Chicago Sun-Times

May 2008 Archives

You knew the signing of fifth-round pick Kellen Davis earlier today was going to jump-start business for Cliff Stein.

Boy, did it.

The Bears also came to agreement with all five of the club’s seventh-round picks on contracts Friday night.

Minicamp was preceded by physicals and weigh-ins on Thursday and there are a few changes worth noting:

Defensive lineman Israel Idonije, who is expected to move inside on a more permanent basis, is listed at 297 pounds, up 22 from last year. It’s by far the biggest change on the roster.

Idonije was doing some work at defensive end during OTA’s when the media was allowed in last week as Alex Brown (hamstring) was sidelined. The Bears certainly don’t want anyone playing outside at that size, but the feeling was Idonije could add the weight and remain as quick. It will be interesting to get his take as well as that of special teams coordinator Dave Toub on the change because he’s such a valuable contributor on special teams.

Drew Rosenhaus came to town for the second time in two months and this time he left with a deal in hand.

No, defensive tackle Tommie Harris has not signed a contract extension, but you can bet that was one of the issues the sides discussed.

Tight end Kellen Davis, the fifth-round draft pick from Michigan State, has agreed to a four-year contract. The news was first reported in profootballtalk.com, and Rosenhaus confirmed it.

While you can’t say the Bears and Brian Urlacher are near resolving their differences regarding his contract, the biggest hurdle in reaching an agreement has been crossed. Urlacher is back and that puts the sides on course for a negotiation at some point.

So with that in mind—and a desire to focus on something else—we turn to some other issues worth watching at minicamp this weekend.

Six topics worth discussing:

1. What’s up with contracts for Tommie Harris and Devin Hester? Coming to an accord with Urlacher won’t put an end to the financial wheeling and dealings going on. Harris’ situation takes on the most significance because he is due to be an unrestricted free agent following the 2008 season.

Brian Urlacher will take part in the mandatory Bears’ minicamp this weekend after all.

The middle linebacker, according to an Internet report, will show up at Halas Hall after making strong statements suggesting he wouldn’t be seen earlier this month.

If Urlacher was going to find a resolution to his contract dispute, he wasn’t going to do it by staying away from the club. The Bears have a pretty straightforward policy of negotiating with players who are not present.

Brian Urlacher has said he needs to take a stand in his crusade for a new contract.

Barring an unforeseen breakthrough between the six-time Pro Bowl linebacker and the Bears, we’ll get a better idea what that new contract is worth to Urlacher come Friday when the mandatory minicamp opens at Halas Hall.

If Urlacher boycotts the event—as he told our pal Mike Silver at Yahoo! Sports he was likely to do earlier this month—he puts in jeopardy a portion of the $13 million signing bonus he received in 2003. Urlacher, who turned 30 Sunday and has skipped the voluntary offseason workout program to date, could risk losing money in his bid to earn more money.

At issue would be signing bonus forfeiture language in Urlacher’s contract, a standard part of virtually all NFL contracts. If he’s in default on his contract—and missing a mandatory team activity would qualify—the Bears could choose to pursue a pro-rated portion of that signing bonus. Just five years into the $56.65 million, nine-year contract, at stake would be $5,777,777 (the remaining pro-rated portion of the signing bonus).

Linebacker Lance Briggs is on ESPN's "NFL Live" right now.

They'll handle a myriad of topics, several non-Bears related, but we'll see what shakes out.

I'd expect him to fully support Brian Urlacher's drive for more dough.

Stay tuned.

Cedric Benson went to court today but it didn’t have anything to do with his pending case in Texas.

The Bears running back was in court here answering to a speeding ticket he picked up last month on the Edens Expy. WBBM-780 reports that Benson was flagged for running 77 mph in a 45 mph construction zone. The illegal procedure cost him a $510 fine and four months supervision.

Wrapping it up before the weekend ...

Read through a few e-mails wondering about the Bears’ chances of finding wide receiver help in light of Mark Bradley’s shaky situation after he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee earlier this month. It was suggested that perhaps the Bears could find some help in the form of some post-June 1 cuts.

