Chicago Sun-Times

August 2008 Archives

Rideau returns to Bears

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Wide receiver Brandon Rideau, who led the NFL in touchdown catches in preseason, has agreed to return to the team on the practice squad.

The Bears, in a press release, announce that they have signed five players to the practicw squad:

DE Ervin Baldwin
OT Cody Balogh
LB Joey LaRocque
TE Fontel Mines
G Tyler Reed

The Sun-Times has also learned that the team will sign FB Jason Davis, the Illinois product who was with the Philadelphia Eagles for the last two seasons.

Rookie offensive tackle Cody Balogh has agreed to return to the Bears practice squad.

The undrafted free agent also fielded interest from the Houston Texasn but opted to return to the place he was most familiar with as he got extensive playing time in preseason.

Running back P.J. Pope, who has had two stints with the Bears, will sign to join the practice squad in Denver.

The Bears are expected to sign fullback Jason Davis, the Illinois product, to the practice squad, a source close to the player said.

Davis, 5-10, 245 pounds, spent much of the last three years with the Philadelphia Eagles. He suffered a fractured hand and a torn ACL during training camp as a rookie in 2006 and spent the year on injured reserve. He spent last season on the practice squad with the Eagles and was one of the club's final cuts on Saturday.

Slow going on the practice squad front right now.

Defensive end Ervin Baldwin, the seventh-round pick from Michigan State, has agreed to sign with the Bears and join the practice squad.

The club is believed to be bringing back tight end Fontel Mines also, although nothing is official.

Tight end Fontel Mines is expected to be signed to the practice squad later today provided he clears waivers.

The Bears typically carry a tight end on the developmental squad and Mines was on the practice squad all last season before being promoted to the 53-man roster before the season finale vs. New Orleans.

Caleb Hanie Q&A

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Caleb Hanie talks about earning a spot on the 53-man roster Saturday.

HOW DOES IT FEEL TO MAKE THE TEAM?

"I'm just really excited to finally make it and be a part of the Bears. Shoot, I don't know what to say. I'm kind of speechless. It's just a dream come true. All the drama can be done with now and I can get to work. I'm just excited.

DID YOU FEEL THAT THE BEARS HAD PLANNED TO GO WITH JUST TWO QB'S?

"I think most teams are looking to put the best squad they can on the field and if that means keeping two quarterbacks and getting a guy on the practice squad, I think most teams would try to do that. I don't know if that was the Bears' plan all along or not. I'm just glad to be here."

Quarterback Chris Simms got what he was wishing for months ago. Heck, what he wished for at the start of training camp. Heck, what he gladly would taken last week.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers finally released the veteran. Because he is a vested veteran he does not have to clear waivers and thus he is a free agent. With Simms' departure, the Bucs go from five to four quarterbacks--Jeff Garcia, Brian Griese, Luke McCown and Josh Johnson.


With the final cuts known (rookie Chester Adams is likely to receive an injury settlement) here is a look at what the 53-man roster looks like:

QUARTERBACK (3)--Orton, Grossman, Hanie.

RUNNING BACK (4)--Forte, Jones, Wolfe, Peterson.

FULLBACK (1)--McKie.

WIDE RECEIVER (6)--Hester, Lloyd, Bennett, Booker, Bradley, Davis.

TIGHT END (3)--Clark, Olsen, Davis.

OFFENSIVE LINE (8)--Kreutz, Beekman, Metcalf, Garza, Tait, St. Clair, Williams, Barton.

TOTAL OFFENSE: 25

Linebacker Mike Okwo became the second first-day draft pick to be informed he will be waived on Saturday.

The Bears delivered the news to defensive end Dan Bazuin on Friday, and agent Jeff Sperbeck just reported that Okwo has been told he will also be placed on waivers.

Bazuin was the 62nd overall pick in 2007 and Okwo followed not far behind in the third round at No. 94. Neither one appeared in a regular-season game for the Bears as Bazuin missed his rookie season with a left knee injury that is still hampering him and Okwo sat out last year on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. A groin muscle pull in training camp sidelined Okwo and kept him out of the first preseason game, and he didn't show enough on special teams to warrant a job.

Tight end Marcus Stone, an undrafted free agent from North Carolina State, has been informed he will be placed on waivers.

A source close to cornerback Trey Brown said he will be placed on waivers. Brown has been getting work at nickel back and the undrafted free agent from UCLA could be a candidate to return on the practice squad.

Also, rookie fifth-round pick Zack Bowman has made the team, a source close to him reported. Bowman was on the bubble and has been informed he will be on the team.

In the end, Caleb Hanie proved to be too good for the Bears to cut.

The undrafted free agent quarterback out of Colorado State has made the Bears' final 53-man roster, which has taken shape today. The Sun-Times has reported the names of 18 players who will be let go, but has learned that Hanie has a spot on the roster. At least for now. It's unknown what would happen if veteran Chris Simms would become available on the open market but the thinking is the Bears like Hanie as a prospect now.

Defensive ends Ervin Baldwin and Joe Clermond have been informed they will be placed on waivers.

Reserve guard/center Anthony Oakley, who originally got a look at left guard when Terrence Metcalf went out following a scope on his right knee four weeks ago, has been informed he will be placed on waivers.

Wide receiver Brandon Rideau, who led the Bears and the entire league with three touchdown catches in preseason, has been informed he will be placed on waivers.

Linebacker Joey LaRocque, the seventh-round draft pick from Oregon State, is believed to be on his way out.

LaRocque showed steady improvement as a special teams performer during training camp and preseason and is a strong candidate to return to the practice squad provided he clears waivers.

