of “That’s it!” moments to Fields’ rise will only increase. Every touchdown pass, every breathtaking scramble, every Bears victory will tickle the urges of fans and analysts to verify that Fields’ hoped-for breakthrough is coming.

Heck, even the flashes of promise within preseason games last month foreshadowed the giddiness and anticipation that surfaces when Fields showcases his playmaking ability.

  • A blitz-beating, hit-while-throwing, 19-yard third-down conversion to Tajae Sharpe against the Kansas City Chiefs.
  • A pretty 19-yard play-action dart to Kmet in Seattle.
  • Those three first-half touchdown passes in Cleveland.

It’s enough to make the thirstiest of Bears fans rush to the Kool-Aid jug with supersized cups.

But it takes far more than a few sprinkles of preseason production and a strong offseason work ethic for NFL quarterbacks to ascend toward greatness. And a real possibility remains that Fields, like so many Bears quarterbacks before him, never will live up to the high expectations.

In league circles, there is profound curiosity about whether Fields can become more decisive and certain with what he’s seeing, evolving into a consistently reliable pocket passer.

After Fields was sacked 36 times in his rookie season, outsiders also want to see that he can speed up his reaction time, finding proper ways to attack defenses with shrewd pre-snap judgments and alert in-play decisions.

Getsy and quarterbacks coach Andrew Janocko continue to push Fields to improve his pocket presence, hoping he can develop a feel for how to surf inside the pocket — sometimes climbing, sometimes sliding laterally, sometimes bailing altogether and using his athletic gifts to become a playmaking scrambler.

That requires internal comfort and external trust, both in teammates and in the timing of plays.

“Pocket presence is not an easy thing to teach,” Getsy says. “But he has the toughness and the guts to do it. When you’re evaluating quarterbacks, that’s one of the first things I’m looking for. (It’s) somebody who has that willingness to stand in there, make your throw with your feet in the ground and get smacked in the jaw. He definitely has that.”

But that’s just a prerequisite for success, not a guarantee of it.

Plenty of ultratalented, hyperdriven, mentally tough quarterbacks like Fields have come to the NFL and flamed out. Some hit their ceilings as ordinary, middle-tier starters.

Fields’ fate at this early stage of his career is far from clear. When Getsy was asked late last month if his quarterback is ready to make everyone around him better, the coordinator offered a measured response.

“I don’t think I’m in any position to make predictions like that,” Getsy said. “But what I can tell you is the guy works his tail off. He exudes confidence in himself, which then helps others feel confident. So I think that part of it is a special quality he has.”

Just how special remains to be seen. For many league observers, a clear-cut answer isn’t likely this season. More probable: The Bears will reach the end of 2022 still in a major gray area, sifting through Fields’ game-changing contributions and head-scratching blunders and interpreting what it all means.

Those deliberations for general manager Ryan Poles and coach Matt Eberflus might not always be comfortable.


At 10:53 p.m. on Aug. 27, about 40 minutes after the Bears finished their undefeated preseason with that encouraging win over the Browns, Fields was given a multiple-choice question on how best to sum up the first-team offense’s productive night.

  • a) a turning point
  • b) just another preseason game on a random Saturday in August

With the alley-oop lob hanging near the rim, Fields eagerly rose and dunked it.

“Definitely a turning point,” he said. “I think we can build on this.”

For the grounded and process-driven Getsy, that description felt like a prisoner-of-the-moment proclamation. A bit too “dramatic,” by Getsy’s estimation. So much of this season for the Bears offense, after all, will be about remaining tethered to reality and resisting any temptation to draw grand conclusions from small moments.

“The way my mind works is literally to have a vision of this process,” Getsy said. “We’re in this phase of getting better and … developing who we want to become. Are we on track? I don’t know. But I feel good about where we’re at.

“I think the guys believe in what we’re doing and what we’re communicating with the type of philosophy we have and the type of ball we want to play.”