The post-June 1 cuts that used to come from teams seeking some salary-cap relief are obsolete, and really it’s been just a rumor not a reality that you could find help there the past couple years. Clubs had done a better job of managing their finances and a lot of the burdensome salaries were unloaded in March before hefty roster bonuses were due.

Good news comes for ex-Bear Ruben Brown. The nine-time Pro Bowl guard has his surgically-repaired shoulder checked out this week and was given full clearance. He’s hoping to catch on with a team soon but it’s unlikely he’ll find work here.

That doesn’t mean Brown has cut ties with the community, though. He will hold his third annual Ruben Brown Motorcycle Run here June 7-8. The event benefits the Salvation Army and other local charities designed to benefit children.

On this date last year, Cliff Stein was signing, sealing and delivering offensive tackle Aaron Brant, a seventh-round draft pick.

So what, you say.

While Brant’s Bears’ career was as insignificant as they come—he received an injury settlement after being waived during training camp—he marked the fifth member of the 2007 draft class to sign by May 23. It was all downhill from there and all but defensive end Dan Bazuin were in the fold by July 3 as the Bears were the first team to have all of their draft picks under contract for the second consecutive summer.

With 12 picks outstanding, Stein faces an uphill battle to achieve that status—and maybe a little mid-July vacation—but there’s no danger of the Bears not having draft picks in Bourbonnais on time. Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher? That might be another story, another story for another day.

It’s been slow going around the league getting draft picks done, unless you’re the Miami Dolphins with four in hand already, or the Atlanta Falcons with quarterback Matt Ryan on board. You can get any selection signed with a $72 million, six-year contract. What’s the challenge in that negotiation?

There are two things that strike you when you consider the current plight of wide receiver Mark Bradley in light of the announcement Wednesday he recently underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee and is questionable for the beginning of training camp, which doesn’t start for nearly nine weeks.

First, this guy’s had some incredibly poor luck.

Second, just how is it the team came to count on him so heavily heading into 2008? There had to be a reason he was only on the field to catch six balls last season. Yes, Bernard Berrian had a very productive season relative to the ineptitude of the offense as a whole, but what exactly was Muhsin Muhammad doing to keep Bradley or anyone else off the field?

Let’s recap Bradley’s injury history:

*** He tore the ACL in his left knee when he was a sophomore at Arkansas-Pine Bluff in 2001 and wound up doing most of the rehab after transferring to Oklahoma the next year.

*** He tore the ACL in his right knee during Week 8 of his rookie season in 2005 at Ford Field. It happened at the end of the first half in what was turning into a breakout performance. Bradley was getting loose in the Lions secondary and looked like the run-after-the-catch star the team heralded him to be when drafting him in the second round with the 39th overall pick that April.

*** He badly sprained an ankle in 2006 when he tripped down a flight of stairs in his home. He explained he was hustling to watch a spiritual DVD. That cost him five games. This doesn't strike of the explanation defensive lineman Bryan Robinson delivered when he broke both wrists in May 2002. He blamed it on a home fall on a stairwell, saying he tripped over his dog. Turns out Robinson was actually injured on an ATV, or at least that's the story he gave the coaching staff.

*** Knee soreness knocked him out for a week at the end of training camp last summer reducing his role in preseason and no doubt leading to coach Lovie Smith announcing he was the team’s “No. 5” receiver early in the year.

The perception last season was that Ricky Manning Jr. was overlooked in a big way when seventh-round pick Trumaine McBride was used primarily as a starter in Nathan Vasher’s absence.

It was reality in the sense that starting is a big deal. Whose in the lineup on a week-to-week basis speaks volumes about who the coaching staff believes in most.

But the statistics paint a somewhat different picture. Manning was on the field for 544 of the 1,076 defensive snaps last season. McBride? 584. About the same. It marked a decrease in defensive snaps for Manning of only 55 from 2006, or a little less than one game. Interestingly, Manning was actually on the field more for the Bears in 2007 than he was in 2006 because of an increased role on special teams.