When in doubt, follow the money.

It's advice that can spill over into all walks of life, and it certainly holds true in the NFL.

Let's take a look at the situation involving Fred Miller, who the Bears have offered a one-year contract to for the minimum-salary benefit of $830,000. That means he would count just $445,000 against the salary cap to presumably come in and be a backup. Miller has made it clear he would like to return to the Bears, and his camp has maintained all along that if the money is close, not even, but close, he will return to the Bears.

With the Miller Watch now three weeks old, and news of the contract offer now nearly a week old, you can come to one conclusion--the money isn't close. Either that or Miller's been too busy at a family wedding in Houston to reach out to the club or his agent. It's fair to assume Miller would like some type of provision where he would be paid starter money if he indeed plays a significant amount of time. The Bears have said they're happy with John Tait and John St. Clair and that looked all well and good until St. Clair had two false starts and missed a block that led to a hit and interception. That happened all in a span of four snaps Thursday night at Cleveland, two of which were wiped out by penalty.

Rookie guard Chester Adams received more good news late Friday when he received a second medical opinion on his sprained left knee.

The seventh-round pick confirmed he only has an MCL sprain and should be able to recover in four to six weeks. That goes along with what the Bears' medical staff said from the start.

Add punter Zac Atterberry to the list of cuts the Bears will make later today.

A source close to the player said Atterberry was informed Friday he will be placed on waivers. He handled all of the punting duties Thursday night at Cleveland.

Long snapper Thomas Gafford was told today he will be placed on waivers with Pat Mannelly expected to return to practice this coming week after missing the final two games with a neck stinger.

Dan Bazuin Q&A

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Dan Bazuin, the second-round draft pick from Central Michigan in 2007, talked about learning his fate Friday morning when the Bears informed him he would be placed on waivers Saturday. Bazuin had two surgeries on his left knee last year and leaves without appearing in a regular-season game.

His comments in an interview with the Inside the Bears staff earlier today:

WERE YOU SURPRISED?

"I some ways I saw it coming. But it's really a surprise when you actually get the announcment that you're going to be released."

HOW DID YOU FIND OUT?

"I went to work this morning like I always do. One of the personnel guys came and got me and they told me."

DID YOU MEET WITH LOVIE?

"Yeah, I met with him and it was good. He said he still thinks I am a great player. He said there are a lot of circumstances that have changed since I was drafted. He told me not to get too down on myself because he sees me being a player in this league. He told me there were a lot of circumstances that led to this. A lot of things changed since they drafted me in the second round. He had encouraging things to say."

The Bears got about half of their dirty work done Friday when they informed nine players they will be placed on waivers Saturday.

The club needs to trim 21 players by 5 p.m. to reach the 53-man roster limit. Even if a players makes it through the final cutdown, he's not necessarily safe. More casualties could follow if the Bears find players they want on the waiver wire. Waiver claims will be awarded Sunday morning at 11 when teams can begin forming practice squads.

Here are the nine players we know will be let go: defensive ends Dan Bazuin and Nick Osborn, offensive linemen Cody Balogh, Ryan Poles and Tyler Reed, fullback Lousaka Polite, running back P.J. Pope, wide receiver Mike Hass and safety Leonard Peters. Guard Chester Adams is likely headed toward injured reserve or an injury settlement after suffering a sprained MCL in his left knee Thursday night at Cleveland.

So we'll revise the projected 53-man roster we presented earlier this week, removing the names that have already been informed.

One of the comforting things for Dan Bazuin right now is the knowledge that he was not told his career with the Bears is over because his best football was not good enough.

Bazuin was told he will be let go because he has yet to fully recover from two surgeries on his left knee last year.

"I some ways I saw it coming," Bazuin told the Sun-Times this afternoon after the second-round pick from 2007 was informed he will be placed on waivers. "But it's really a surprise when you actually get the announcment that you're going to be released."

Bazuin went to Halas Hall Friday morning, reporting as he always does the day following games and was brought to coach Lovie Smith's office.

Chester Adams got some good news.

It might not be the kind of news to keep him on the roster, but it's encouraging in the sense that the seventh-round pick from Georgia didn't look to be in a good way Thursday night as he left Cleveland Browns Stadium with his left leg in a brace and on crutches.

Adams suffered only a sprained MCL to his left knee. He's seeking a second medical opinion on the injury, but barring something unexpected, his recovery time could be in the range of six weeks or so.

Leonard Peters, he safety from Hawaii who was signed to the practice squad last season, has been informed that he will be released.

Bears trim DE Osborn

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Defensive end Nick Osborn, an undrafted free agent from San Diego State, has been informed he will be let go.

Running back Pope to go

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Running back P.J. Pope has been told he will be released.

The writing was on the wall for him as it looks almost certain the team will keep four running backs--Matt Forte, Adrian Peterson, Garrett Wolfe and Kevin Jones.

Tyler Reed, the sixth-round draft pick from 2006, has been told he will be released.

That brings to three the number of known cuts on the line and remember Chester Adams is likely headed to injured reserve or a settelement after a left knee injury last night.

It leaves open the good possibility seventh-round pick Kirk Barton makes the roster.

Undrafted free agent offensive linemen Cody Balogh and Ryan Poles have been informed they will be released.

Bears to let go WR Hass

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Wide receiver Mike Hass, the Biletnikoff Award winner, has been informed he will be released. Hass was with the team all last season and dressed for just one game. He spent the 2006 season on the practice squad.

Fullback Lousaka Polite, who played well in preseason, has been informed the Bears will let him go.

