Hall of Fame game goes to Ravens … Fitts snags one QB sack … Sixth round pick might stick in Chicago … First, it was USC, then UCLA and, finally, Utah … Fitts spotted in NBC’s televised coverage … Top NFL QBs already on Bears’ ‘hit’ list.
Legendary NBC sportscaster Al Michaels made the call on Kylie Fitts.
Yes, it was a mere National Football League exhibition game between a pair of past Super Bowl champions, Baltimore and Chicago. So much more was taking place at the Hall of Fame game played at Canton, Ohio on Thursday, Aug. 2.
Fitts, a former Redlands East Valley defensive end, was trying to showcase his skills in that game.
Various storylines prevailed in the NBC coverage with Michaels, Cris Collinsworth and Tony Dungy.
• Heisman Trophy winners Lamar Jackson and R.G. Griffin III would launch, perhaps, a challenge to Ravens’ starter Joe Flacco.
• The Bears, under new coach Matt Nagy, are in rebuilding mode with second-year QB Mitch Trubisky in a tough NFC North Division race with Minnesota, Detroit and Green Bay.
• New rules for 2018, including a mandate against helmet tackles.
• In fact, Chicago drafted linebacker Roquan Smith, a current holdout who reportedly wants contract language that protects him from losing money due to the NFL’s new helmet rule.
• There was some drama for the national TV audience when the Bears went for a two-point PAT with 2:44 left. They failed, leaving them one point behind on the scoreboard.
• Both teams are trying to rebound from non-playoff seasons. The Bears finished 5-11 and the Ravens were 9-7.
IT ALL STARTED AT REV
Fitts, during his years at REV, spent most of his time chasing opposing running backs. It was simple: Fitts was such a mauler, rival teams attacked the other side of the Wildcats’ defense.
Michaels, for his part, didn’t make many identifications on the hits, though he called out the QB sacks.
Fitts’ collegiate stops, which led him to USC and UCLA before landing at Utah, were marred with plenty of injuries.
All of which probably helped drop him to the sixth round in last spring’s NFL draft.
Chicago is where another REV product, Tyler Chatwood of the Cubs, has landed.
There is insight on Fitts that he will be a sleeper, NFL chatter that he will turn into a key figure on a rebuilding Bears’ defense.
Those injuries were paramount at REV, where he missed half a season — totaling over 125 career tackles and 13 sacks and 22 hits for lost yardage while playing in 19 games between 2009 and 2011.
Apparently headed for USC, Fitts graduated from REV at mid-semester in order to start taking classes. The Trojans, then under head coach Lane Kiffin, backed away from Fitts, leading him to UCLA.
Footnote: Kiffin didn’t last at USC, either.
HALL OF FAME GAME OUTCOME
Against the Ravens, he had one of the Bears’ eight QB sacks. He disrupted Baltimore pass plays on other occasions, helping flush out passers on other plays.
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who helped build San Francisco’s defense to a 2013 Super Bowl appearance — against Baltimore, incidentally — must have had plenty to watch in video sessions in days after the 17-16 loss to the Ravens.
Fitts, 24 who wears jersey No. 49, told Bears’ senior writer Larry Meyer, “Once someone gets a sack, then it starts creating energy and we’re all trying to get that sack, especially in the first game.
“It’s nice when nine guys can get sacks.”
The nine included Fitts, Bilal Nichols, Isaiah Irving, Nick Williams, Jonathan Bullard, Elijah Norris and Roy Robertson. Cavin Walker and Abdullah Anderson split another.
Fitts, who was called for off-sides early in the second quarter, made his move with 4:41 left in the first half. His quickness got to RG III.
Michaels: “Second down and 11 … pressure … sacked back at the 23-yard-line … Kylie Fitts, a rookie from Utah … let’s go to Michelle (Tafoya, NBC’s sideline reporter).”
It seemed as if Roy Robertson-Harris gave a broadly-smiling Fitts a tap on the helmet in celebration of the sack on RG III.
NFC NORTH SACK TARGETS
Green Bay legend Aaron Rogers, new Minnesota QB Kirk Cousins, plus Detroit’s Matthew Stafford will square up against Chicago’s improving pass rush twice apiece this season.
If Fitts, who is a pass-rushing linebacker, makes the team, there will be other top targets for QB sacks.
Seattle’s Russell Wilson, always tough to bring down, will be another QB targeted by Chicago’s pass rush.
Fitts might get his shot at Tom Brady when the Patriots host New England on Oct. 21.
If Sam Darnold wins the New York Jets’ starting spot, that game is a week later (Oct. 28).
Eli Manning, Jarod Goff and 49ers QB Jimmy Garrapolo are also on Chicago’s schedule.
Chicago plays its home schedule at venerable Soldier Field, just off Lake Michigan.