The idea promoted in some corners that Cedric Benson was woefully behind in rehabilitating his broken left leg/ankle was off. Considerably.

If running around in shorts and a helmet counts for much, and we know it doesn’t, Benson looked pretty good Wednesday in the Bears’ practice at Halas Hall.

In fact, if Benson had not been wearing his No. 32 jersey, you might not have recognized him.

“I’ve lost about 10 pounds,’’ he said. ``Alternating my diet a little bit, and I feel great. That stuff really works.”

Mark Bradley is wearing a brace on his right leg following the surgery and tweaked the knee on the field during voluntary offseason workouts.

“Oh yeah,” he said. “I’ll be ready for training camp. It was just some scar tissue.”

The team says Bradley’s return for the beginning of training camp July 23 is questionable, however.

We’ve got an answer regarding wide receiver Mark Bradley.

He’s missing in action because he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery earlier this month. Bradley’s had two ACL reconstructions and the team is calling him questionable for the start of training camp. This doesn’t bode well for Bradley, who made just six receptions last season. And that’s why we saw Brandon Lloyd running with the first team.

The shaky wide receiver position is a little shakier right now. Remember, Bradley started last season as the No. 5 receiver yet the club somehow promoted him to No. 1.

It’s Kyle Orton’s day to run with the first team today in the third OTA.

The Bears have opened the doors to media and the first 20 minutes of the workout have not turned up a lot.

A slimmed down Cedric Benson is running with the first team. I’m not sure if he’s looked this small since the Bears drafted him No. 4 overall in 2005. We’re talking about a reshaped Ced.

Wide receiver/returner Devin Hester and tight end Desmond Clark are on the field but are not participating in drills. Ditto linebacker Jamar Williams.

Twenty-four hours later the Ced Watch has ended.

Running back Cedric Benson participated in the OTA on Tuesday at Halas Hall a day after he did not show up for Monday’s initial OTA. No word on why he wasn’t there but the workouts are voluntary and right now the only player known to be volunteering to miss the lot is middle linebacker Brian Urlacher.

The Bears have hired Dennard Wilson as a pro scout following the departure of Morocco Brown to the Washington Redskins.

Wilson served as a football intern for the Maryland Terrapins last season. He spent time in camps with the Washington Redskins.

Once again, the Bears are optimistic about the return of safety Mike Brown and the contributions the veteran can make to the defense.

It’s not unlike any of the past three offseasons when he was coming back from an injury. This time, the Bears will have some protection in the event he’s injured and misses a significant portion of the season.

The Bears and Brown have agreed to a restructuring of his contract for the final year of the $17 million, five-year extension he agreed to in 2003.

The Bears will be out on the market looking for help and it won’t be for a player.

Assistant director of pro personnel Morocco Brown has left to become the director of pro personnel for the Washington Redskins. Brown departs after seven seasons in the role, taking a promotion to return to the organization he worked for before he was hired to work under pro personnel boss Bobby DePaul.

Three prominent Bears were not on the field at Monday’s first OTA at Halas Hall. Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher is no-showing in his contract staredown with the club, and running back Cedric Benson was also absent. Benson’s initial court date stemming from his Texas arrest earlier this month was scheduled for Monday, but he was not required to appear and attorney Sam Bassett said the next preliminary hearing will be June 30. Benson will not be required to attend then either, Bassett said.

No word on where Benson was. Attendance has never been an issue with him. He’s already missed a few days of the voluntary workout program after a delayed return from Texas following his arrest. If Benson has more than six absences, he will be required to repay the club $100,000, part of his signing bonus that was classified as workout pay.

The Bears got back to work today at Halas Hall with the first of 13 schedule OTA’s (organized team activities).

The team’s Web site has a photo of rookie running back Matt Forte breaking out of his position in the backfield. He must have been running with the second or third team because center Olin Kreutz is in the background looking on, and we’re not aware of a demotion. The Bears will open up Wednesday’s practice to media (it used to be the team was more accommodating and all OTA’s were open) so we’ll get a better idea of who’s where then.