A few days later, Fields clarified what he meant and stamped over the “turning point” label by reclassifying the performance as “another step in the right direction.”

“That half gave us a lot of confidence,” he said. “When everybody does their job, when we execute and we play hard and we play on their side of the ball, (it shows) what we can do as an offense.”

Without question, Fields’ 14-for-16, 156-yard, three-touchdown performance over five first-half possessions was encouraging and perfectly timed. But only so long as the Bears use the resulting surge of positive energy to continue catalyzing their improvement rather than processing it as an arrival.

For Getsy, some of the simpler plays in that win were the ones most worth highlighting. For example, Fields’ first completion, a basic rollout dump-off to fullback Khari Blasingame in the flat.

That 8-yard completion came on the identical play that later produced the touchdown pass to Kmet. But in that first instance, with Blasingame wide open after Fields’ play fake, Fields began his low-to-high read and was instantly satisfied his No. 1 option was there.

“Again,” Getsy says, “it’s not even necessarily the decision. Because KB was open. But it was how quickly he made the decision. It wasn’t like, ‘Let’s move on.’ It was, ‘We’ve got it. Let’s take it. And let’s move on to the next down with a positive play.’”

Those aren’t the kind of completions that will make YouTube highlight montages. But they are the kind that create momentum and rhythm for an offense. And Fields has said one of the bigger tasks in his Year 2 journey will be dialing down his greedy knob a few notches, resisting the urge to search for a big play when a positive gain is ready-made.

“We never want to put the ball in danger,” Fields says. “That’s the No. 1 thing they harp on here.”

But it’s more than that.

“Rather than taking a shot down the field that’s 50-50 on first-and-10, I’d rather take the completion,” Fields adds. “Boom. Move to the next (play). … Last year I was always trying to hit the home runs and not really worried about the checkdowns.”

‘I like it like that’

At the end of minicamp in mid-June, Fields acknowledged he was “not ready for the season to start.”

“I’m just being honest,” he said. “We’re not ready to play a game right now.”

At that point, there was a mountain of preparation to be done with everyone on the Bears offense still familiarizing themselves with the concepts of the new system and working to understand the little details that needed to be mastered.

Here in September, Fields and the Bears have no choice but to be ready. Week 1 has arrived. The 49ers are coming to Soldier Field on Sunday for the season opener. And the Bears’ progress is about to be tested in a major way.

From this point forward, Fields’ performances will be on center stage, under a bright spotlight with the football world waiting to hyperanalyze his progress.

Getsy, though, wants his quarterback to remain immersed in the process the way he has been the past five months.

In the preseason opener against the Chiefs, Getsy was thrilled with how smooth the Bears’ operation was, with clean play calls in the huddle, proper motions and no pre-snap malfunctions. Additional steps were taken the next two games.

Process. Process. Process.

Fields has been pushed to understand the emphasis of each day. If the focus needs to be on protection adjustments, then work to improve protection adjustments. If hot routes are being stressed, dial in on hot routes. In the situational periods this coaching staff emphasizes — third down, two-minute, red zone — work to be situationally sound.

“When we got here in April, we had this well-thought-out plan of how we wanted this process to look and we’re going to stay committed to that process,” Getsy says. “This isn’t like an elevation to a moment. This is part of the process. This is the steppingstone.”

So what is Fields most eager for at the beginning of his second season?

“Just to see,” he says. “Let’s see what happens.”

He slides back in his chair with a confident stare but offers a low-volume observation.

“A lot of people are doubting us,” he says. “I like it like that.”

Deep down, Fields has conviction that the outside conversation about his future and the direction of the Bears offense will be much different come January. His gut tells him the Bears have a chance to surprise a lot of people.

“I know we do,” he says. “For sure. I’m glad teams are sleeping on us. Hopefully they stay asleep.”

Fields will remain awake and locked in, leaving little to chance and eager to prove he can become the Bears’ long-term answer. Sunday is just the next step.


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