By Jeff Joniak--
(CBS) The Bears (2-5) are on the road to face the Chargers (2-6) on Monday night. Here are my observations leading up to the game.
Sacrifices are made every day in every career by most of you who aspire to succeed, whatever the definition. For 24-year-old Bears rookie linebacker John Timu, it's about chasing an NFL dream while his wife, Amanda, serves in the U.S. Navy at the Naval Air Station North Island on the north end of the Coronado Peninsula on San Diego Bay. She's working and raising their one-year-old son, Asaiah.
"To raise my son through FaceTime and to be a husband through FaceTime is probably one of the hardest things I can go through," Timu said. "I'm trying to be the best husband and father, and hopefully I'm doing that. We definitely, definitely know what the word 'sacrifice' means."
Timu was on the active roster to start the season as an undrafted linebacker from the University of Washington, where he was a team captain on a star-studded Huskies defense. He has only played on special teams, earning 60 snaps, but since then has spent the last several weeks on the practice squad. Going home every day after work is difficult for Timu.
"The long days are easy, you get football, you go home, you're tired, you want to go to sleep, but when these guys travel and I'm at home … it gets a little lonely at times," Timu said.
Amanda Timu is a driven woman. She's a couple of weeks shy of four years of service in the Navy. She just re-enlisted for another year. She's a strong, independent woman who wants to build a career. She works on plane and helicopter engines. It's "Salute to Service" Month in the NFL, and Amanda deserves the salute, according to her husband.
"It's harder for women in the military," Timu said. "It's hard for men (in the military) to accept that. There have been times where it's been very tough on her."
You can hear more on Timu's story in the second hour of Monday night's "Countdown to Kickoff" pregame show in Joniak's Journal on WBBM's pregame coverage of the Bears and Chargers. Next Wednesday is Veterans Day, and this story will air with that in mind.
For the third consecutive week, the Bears will face a likely future Hall of Fame player. Three weeks ago, it was Lions receiver Calvin Johnson. Last week, it was Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. This week, it's Chargers tight end Antonio Gates.
"I remember being in high school and maybe even the tail end of middle school, playing defensive end on defense and tight end on offense," Bears linebacker Sam Acho said. "I remember saying, 'Man, I'm Antonio Gates.' I wanted to wear No. 85 because of Antonio Gates."
Defending players like Gates is something a player like Acho will reflect on much later in life. Acho said he does appreciate it now and fondly remembers making a play on Gates that led to a win over the Chargers when he was a young player with the Cardinals.
Bears tight end Martellus Bennett seemed a bit edgy answering questions about his role in the offense recently.
"I'm just trying to be a really good employee," Bennett said. "I got a lot of responsibilities in the offense. I'm just trying to be a really good employee. Whatever they ask me to do, that's what I'll do. At some point they've got to come my way, but until they do, there's nothing I can do about it.
Bennett has been targeted 58 times this season, with 37 catches on average for 8.8 yards. Eighteen of his catches have produced first downs, including 11 on third down. Bennett's yards after the catch, which led all NFL tight ends last season, is a bit off that pace this season. He's only caught 11 of his last 21 targeted throws in the last three games, and the targets have dropped to 10 in the last two losses.
Clicking off the big names among pass catching tight ends like Rob Gronkowski, Julius Thomas, Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham, Bennett essentially said that group isn't asked to block like he does in the Bears scheme.
"I've got different responsibilities from all those guys," Bennett said. "All those guys get to run down the field. They get a lot of credit, a lot of love, but it all depends on the system that you are in."
It sounds like Bennett wants more targets.
On the topic of tight ends, keep an eye on Ladarius Green of the Chargers. He's fast, quick and one of their deep threats. In the red zone, Green has caught five of his six targets. Three have gone for touchdowns. His inside-the-20-yard-line per catch average is a big 12.4. In 2014, Gates did his usual damage in catching 10 passes in the red zone, nine for touchdowns. This season, Gates has two red-zone catches, both for touchdowns. In his career, Gates has 108 red-zone catches, a remarkable 77 of them for touchdowns.
Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play announcer for the Bears broadcasts on WBBM Newsradio 780. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJoniak.
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