We tried to analyze the numbers for Robbie Gould’s new contract vs. Josh Brown earlier, and we’ll take one more shot at presenting them.

The figures from the deal Gould pulled down last week have come in and we can match them up with the contract Brown signed with the St. Louis Rams at the start of free agency.

Gould received a five-year extension from the Bears that provides him with $13.5 million in new money, keeping him in place through 2013. The deal tops out at $15.5 million in new money with performance-based escalators totaling $2 million in 2012 and 2013. Gould’s average on the extension with the escalators is $3.1 million. Without, it’s $2.7 million.

This is not how Inside the Bears planned to swing back into action, but news is news. We're glad everyone was able to get along in our absence. From the looks of it there was some lively debate.

Cedric Benson’s initial court appearance scheduled for today in Texas has been rescheduled for June 30, according to an e-mail from his attorney Sam Bassett. Benson will not be required to appear on that date.

Everyone was looking their best at the Bears Care gala Saturday night at Soldier Field, a black-tie event that coming into this year had helped raise nearly $7 million in the fight against cancer.

But quarterback Kyle Orton looked particularly good in his tuxedo. If anyone is in top shape, it’s Orton as he prepares to embark on a competition for the starting job with Rex Grossman.

Orton stopped to chat and said he’s comfortable there is going to be a level playing field. It’s expected a decision on the starter will not be made until some time in the preseason after both quarterbacks have had turns in live action.

The court of public opinion has had Cedric Benson on trial for a week now.

General manager Jerry Angelo took his turn judging the running back Saturday night at the Bears’ black-tie fundraiser at Soldier Field.

Benson’s guilty, at least when it comes to proper judgment.

That’s what Angelo said in his first comments about the arrest of the former No. 4 overall pick from 2005. Benson was busted May 3 on Lake Travis in Austin, Texas, charged with drunk boating and resisting arrest. They are allegations he vehemently denies. Benson claims he was sober and was roughed up by police for no reason, that he was fully cooperative even after being sprayed in the face with pepper spray.

Tommie Harris is set to do some good in his hometown this weekend.

The Bears defensive tackle will be honored at a dinner Friday in Killeen, Texas, where Sara White, the widow of Hall of Fame defensive end Reggie White, will speak.

There will be a ribbon cutting ceremony on Saturday at the Tommie Harris Fitness Center at the city’s family recreation center. Harris will conduct a free youth football clinic.

So, there you have it, some non-police blotter Bears news that comes from off the gridiron.

Harris is one of a handful of players angling for a new contract this offseason. He’s entering the final year of his rookie contract. Adam Schefter at the NFL Network took an early look at the free agency class of 2009 and put Harris right near the top at No. 3. Of course, those things can change when players work out extensions and others are slapped with the franchise tag at the beginning of next offseason. But Schefter came to the conclusion that it’s a talented bunch, much deeper than this year’s class.

Tied with the Kansas City Chiefs at 12 for having the most picks in the NFL draft, it’s no surprise the Bears have the fifth-highest rookie pool at $5,791,190, according to figures obtained by ESPN.com. The Chiefs have the highest figure at $8,221,790, followed by Atlanta, Miami, St. Louis and then the Bears. The difference is the Bears are the only one of the bunch not to own a pick in the top five, or top 13 for that matter. Their top pick, offensive tackle Chris Williams, went No. 14.

Kansas City tops the board as the Chiefs had two first-round picks—DT Glenn Dorsey (6th) and OL Branden Albert (15th). They have an extra third-round pick to sign as well. The Falcons had four picks in the top 68 and also had two players in the first round—QB Matt Ryan (3rd) and OT Sam Baker (21st). Miami owned the No. 1 pick and already signed OT Jake Long to a $57.75 million deal. The Rams had the No. 2 pick and used it on DE Chris Long.

Lovie Smith has always said he’ll happily help an assistant on his staff in efforts to climb the coaching ladder, and three Bears assistants are off getting some enrichment on their own at a symposium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., this week.