Polite was with the team all last season and dressed for the final five games of 2007.

He had a solid role on special teams but his departure makes it clear the club will go with one fullback in veteran Jason McKie and carry four running backs--Matt Forte, Adrian Peterson, Garrett Wolfe and newcomer Kevin Jones.

The Bears have begun the process of trimming their roster.

Dan Bazuin, the second-round draft pick from 2007, has been informed he will be placed on waivers, a source close to the player said. Bazuin never appeared in a regular-season game after spending all of last year on injured reserve. The defensive end played extensively Thursday night at Cleveland and showed hustle. He also showed he's still not at 100 percent with his left knee.

Six quick thoughts before heading to the airport:

1. The first-team defense did play some good football this preseason. It happened between the second possession against Kansas City and the start of the San Francisco game. What's transpired since, I'm not sure how you characterize it. It hasn't been a missed assignment here and a missed assignment there, offenses have gone straight through the defense and running backs have been picking up 10 yards at a time. That's the concern.

2. Wide receiver Brandon Rideau made a nice showing that should help him get a serious look from the Bears (and other teams if he is released). But there is no way the Bears keep seven wideouts, I don't think. That means he has to win a job over Marty Booker or Mark Bradley.

So much for the Bears' first-team defense rebounding against Cleveland.

With the Browns missing starting quarterback Derek Anderson, running back Jamal Lewis and wide receiver Braylon Edwards sitting out, Cleveland went through the defense on 11 plays before stalling at the eight-yard line and settling for a Phil Dawson 26-yard field goal.

A team official said there is nothing wrong with veteran free safety Mike Brown, who is not in uniform for the game. Brown practiced all week at Halas Hall.

Defensive tackles Tommie Harris and Dusty Dvoracek are also out.

Fourteen players are out for the Browns.

Miller waiting, watching

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Touched base with Harold Lewis this evening, the agent for veteran offensive tackle Fred Miller.

Nothing is new on his front. The Bears have an offer outstanding to Miller for the veteran minimum at $830,000. That would take advantage of the minimum salary benefit, meaning Miller would count only $445,000 vs. the salary cap.

Here's our latest mailbag installment. We'll look to do another one on Tuesday.

To the mail:

Do you see Jamar Williams as only a special teams player this year barring injury? What about him switching over to Hunter Hillenmeyer's side?
 
Brent Dempsey, Parts Unknown

BRAD SAYS: Barring an injury, I think it will be tough for Williams to get much work on defense. He had been groomed for two years to replace Lance Briggs on the weak side his opening closed hen Briggs signed a six-year contract. While Williams is listed on the depth chart as the backup on the weak side, he's more like the No. 4 linebacker. If anything happens to one of the starters, I expect Williams to step on the field. He can play will, he can play strong and in the event something happens to Brian Urlacher, I'd expect Hillenmeyer to slide inside and Williams to play on the strong side. There's always a small movement out there to replace Hillenmeyer and he was one of the more productive players on defense last season. Consider Hillenmeyer was third on the team with 101 tackles and was on the sideline for a lot of the action as he came out in the nickel package.


Why is Nathan Vasher back to return a punt in the second half of an exhibition game? If he gets hurt someone should be fired.

Steve H., Oak Park

BRAD SAYS: When Vasher is on the field to return punts in preseason, it's usually with the instruction to simply call for a fair catch. He's the backup to Devin Hester and they want to get him experience catching the ball in a game situation without putting himself in harms way. Vasher doesn't have a return this preseason. Along these lines, don't look for Hester to return any kicks or punts Thursday night at Cleveland. It's my best guess they keep him out of those situations entirely to maintain his health.

The Bears are well represented heading into the season, at least when it comes to Peter King's ranking of the NFL's top 50 players.

The 2008 Sports Illustrated preview issue hit newsstands today and three Bears land on his list. It's probably not too hard to guess which three:

22. Tommie Harris (25 last year)

27. Brian Urlacher
(7 last year)

34. Devin Hester
(69 last year)

Typically, there's not much that you can call riveting viewing in a fourth preseason game. I've always said if you've got season tickets, cross your fingers that the third preseason game is at Soldier Field. At least you get to attend (or sell your seats) a game that has some semblance of a regular-season affair.

That being said, the preseason finale against Cleveland at the end of the summer in 2005 carried at least some interest. It marked the first start for rookie Kyle Orton after Chad Hutchinson had bombed out following Rex Grossman's broken ankle.

Worth watching when the Bears take the field Thursday night at Cleveland will be how the secondary is deployed. Don't expect the first-team units to be on the field long, but Danieal Manning made it known change is in the air when he was asked about the departure of Ricky Manning Jr., the former nickel back.

"Right now they are moving some stuff around,'' Danieal Manning said. ``They said they are going to try something different. Some stuff might change.''

So where did it go wrong for Ricky Manning Jr.?

He wasn't the defensive back whose blown assignment gave up a touchdown that got the Indianapolis Colts back into Super Bowl XLI.

The Bears signed Manning away from the Carolina Panthers as a restricted free agent in April 2006. He got a five-year deal that maxed out at $21 million, but didn't come close to banking that cash. The deal became smaller if Manning didn't hit certain play-time levels that more or less required him to be a starting cornerback.

Manning was well-liked by teammates but got into the doghouse early last season for his practice habits. It's the little things that coaches drill day in and day out that players need to heed. He had been a player who showed up on Sundays and then in 2007, like some other players on defense, Manning struggled. The writing was on the wall when rookie seventh-round pick Trumaine McBride was selected as a fill-in starter instead of him. You got the sense during minicamp where this thing was headed, that his departure was just a matter of time. He was happy to finally be cut loose.

