Acho is Pay­ton nom­i­nee

Chicago Tribune - - CHICAGO SPORTS - By Dan Wiederer Chicago Tri­bune dwiederer@chicagotri­ Twit­ter @dan­wiederer

As the Bears con­tinue their prepa­ra­tions for Sun­day’s game against the Bengals, here’s what else we learned Thurs­day in Lake For­est. Sam Acho is the team’s nom­i­nee for the Wal­ter Pay­ton Man of the Year award.

For the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive sea­son Acho is be­ing rec­og­nized as a nom­i­nee for the award, which will be pre­sented at the NFL Hon­ors show on Su­per Bowl week­end in Min­neapo­lis. The Man of the Year award, which has been given out since 1970 and was re­named in Pay­ton’s honor in 1999, rec­og­nizes play­ers who make a sig­nif­i­cant pos­i­tive im­pact in the com­mu­nity.

In ad­di­tion to his com­mu­nity work in Chicago, Acho also is ac­tively in­volved with his fam­ily’s Liv­ing Hope Chris­tian Min­istries char­ity. In­cluded in that work is an an­nual trip to Africa to as­sist those need­ing med­i­cal help. Acho says the trip is al­ways per­spec­tive-al­ter­ing.

“If you just look at your life in a bub­ble, it’s easy to com­plain,” the line­backer said. “It’s easy to cry about a lot of things. It’s easy to feel sorry for your­self. But if you open your eyes a lit­tle bit and just take a step out­side your shoes … you get a chance to see what real strug­gle looks like.”

The NFL’s 32 nom­i­nees for the Wal­ter Pay­ton Man of the Year award will be nar­rowed to three fi­nal­ists next month. The Bears asked the league to re­view the il­le­gal block in the back call against Ben Brau­necker that negated Tarik Co­hen’s 67-yard punt re­turn against the 49ers.

As much as has been made of Co­hen’s daz­zling 61-yard touch­down re­turn Sun­day, the 67-yarder that didn’t count may have been equally sig­nif­i­cant.

At the time, the Bears led 14-12 and Co­hen’s re­turn would have set the of­fense up at the 49ers 16 with 10 min­utes, 39 sec­onds to play. In­stead, af­ter Brau­necker’s penalty, the Bears took over at their own 14, a 70-yard dif­fer­ence in field po­si­tion.

Asked whether he thought Brau­necker com­mit­ted a clear in­frac­tion, spe­cial teams co­or­di­na­tor Jeff Rodgers would say only that the Bears turned the play into the league for clar­i­fi­ca­tion.

Brau­necker made con­tact with 49ers long snap­per Kyle Mur­phy right as Co­hen turned the cor­ner on the play. Rodgers was certain the block — il­le­gal or not — was not the rea­son Co­hen broke free, even with Mur­phy’s tack­ling tal­ents.

“He is, in my opin­ion, the best cov­er­age long snap­per in the league,” Rodgers said. “He's a re­ally good ath­lete who has made tack­les in space. (But) one-on-one with Tarik Co­hen in the open field? I like Tarik's chances.”

It also is worth not­ing the flag was not thrown im­me­di­ately and was tossed from the op­po­site side­line af­ter Co­hen had crossed mid­field, a good 40 yards into his re­turn. The Bears must get re­source­ful to stim­u­late their pass rush.

Per­nell McPhee came out of last week’s game with a shoul­der in­jury and has yet to prac­tice this week. Fel­low out­side lineback­ers Wil­lie Young and Leonard Floyd are on in­jured re­serve. That leaves the Bears head­ing to Cincin­nati with Acho and La­marr Hous­ton as their top edge rush­ers. Chris­tian Jones is work­ing with that po­si­tion group af­ter play­ing most of this sea­son at in­side line­backer.

The Bears also are de­pleted on the de­fen­sive line with Mitch Un­rein placed on IR on Tues­day and Ed­die Goldman (hip) out of prac­tice the last two days. Co­or­di­na­tor Vic Fan­gio was asked if the in­jury epi­demic frus­trated him.

“A car­pen­ter never blames his tools,” Fan­gio said. “He just finds a way to get the thing built.”

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