Defensive coordinator Bob Babich, special teams coordinator Dave Toub and quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton are attending the convention. It’s a good place to press the flesh and meet people. General managers, owners and other decision makers are on hand. Seeds have been planted for advancement at these career-building meetings for years. It’s where Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti was first introduced to his first-year head coach John Harbaugh.

The Bears got good news today in regards to rookie linebacker Joey LaRocque.

The seventh-round pick from Oregon State will not be held up by the rule that prevents players from reporting to teams until after graduation has been held at their schools.

Oregon State is on the quarter system and does not hold graduation until June 15. By then only a few days will remain in the Bears’ offseason program. It’s a rule designed to show the NFL isn’t trying to take players away from schools early even though many players stop attending classes in the spring in order to prepare for the draft. So, even if a guy has put the books away, he has to wait until his school issues caps and gowns.

The Bears released two local players Wednesday, getting rid of defensive tackle Babatunde Oshinowo and guard Mike Jones.

Oshinowo, the Neuqua Valley graduate, was signed to the practice squad early last season and was promoted to the 53-man roster for the final three games of 2007. He appeared in one game.

One Bear angling for a new contract has made his way back to Halas Hall.

No, the star middle linebacker isn’t back in the building.

Kicker Robbie Gould has been participating in the voluntary offseason workout program this week after taking the first month off. Gould is entering the final season of his four-year contract that has been a bargain for the club. He was signed off the street in Week 5 of 2005 when Doug Brien’s back acted up. There was no signing bonus, no fancy language in the deal. And he was ecstatic to trade a construction helmet for a football helmet.

Four more tryout players from the rookie minicamp weekend have been signed to deals.

The Bears have added Boston College guard Ryan Poles, who projected as a mid-round draft pick before he tore an Achilles tendon against Notre Dame in the middle of last season. The team had told him he’d be inked to a deal provided his injury checked out OK and he performed well.

The reclamation plan with Adam Archuleta is over.

ESPN’s John Clayton reported that the Bears will release the veteran safety and the team is in the process of putting together a fax to announce the move.

Archuleta was acquired a year ago from the Washington Redskins for a sixth-round draft pick. He started 10 of the first 11 games last season, missing one with a broken hand, before losing his job. Archuleta was a star with the St. Louis Rams, flourishing in coach Lovie Smith’s cover two scheme. He earned the largest contract ever for a safety when he went to the Redskins in one of Daniel Snyder’s spending sprees. The Bears had been bidding for Archuleta’s services in the spring of 2006 also.

The TV crews camped out at Halas Hall awaiting the return of Cedric Benson, but the Bears’ running back did not meet his stated goal of rejoining the club’s offseason program today.

Benson was absent for the voluntary workout program, a teammate said, missing for a second day after his arrest Saturday night on Lake Travis near Austin, Texas. Benson told the Sun-Times Sunday night that he expected to return to work Tuesday after tending to matters Monday in Texas.

Did it have something to do with the weekend trouble Cedric Benson got himself in?

The Bears wouldn’t say if it did.

But the club added a running back Monday, signing Matt Lawrence, the undrafted free agent from UMass who participated in the rookie minicamp this weekend on a tryout basis.

Surely, the Bears are still in an information-gathering mode when it comes to Cedric Benson.

Two days after his arrest on Lake Travis near Austin, Texas, there are vastly different stories being told by the running back and the Lower Colorado River Authority. The NFL, no doubt, is also looking into the matter. While Benson is not in danger of being zapped like Tank Johnson was with an eight-game suspension last year, commissioner Roger Goodell can hand out one-game suspensions like others give out Halloween candy. They’re not tough to get.

Cutting bait with Benson is not going to create any kind of savings for the Bears in terms of the salary cap. None at all.

Just got off the horn with Cedric Benson about 45 minutes ago.

He was emphatic that he was not drunk and did not resist arrest after officers from the Lower Colorado River Authority stopped his boat for a routine safety check just after 9 p.m. Saturday on Lake Travis, near Austin, Texas.