Manning expressed some of those sentiments when he visited with Mac, Jurko and Harry this afternoon on ESPN-1000. Check out that interview right here.

The defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants have claimed wide receiver Marcus Monk, the seventh-round pick who was placed on waivers by the Bears to get down to the 75-man roster limit.

The Bears are at 74 now following the termination of cornerback Ricky Manning Jr., giving them room to sign offensive tackle Fred Miller if he accepts their offer for the minimum of $830,000.

Ricky Manning Jr. had his contract terminated this afternoon by the Bears.

Because he is a vested veteran, he is free to sign with any club and chances are good he will have a job in the next week.

The agent for veteran offensive tackle Fred Miller said he expects him to make a decision today between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Bears.

Harold Lewis said the Bears have offered Miller a one-year contract for the minimum of $830,000, and the Bucs have an offer on the table that is believed to be richer. Miller's family lives in the area and he has business interests here.

The Bears are also expected to part ways with cornerback Ricky Manning Jr. later today, one way or another. Manning was told to leave Halas Hall after he was removed from a meeting before practice. The Bears will grant him his release or trade him.

Check back later for more information.

Coach Lovie Smith confirmed that veteran cornerback Ricky Manning Jr. did not attend practice Tuesday morning.

When asked if Manning was still a member of the team, Smith replied, "He's not here. He didn't practice. If there is something official to announce, you'll hear with everyone else."

Manning did attend team meetings at Halas Hall this morning.

The media was only able to view a portion of the special teams practice this morning.

There was no sign of veteran cornerback Ricky Manning Jr. on the field.

That means:

1. Manning is not involved in special teams and showed up on the field after the press was ushered inside.

2. He developed an injury at some point Monday (he looked fine playing four square in the locker room after practice yesterday).

3. Something else is going on.

We'll look into it when practice ends.

The Bears will have their final practice later today in preparation for the preseason finale at Cleveland on Thursday. This marks the fifth consecutive summer the clubs have finished the preseason by facing one another.

*** Looks like ex-Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn could get his second consecutive start. Derek Anderson has been sidelined with a concussion. The Browns had 15 players inactive for their meeting with Detroit on Saturday and are trying to get healthy for their season opener against Dallas.

Submit questions with your name and hometown.

We will do our best to get to as many as possible and post them on Wednesday.

In his teleconference Sunday evening, general manager Jerry Angelo said repeatedly that if the Bears were trying to cover up news of the herniated disc Chris Wiliams had when he was drafted, they would have muzzled the player.

Looks like the team's public relations staff got to Williams a day late.

Talking Monday afternoon when he came off the field, Williams did a 180 from his candid comments the day before when he said that everyone knew he had a herniated disc when he was drafted. Angelo bristled at criticism received but the Bears never admitted Williams had a herniated disc, the same one that required surgery earlier this month.

Head trainer Tim Bream acknowledged Williams had a pre-existing back condition when the Bears drafted him, but it was a "stable herniation" that was not affecting Williams. There is a long history of players playing with similar conditions and Williams didn't miss time at Vanderbilt.

Williams' Q&A a day later ... notice the difference:

CAN YOU REMARK ON THE COMMENTS MADE SUNDAY?

I mean, there's no comments to be made, any more comments about medical stuff. If you want medical information, you have to talk to Tim or Coach [Lovie] Smith or Mr. Angelo. I'm in rehab now, I've had surgery and I'm getting better.

WERE YOU EVER ASKED BEFORE SUNDAY ABOUT A HERNIATED DISC?

Like I said, I'm not talking about medical stuff anymore. It's just a waste of everybody's time in general. We're playing the Colts in two weeks, we've got the Browns this week and that's what we're focused on as a team.

Rex Grossman Q&A

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Rex Grossman met with reporters Monday following practice at Halas Hall for the first time since Kyle Orton was named the starter a week ago.

Here is the Q&A:

WHERE ARE YOU AT AFTER SOME TIME TO SETTLE DOWN?

Nothing has really changed for me. I am just trying to get better and I need to be ready. I need to make sure I stay on top of everything and make sure be ready at a moment's notice.

WAS THE COMPETITION FAIR?

That's not for me really to say. I just have to repeat that last answer.

WOULD YOU LIKE A FRESH START ELSEWHERE OR ARE YOU HERE FOR THIS SEASON?

All I know is I am here to do my job, whatever that is, and I will be ready at a moment's notice. You never know what is going to happen. My plans is to stay ready.

HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO STAY READY?

It's my job so I've got to be good at it. That's how I look at it.

WERE YOU SURPRISED BY THE DECISION?

I was a little surprised but I've had some time to digest it and I'll be ready to go.

Final cuts are due in five days and the Bears might get down to the business of whittling down the roster before then.

They will be able to make final evaluations after Thursday's game at Cleveland and weigh any injuries that come out of the game in the process.

Twenty-two players will have to be waived to get down to the 53-man limit and we'll take a look at the process here and offer one forecast on how it could shake out.

"I think you turn can heads right up until [cuts] if you have an opportunity to practice," coach Lovie Smith said Sunday. "And we're going out here and we're evaluating guys, and we're doing it right now. We're using these practices to get one final look. Each day players tell you something, and we have to listen and keep our eyes open and we're doing that."

