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La Crosse sports briefs

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NFL

Bears sign Fields to 4-year deal

CHICAGO — The Chicago Bears signed first-round draft pick Justin Fields to a four-year contract on Friday.

The Bears landed their quarterback of the future when they traded up nine spots with the New York Giants to take the Ohio State star with the No. 11 overall pick. They have him working with the second team for now behind veteran newcomer Andy Dalton, who signed a one-year contract in March, but the question is for how long.

Fields was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2019 and the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year each of his two seasons at Ohio State after transferring from Georgia. He threw for 5,373 yards, 63 touchdowns and nine interceptions for the Buckeyes.

The Bears are counting on Fields to deliver in a way Mitchell Trubisky never did after being drafted with the No. 2 overall pick in 2017, and to solidify a position that has historically been a sore spot for them.

The Bears opted not to exercise their fifth-year option on Trubisky for 2021 prior to last season.

He then got benched in favor of veteran Nick Foles for part of the year and wound up signing with Buffalo to back up Josh Allen.

The Bears have signed six of their seven draft picks. The only remaining unsigned selection is second-rounder Teven Jenkins, an offensive tackle from Oklahoma State.

NBA

Siakam will miss 5 months

TORONTO — The shoulder injury that ended Toronto forward Pascal Siakam’s season early will likely force him to miss the start of next season as well.

The Raptors said Friday that Siakam had surgery last week to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder, with an anticipated recovery and rehabilitation time of five months. That timetable, if precise, would mean Siakam can play again in early November — about two weeks after the NBA plans to open the 2021-22 season.

Siakam was hurt in a game May 8 against Memphis, two days after he tied a career best by scoring 44 points against Washington. The 2020 NBA All-Star missed Toronto’s final four games because of the injury.

Siakam led the Raptors in scoring this season, averaging 21.4 points per game. He also led the Raptors in minutes (2,006) and games started (56).

NHL

Larsen to coach Blue Jackets

When Brad Larsen went from old player to young coach and earning an NHL head job became a goal, he spent time on a hockey database website looking up the paths of those who came before him.

Larsen found many of the most successful coaches took their time and embraced patience.

“My vision was, I’m not in a rush to be a head coach,” Larsen said. “I want to do it right.”

After a decade in coaching, including the past seven years as a Columbus assistant, Larsen was introduced Friday as the Blue Jackets’ new coach. He and team brass agreed that even with connections to the previous two coaching staffs, Larsen earned the opportunity to be the new voice the organization covets to become a contender again.

“There’s that patient endurance that goes into something like that,” Larsen said at his introductory news conference in Columbus. “I’m going to learn more now. I’m going to make mistakes — I promise you — but that’s part of the process.”

Larsen quickly became the top choice to succeed John Tortorella, the Stanley Cup-winning coach who parted ways with the Blue Jackets with his contract expiring. General manager Jarmo Kekalainen said Larsen was one of the first candidates interviewed for the job and others couldn’t surpass the “Lars Bar” set by the 43-year-old homegrown coach.

“It makes me very proud to promote Brad to our head coach because he’s earned it,” Kekalainen said. “It’s going to be a fresh, new voice for us.”

At the very least it’s a fresh perspective from a coach who worked under Tortorella and Todd Richards since 2014 and before that coached the club’s American Hockey League affiliate in Springfield, Massachusetts. Larsen understands the questions about how an organizational mainstay can be a new voice but insists he’ll show that in his coaching.

Whereas Tortorella was gruff, often short and sometimes unfiltered, Larsen said he’s firm but fair and believes in accountability and honesty, much like his old boss.

“I’m my own man,” Larsen said. “I probably will handle things differently than Torts just because that’s who I am and not because he was wrong and I was right, but that’s who I am.”

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