``I was not intoxicated,’’ Benson said. ``There was alcohol on the boat and others were enjoying themselves but I wasn’t drunk. It’s not like my boat was over the passenger limit or anything, either. It’s a 37-foot boat. Every time I go out there I get pulled over.’’

Cedric Benson denies that he was drunk Saturday night when officers from the Lower Colorado River Authority arrested him. He also denies that he resisted arrest.

Benson tells Ch. 5 that he passed a slew of field sobriety tests, including counting forward and backward “at least 20 times.”

He paints a completely different picture of events than those detailed by the police and said that he was dragged from the law enforcement boat to a sheriff’s vehicle because officers kicked his feet out from under him.

"I did nothing wrong; I didn't resist arrest, didn't curse and wasn't drunk," Benson told Ch. 5.

Besides the Cedric Benson circus Sunday at Halas Hall, rookie minicamp ended rather uneventfully. It was a good opportunity for players to get acclimated to how practices are run. Players can return to work in the offseason program once their schools have held graduation ceremonies, which will clear all but one draft pick for a return for the beginning of OTA’s on May 19.

Oregon State linebacker Joey LaRocque (it’s pronounced La-Rock in case you were wondering) cannot return for the offseason program until the end because his school is on the quarter system and commencement ceremonies are not until June 15. LaRocque was one of five seventh-round picks. It’s worth noting undrafted free-agent quarterbacks Caleb Hanie and Nick Hill will be able to return before the start of OTA’s also.

When Cedric Benson returns to the Bears’ voluntary offseason workout program (assuming that happens), he might need a lift to work.

While Inside the Bears is not going to pretend to have any legal expertise in the state of Texas, or any other jurisdiction for that matter, it appears that Boating While Intoxicated charges are applied in the same manner as Driving While Intoxicated charges in Texas.

If so, Benson could be rolling without his drivers license whether he’s in Austin, Texas, the Halas Hall parking lot, or any point in between.

According to a press release from the Lower Colorado River Authority, an LCRA officer first made contact with Cedric Benson’s 30-foot ship at 9:09 p.m. Saturday to do a random safety inspection.

At 9:27 p.m., an LCRA officer conducted a field sobriety “float test”. When Benson did not pass the test, he “presented himself as a threat to the officer” and argued about whether or not he would be taken to land for a follow-up test. He also refused to wear a life jacket, the report stated and at that time the officer decided to place Benson under arrest. When he continued to “present himself as a threat to the officer” he was subdued with pepper spray.

It will be interesting to see if general manager Jerry Angelo makes himself available to media today following the final rookie minicamp practice.

He’s got a veteran who was already entering 2008 in a sink or swim situation and now Cedric Benson faces charges of drunk boating and resisting arrest stemming from his arrest Saturday night on Lake Travis, near Austin, Texas. Both charges are misdemeanors. He is free on $14,500 bail. KVUE-TV first reported that Benson failed a float test, which is a scaled down field sobriety test, and then argued with officers from the Lower Colorado River Association and refused to put on a life jacket. Ultimately, Benson was reportedly pepper sprayed.

The Bears wrapped up Day 2 of the rookie minicamp in what Lovie Smith described as some Bear weather.

Maybe. It was drizzling and hardly inspiring football conditions. The program will wrap up Sunday and the hope is the players who return in the middle of the month in preparation for the full-squad minicamp an retain what they’ve learned. As much as practicing, it’s about learning how to practice. The drills. The pace. All of it.

Defensive tackle David Faaeteete, who played at Oregon with current Bears' DT Matt Toeaina, was released.

Faaeteete participated in two workouts after being signed to a contract as an undrafted earlier this week.

The rookie minicamp concludes Sunday.

It was interesting to learn Friday that one of the contributing factors to Terrence Metcalf’s benching late last season was a broken hand the guard suffered.

Obviously, Metcalf wasn’t around at rookie minicamp to make this revelation a la Muhsin Muhammad at the fan convention in 2006 when he explained away some late-season drops in 2005 by making it known he’d been playing with a broken hand.