One thing to keep in mind when weighing the possibilities as we move toward cut-down day is the history of the organization. General manager Jerry Angelo has a track record of keeping his draft picks an allowing them time to blossom. Two picks from last year--defensive end Dan Bazuin (second round) and linebacker Mike Okwo (third round)--had their rookie seasons wiped out by injuries. They've seen work with the backups in preseason and have not necessarily stood out, but that doesn't mean the franchise is ready to give up on the investments.

Roosevelt Williams is the only first-day pick in Angelo's seven drafts to get the early hook. The cornerback from Tuskegee played sparingly as a rookie after being a third-round pick in 2002 and was let go Sept. 1, 2003, at the final cutdown.

General manager Jerry Angelo and head trainer Tim Bream conducted a teleconference to go over Chris Williams' back condition and what went into the decision process in selecting him in the draft.

Here are excerpts from Angelo's portion of the call:

JERRY ANGELO

"When Tim went over all this, when we were talking about it with our medical people, obviously the thing that I was concerned with is he's a football player. I'm not talking about the normal, average Joe walking the street. As what Tim said, there are a good number of players playing with this and or worse that we've seen over a period of time. And I use that term wear and tear. We knew that there was wear and tear with Chris. But ultimately what our medical people want, whether it is this type of injury, an ACL, a shoulder injury, how did the player perform post injury? Did Chris complain of back pain? He missed two to three days but he played throughout his whole career. What are the symptoms of a herniation? Repetitive MRI's, which he did not have, missed practice time, missed game time, which he did not have. And symptoms which would create pain running down his extremities and his lower legs, and or numbness in his feet, which he never had. He had none of those symptoms. He had none of those issues prior to us drafting him. When we found the herniation within that 24-hour span, he did have those symptoms. That's what we reacted to. But none of that had anything to do up until that time in terms of what I just said. That's what I want to make clear. It's not that he had any of these symptoms that I just went over when he was in college. He did not. And that's what we went on because players can play with this condition and have.

Chris Williams interview

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Here is the interview Chris Williams conducted with three media outlets coming off the practice fields at Halas Hall Sunday afternoon?

HOW DO YOU FEEL?

I feel good. I hope I look good. I feel good.

BECAUSE OF THE SURGERY DO YOU NOT HAVE TO CARRY THE VETERANS' EQUIPMENT OFF THE FIELD?

For now. I'm sure I will make up for it.

WHERE ARE YOU AT IN THE WHOLE DEAL? STILL WAITING FOR STITCHES TO HEAL?

No. The stitches are gone. I started rehab. Doing cardio. Lifting. I'm trying to get back in shape.

WHAT DAY DID YOU START REHAB?

I got the stitches out Thursday so I started this last Thursday. That was like right at the two-week mark.

THERE HAS BEEN A LOT SAID ABOUT THIS INJURY, WHEN IT HAPPENED, YOU'VE READ IT, HEARD IT. WHAT'S TRUE AND WHAT'S NOT TRUE?

It happened the second day of training camp. Something happened. It kind of went downhill in a hurry and so we got it corrected in a hurry. There is nothing there from college. I didn't miss a practice or a game in college. Obviously, if it was something serious because if I could play with it in college I sure as hell could play with it for money.

Chris Williams spoke to the media for the first time since having surgery Aug. 6 and he dropped a bomb shell.

He had a herniated disc when the Bears drafted him with the 14th overall pick in April. The herniated disc is the same one he had surgery to repair after being injured on the second day of training camp, July 24.

"I had a herniated disc before I got here," Williams said. "We knew that. Everyone knew that. It just was a thing where most people it doesn't affect. It wasn't affecting me so if nothing is broke, you don't fix it. Then something happened in practice that second day, the disc started moving and that caused some problems."

Williams aggravated the back injury during a non-contact drill and the team thought (or hoped) it was back spasms for two weeks before determining the exact nature of his problem.

The Bears reached the 75-man roster limit they had to get to by 3 p.m. Tuesday. They placed seventh-round pick Marcus Monk, safety Josh Gattis, wide receiver Ryan Grice-Mullen and cornerback Leslie Majors on waivers. The Bears roster was already at 79 after linebacker Rod Wilson was waived.

Monk is the first of 12 draft picks to depart. He was the fifth to final selection of the draft. The 6-4, 212-pounder from Arkansas struggled getting off press coverage and wasn't strong enough. He was used seldom in the preseason.

Gattis appeared in four games last seaason after being signed to the active roster on Oct. 2. He made four special teams tackles. Originally, he a was a fifth-round pick of Jacksonville.

Lovie Smith just held his presser at Halas Hall and said not much had changed since Thursday night:

*** Linebacker Rod Wilson will be placed on injured reserve with a broken right arm. That's going to open up spot, most likely, for Mike Okwo or Joey LaRocque. Ultimately, it will come down to who can do what on special teams. Or Okwo's draft status as a third-round pick in 2007 could be the trump card.

*** Smith said they will have "training-camp style" practices coming up, presumably to straighten out some of the lousy play on defense. They don't practice again until Sunday.

Here are a couple initial thoughts from Thursday night's 37-30 loss for the Bears to San Francisco at Soldier Field:

*** The offensive line did a much better job but this wasn't the Seattle front the Bears were facing. A San Francisco defense that had been blitzing a good amount and sacked Green Bay quarterbacks six times last week suddenly stopped coming after the passer. Still, it was a better effort.

*** That put Kyle Orton in position to succeed and he did just that. Orton was 10-for-17 and there were at least two drops in there. Wide receiver Rashied Davis acknowledged he should have had his hands on a third touchdown catch, that the hot pass was off his hands because he pulled up short on his route.

*** If you're wondering what happened to wide receiver Marty Booker, so is he. The veteran wide receiver barely saw the field again and isn't sure what is going on. Booker has one pass to him all night and it never reached him.

