Bears add spice to Chili’s
Host Dan Jiggets talks with Chicago Bears center Roberto Garza during a Dec. 11 recording of “Chicago Huddle” at the Chili’s restaurant in Vernon Hills. | Rick Kambic~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 21, 2013 2:40PM
As the NFL playoffs draw closer, area fans can get thoughts from Bears players during Tuesday night recordings of Comcast Sports Net’s “Chicago Huddle” at the Vernon Hills Chili’s along Townline Road.
The show airs on weekends, giving spectators an early viewing. Hosted by former Bear Dan Jiggets, the show features players such as wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, running back Matt Forte and center Roberto Garza.
“The restaurant is usually pretty busy during the show but when Matt Forte comes, it’s standing room only,” Chili’s General Manager Kenneth Drummer said.
Chili’s hosted the Chicago Huddle in 2010 when the restaurant opened. The show moved to Casa Bonita in Libertyville for 2011 but Chili’s brought it back for the 2012 and 2013 regular and playoff seasons.
Kentucky-based ERJ Dining owns the Chili’s franchise and partners with a sports management company to get professional athletes in some of their Midwest restaurants.
“We’re about a mile-and-a-half from Halas Hall, so we figured we should try to bring something special to our community,” said Tim Sula, ERJ area director.
With the Bears’ playoff hopes in question, the topics will get more critical.
Garza was the Bears guest on Dec. 11. After a 21-14 loss to the Vikings two nights earlier. Garza openly blamed the offense and said they should have done a better job running the ball to keep Minnesota’s defense guessing when quarterback Jay Cutler dropped back to pass.
Just prior to that show, the Bears placed kicker Robbie Gould on injured reserve. When Jiggets pressed Garza, the veteran lineman said scoring more touchdowns would ease the pressure on newly signed kicker Olindo Mare.
That was not the case, as the Bears only scored one touchdown in their 21-13 loss to Green Bay on Dec. 16.
“If the Bears make the playoffs, it’ll be even more crowded in here,” Jiggets said. “People will be sitting on the floor around the cameras. This area has a loyal following.”
Not all players provide autographs, but in between the four segments on Dec. 11, Garza raffled autographed footballs.
Six-year-old Lee McClellan, of McHenry, was one of the winners. Aunt Jaime Rous and uncle John Sarff trekked McClellan to Chili’s.
“He was a good boy at school this year,” Rous said. “He does his homework and his teachers say he’s very polite. Meeting the Bears makes for a good reward.”
Among the other winners was Michael Daly of Libertyville, who gave the ball to his three-year-old son Matthew.
For some patrons who might not get seats, management tries to take names and provide reservations for the following week.
“Hosting the sports talk show has been quite successful,” said Andre Bynum, ERJ vice president of marketing. “I would consider it a way to build connections with our community more than it being a marketing tool. We value the interests of our neighbors.”~.