Metcalf, who has 25 career starts, didn’t reference his injury when he was benched but that doesn’t mean he faces any less of an uphill battle this year. The third-round pick from 2002 is at a crossroads with the Bears looking to revamp the line. He’s got to assert himself to claim the starting job at left guard. In the past, he’s been useful to have around as a backup because he’s a veteran who understands the playbook. The team wants to get younger up front and if he can’t pin down the job, there’s no guarantee he sticks as a backup with a salary-cap figure of just more than $1.56 million.

Does Matt Forte know something about the highly drafted back before him that didn’t go so well?

``The quickest way to get on the field is to learn your pass protections,’’ he said Friday at the conclusion of the first rookie minicamp practice. ``If you can block and protect the quarterback, then you can run your routes and catch the ball. It's really the fastest way to get on the field.’

Pass protection, or a lack of it, is exactly what kept Cedric Benson off the field at times in 2005 and 2006. Then, when he blew an assignment in Oakland last season, quarterback Brian Griese was injured. For those who don’t have their Quarterback Turnstile Chart handy, that led to QB Switch No. 32 since Week 6 of the 1999 season.

If there’s been one person who has stood out in rookie minicamps over the last several seasons, it’s Matt Forte.

He looked the part Friday afternoon in the Walter Payton Center as the Bears assembled with 50 players on the field. Yes, 50. All 12 draft picks, 10 undrafted free agents and 28 players in town on a tryout basis were on the field. The big numbers allows the coaching staff to come as close as possible to simulating a real practice with players that have never set foot on an NFL field.

The running back from Tulane, drafted in the second round, stood out immediately.

Twenty-eight players are listed on the roster of tryout invitees for the rookie minicamp. With four punters on the list, you get the idea special teams coordinator Dave Toub wants to get a look at what is out there. He's already got veteran Brad Maynard and Glenn Pakulak on the roster.

The tryout list:

Zacrey Atterberry, P, Lindenwood
Willie Cooper, S, Miami
Ashton Gronewold, WR, Missouri-Rolla
Marc Hull, LB, San Diego State
Drew Kelson, S, Texas
Robert Killebrew, LB, Txas
Robert Lane, TE, Ole Miss
Nick Larkin, DE, Boston College
Andrew Larson, P, Cal
Matt Lawrence, RB, UMass
Gerard Lee, DE, Oregon State
Antonio Lewis, DB, West Virginia
Chris Markey, RB, UCLA
Mike Martinez, G, New Mexico State
Darren Mustin, LB, Alabama
Damon Nickson, S, Middle Tennessee State
Chris Parker, DB, Texas Tech
Ryan Poles, G, Boston College
Geoff Price, P, Notre Dame
Matt Purvis, LS, Iowa State
Tim Reyer, P, Kansas State
Josiah Sears, FB, Indiana
Adam Shada, DB, Iowa
Marcus Stone, TE, NC State
Joey Thomas, TE, Texas A&M
James Townsend, WR, Rutgers
Mike Ware, DT, Illinois
Nick Watkins, LB, Clemson

Notre Dame punter Geoff Price will participate in the rookie minicamp that begins a little later on today at Halas Hall.

He will be in on a tryout basis.

Check back later on when we file some updates from Lake Forest. There ought to be more tryout names to share by then.

Tracked down a quarterbacks coach in the league to pick his brain about Caleb Hanie, the Colorado State quarterback who was signed to a contract as an undrafted free agent to compete with Southern Illinois’ Nick Hill. The coach spoke on the condition he not be identified.

``He did throw quite a few interceptions but we thought that he was on a bad football team trying to make plays more than really making poor decisions. He didn’t have a great team around him and it looked like he was just a competitor, trying to make plays and give his team a chance to win more than having a chronic problem making bad decisions. He’s got pretty good size (6-2, 236 pounds), really good arm strength. He was active enough in the pocket where he could make some plays. I liked him.’’

The coach also discussed USC’s John David Booty, who the Bears passed on in the fourth round to draft LSU safety Craig Steltz, and Michigan’s Chad Henne, who the Bears could have nabbed in the second round.

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