*** Guard Terrence Metcalf is scheduled to return to practice Monday, less than three weeks after arthroscopic surgery on his right knee.

"I'm praying they allow me to," Metcalf said when asked if he expects to play in the preseason finale Thursday at Cleveland. "I've already been doing [simulated snaps] and stuff like that."

Josh Beekman has played in Metcalf's place and is in the picture for the job now as well.

General manager Jerry Angelo wasn't too happy the last time the Bears played at Soldier Field.

Before the preseason opener vs. Kansas City, the club announced that first-round draft pick Chris Williams had undergone surgery to repair a herniated disc in his lower back.

Following the 37-30 loss to San Francisco Thursday night, Angelo was understandably in a better mood given the solid outing by quarterback Kyle Orton.

A quick Q&A:

THOUGHTS ON KYLE ORTON?

He did a nice job today so good to see.

WAS IT WHAT YOU EXPECTED?

Well, it's what we expected of the offense. I thought the offense has been playing pretty good throughout. They've really worked hard the whole preseason. I think that is what you saw tonight and hopefully what we'll continue to see all the work and the effort they put into it. Good results. But not surprising.

The Bears announced reserve linebacker Rod Wilson, a key special teams player, suffered a broken right arm. This means there is a good chance he will wind up on injured reserve.

Bears president Ted Phillips released a statement Thursday night on the passing of Hall of Fame guard and NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw:

"Our hearts go out to Gene's family," Phillips said. "It has been a shock to the entire NFL. We've lost not just a great Hall of Fame player, but an incredible leader of the NFL Players Association. Gene showed a willingness and an ability to work well with the NFL and its ownership to keep labor peace for many years. He will be sorely missed."


Is this the Kyle Orton you have been waiting for?

The winner of the Bears' quarterback derby was dynamic in the first half, throwing for 147 yards and two touchdowns on 10-of-15 passing. He was accurate, efficient and a dropped touchdown pass at the goalline by Rashied Davis from being perfect himself, probably.

Orton matched J.T. O'Sullivan of the 49ers just about pass for pass. O'Sullivan threw one touchdown pass and had a 158.3 passer rating.

J.T. O'Sullivan, the two-time ex-Bear, just maxed out the passer rating formula against the Bears defense.

O'Sullivan was removed at the beginning of the second quarter with the 49ers ahead 13-10. He directed scoring drives on all three possessions, including a 37-yard touchdown pass to Jason Hill for a touchdown. The play before was a 40-yard pass to Vernon Davis in the two-play, 77-yard drive.

O'Sullivan's final numbers -- 7-for-8 for 126 yards and one touchdown.

And you thought the Bears have quarterback problems ... at least they're not in deep. Real deep. That's where the San Francisco 49ers find themselves entering this season.

When ex-Bear J.T. O'Sullivan starts tonight the Niners will have $11.6 million worth of quarterbacks standing on the sidelines holding clipboards and listening to the play calls from Mike Martz on head sets. That's a fortune tied up in this year's salary cap.

Here's why: O'Sullivan signed a modest one-year deal for the minimum salary benefit and counts $645,000 against the cap for this season. Shaun Hill, based on a nice little run at the end of last season, got a three-year extension and will count $1.7 million against the cap this season. Then there's Alex Smith, the man chosen three spots ahead of Cedric Benson at No. 1 overall in the 2005 draft. Smith will count $9.916 million against the cap this season, part pf the $49.5 million, six-year contract he landed.

Ouch.

The Bears figure to get a final evaluation tonight of the wide receivers and how the position will stack up, at least to start the season.

Brandon Llloyd figures to have an edge for a starting job now after his strong performance last week with Kyle Orton. The team is going to have to whittle down the position and make a decision if five or six wide receivers are kept on the 53-man roster. Mike Hass was on the team all last season but dressed only for the Philadelphia game. There could be more pressing needs elsewhere, especially on the lines. The Bears also like to stock Dave Toub's special teams with reserve linebackers and defensive backs.

It's not a given yet that veteran Marty Booker makes the team in his return to the Bears. Booker has been quiet in the preseason and didn't fill training camp with highlights. Still, he's a player who shows up on Sundays and you can't say that about many of the others in the bunch. Rookie Earl Bennett's strong camp showing has disappeared in preseason. His hands have not been reliable. Mark Bradley has been the antithesis of reliable in his first three seasons. Devin Hester has a spot locked up as does Rashied Davis. It will sort itself out soon enough.

NFL players received startling news this morning that union head Gene Upshaw, the Hall of Fame lineman, has died at 63.

Upshaw reportedly was battling pancreatic cancer, a fact that was hidden to the public.

Upshaw had served as the executive director of the National Football League Players Association for more than 25 years after a distinguished 16-year playing career.

The NFLPA entered a challenging period in May when NFL owners voted unanimously to opt out of the collective bargaining agreement with players, a development that could lead to an uncapped season in 2010 and a lockout in 2011. The labor deal had been forged in March 2006 and was hailed as a victory for players. It's a complicated issue and matters have been heightened in the last year with some objection in the ranks to the way Upshaw has conducted business and a plan for future leadership. Upshaw, whose condition was not known publicly, vowed to forge ahead.

Got to thinking about quarterbacks and the Bears while working on a story on the return of J.T. O'Sullivan for Thursday night's preseason meeting with San Francisco at Soldier Field.

O'Sullivan had two stints with the Bears in the last four years but never merited much of a look. The one thing you can say about the organization and its search for years, make that decades, for a franchise passer is at least they haven't given one away. There hasn't been a Bears' quarterback who left and went on to greatness elsewhere. At least not recently.

Yes, the Bears dealt Bobby Layne in 1949, one year after drafting him and he went on to a Hall of Fame career. George Halas eventually called it one of his greatest errors. George Blanda spent some time in a Bears uniform as well a short time later. But recently, have they really given away a great quarterback?

First-round draft pick Chris Williams announced on the team's Web site that he would like to be able to play at least half of the season during his rookie year.

"I'd like to play at least half the season," Williams said Tuesday in a story the team published today.

"It was a shock, but it was also a relief," he also said. "I knew surgery would fix it. It was something that got real bad quick, so I knew that surgery would reverse it just as quick and was excited about it."

As the Bears make final preparations for Thursday's meeting with the San Francisco 49ers at Soldier Field, we'll take a quick look at a few issues the visitors are facing with a little help from our friend Matt Maiocco:

*** You think the Bears have issues on their offensive line? The Niners have some problems of their own. Left guard Adam Snyder just went down with a sprained ankle. He's out at least for this game. RIght guard David Baas has missed all of training camp as he slowly works his way back from a torn pec muscle suffered lifting weights in April. Right tackle Jonas Jennings is going to be sidelined also following surgery to repair a broken knuckle in his right hand.

*** You think the Bears have issues at wide receiver where two starting jobs are still up for grabs? Free-agent pickup Bryant Johnson (hamstring), ex-Notre Dame star Arnaz Battle (hamstring) and Ashley Lelie (calf) are out. Lelie could be on the outside looking in when final cuts come down in San Francisco.

The Bears flirted with the idea of bringing Johnson in for a free-agent visit but went another direction in the veteran route, bringing back Marty Booker and signing ex-Niner Brandon Lloyd.

The Bears seemed pretty sure Tuesday afternoon that defensive end Mark Anderson would be back from surgery on his right thumb in time for the Sept. 7 season opener at Indianapolis.

The long invisible Peyton Manning emerged finally to say his goal is also to be ready for that game.

Manning has been sidelined since surgery July 14 to remove an infected bursa sac from his left knee, and there has been increasing speculation the Bears could face Jim Sorgi in the opener and not the man named MVP of their Super Bowl XLI meeting.

Defensive end Mark Anderson has undergone minor surgery to repair his injured right thumb, coach Lovie Smith said. Anderson is out for Thursday's game vs. San Francisco and Smith didn't provide a timeline for a return, but tried to emphasize it was a minor procedure.

Long snapper Pat Mannelly (stinger), linebacker Nick Roach (concussion) and tight end Desmond Clark (right knee) are also out for the game. The Bears have signed journeyman long snapper Thomas Gafford, who lost out in a competition for a job in Green Bay earlier this summer.

More news later this afternoon.

We'll turn the blog over to the men involved today.

A look at the Q&A's with Kyle Orton, Lovie Smith and Ron Turner.


KYLE ORTON

REACTION?

"Obviously I'm excited. I want to try to make the most of it and win football games."

WHAT DID THEY TELL YOU?

"It was kind of the same thought as we were going in, just consistent play and just doing the right things on offense, not that Rex didn't do that or anything. I think Rex has played well. I just focus on myself and getting ready to play."

DID YOU FEEL LIKE IT WAS A LONGTIME COMING?

"I'm real excited. This is obviously one of my goals going into the season. As a team, we've got a lot of goals to accomplish and this is just the start of it."

HOW MUCH OF A RELIEF WAS IT?

"I think it's a relief and now it's just all about the unit and knowing what everybody's going to do and just kind of tailoring things to the way that we like it."

HOW DO YOU EVALUATE YOURSELF?

"I think I've just continued to get better in the preseason--in the games and in practice--so this will be another step to take. We'll get a lot more playing time this week and just try to get ready for Indianapolis."

Working through the reaction at Halas Hall following the naming of Kyle Orton as the starting quarterback for the 2008 season.

Here is the most telling quote from the afternoon from coach Lovie Smith when he was asked if the quarterback derby between Orton and Rex Grossman was over:

"Is it over?'' Smith said. "Nothing is ever over with any position. We don't name any guys starters for a lifetime or anything like that. But we feel real good about Kyle just like we feel good about Olin Kreutz being our center, Lance Briggs being our will linebacker."

Re-watched most of Saturday night's game to take a look at a few things. Some notes from the first and second viewings and some loose ends to tie together with Thursday's game vs. San Francisco fast approaching:

*** Offensive coordinator Ron Turner in explaining why Kyle Orton only got two possessions and did not go into the game in the third quarter:

"We just looked at it and said he got in got some reps, got some work and so we just went with Caleb [Hanie]," Turner said. "We moved the ball it was positive and all that stuff. Just the way the game was going we got Caleb out there."

Turner on the shortcomings in the blitz pickup:

"That's something we have to deal with. We expected it. We anticipated it. They didn't come with that much pressure last week, but when they played us last year they did. We anticipated that we would see that much pressure. It's something you have to handle. When a team brings pressure like that you have to look at it as an opportunity to make a play. We have handled it well and we will handle it well."

SEATTLE--Now that first deadline for the print edition has passed, a few thoughts on this game as we sit here late in the third quarter.

*** Will Rex Grossman even get a chance to get back into the quarterback competition? He didn't have a chance here tonight, not throwing the ball from his backside. The offensive line was porous. Pressure came from all directions and left guard Josh Beekman had two penalties. This was a thorough, across the board breakdown by the offensive line.

*** We've had a Ricky Manning Jr. sighting. He got onto the field with the first team for a little while.

*** This right knee injury to Desmond Clark needs to be tracked. He's a critical component to the running game.

SEATTLE--Tight end Desmond Clark is out of the game with a right knee injury.

He's sitting on a table behind the bench with ice wrapping it. Clark was injured when he was cut down by Seattle cornerback Marcus Trufant at the end of a seven-yard reception on the Bears' second possession. It looked like the knee could have been hyperextended, but just like Lovie Smith doesn't play doctor, neither do we.

The Bears can ill afford to lose Clark's services. He's far and away the best blocking tight end on the roster and that's been a problem area for Greg Olsen. Rookie Kellen Davis has proven to be an able receiver but the Bears get off the bus running and they need a tight end who can block.

SEATTLE--If the Bears are looking for an offensive tackle--and shouldn't they be--Luke Petitgout represents an interesting possibility.

The problem is it's questionable whether or not he could help them now and the Bears need depth with only seventh-round pick Kirk Barton and undrafted rookie free agent Cody Balogh are behind John Tait and John St. Clair right now.

Petitgout was cut loose by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after he failed a physical. The Bucs used the roster spot to sign ex-Bears fullback J.D. Runnels.

Defensive tackle Tommie Harris will not dress for tonight's game. A team spokesman said he was "sore" and they didn't want him to play on the artificial surface.

The Bears rested Harris on fake grass surfaces during the preseason last summer and earlier in the week he was wearing a brace on his left knee in practice. Harris had arthroscopic surgery on the knee in January. Israel Idonije is expected to start in his place.

SEATTLE--The Bears' rebuilding offensive line will not get the kind of test you'd like to see tonight in preparation for the regular season.

Seattle left defensive end Patrick Kerney will sit out the game. He's been on the sidelines for most of training camp with a sore left calf, as much as anything a move to make sure the Pro Bowl performer is fresh for the season. Kerney made a mess of the Bears' line when the teams met here last November, picking up three sacks and stripping the ball from quarterback Rex Grossman for a turnover.

Kerney would be lining up over right tackle John Tait. Right now, the premier rushers at the beginning of the season are going to be across from left tackle John St. Clair. Most of the attention in Indianapolis is focused on quarterback Peyton Manning, who has yet to practice since having surgery on his left knee last month. The Colts have been ultra-secretive when it comes to Manning and he hasn't been so much as spotted at training camp.

Right end Dwight Freeney will miss his third preseason game and he's yet to be cleared for a full go in practice either. That could change this coming week for the elite pass rusher.

In Carolina, where the Bears will visit in Week 2, Julius Peppers has made the transition from the left to right side, so he will be across from St. Clair also.

Some more notes about tonight's action from Qwest Field:

Veteran NFL writer Ira Miller, who recently relocated to the Chicago area from San Francisco, put together a preview of the Bears following a recent visit to Bourbonnais.

You can always pick up something insightful when visiting with Ira on the sidelines, and in this case you can definitely pick up something insightful when reading Ira on NFL.com.

"Consider that [Rex] Grossman's 19-11 record as an NFL starter, combined with Kyle Orton's 12-6, equals a winning percentage exceeded by only six active quarterbacks, a group that includes Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Donovan McNabb."

That's pretty interesting. Both quarterbacks have been helped by a usually tough defense and a stout running game before last season.

We wrote it last weekend that Grossman could have a slight advantage now given the fact that he'll get the start with the ones Saturday night in Seattle and Orton figures to get a little less time. It will be interesting if they have even performances like they seemed to coming out of the Kansas City game. Stay tuned.


A 90-minute walk-through this morning put a wrap on the Bears' seventh training camp at Olivet Nazarene University. If players aren't lead-footing it north on Interstate 57 by now, they will be soon enough. It was a final preparation for Saturday's game at Seattle. The Seahawks are banged up and this is going to be a crucial game for the Bears at a number of positions--quarterback, offensive line and wide receiver to name a few. We'll see how Kevin Payne fills in at strong safety too for Brandon McGowan.

Coach Lovie Smith pointed out one of the real positives coming out of here is the health of the team. The Bears had very few injuries, as few as the Inside the Bears staff can remember in recent years, and the hope is that continues through three more preseason games.

So we have a good idea that the offensive starters will play the entire first half Saturday night at Seattle and possibly into the third quarter. It's safe to assume the defensive starters will at least work into the second quarter. Remember, Lovie Smith's goal is to work the offensive starters more to get a better evaluation of the remaining unanswered questions.

Here's a question: How much of a role will Devin Hester have on special teams against the Seahawks?

Hester returned one punt last week against Kansas City, dancing around for a one-yard gain. He was lined up deep for two others. Hester was not involved on kickoff returns but he has been lobbying the coaches to get some opportunities in preseason. The idea is he doesn't want to go into the regular season cold at it. No word on what type of decision has been reached, but know that Hester is itching to get some chances.

One of the things Lovie Smith mentioned Wednesday night after practice, when discussing the success of camp this summer, was the fact that the team has stayed healthy. With the exception of offensive tackle Chris Williams, the first-round pick, going out with a back injury that could very well have been part of a pre-existing condition, the team has been largely unscathed. The Seattle Seahawks, Saturday's opponent, have not been as fortunate.

Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck missed practice on Wednesday and is unlikely to play. Word out of Seattle is Charlie Frye could get the start with Seneca Wallace coming in to replace him. Julius Jones is expected to start at running back with Mo Morris coming in to replace him.


The Bears had their final night practice and it was a light workout in shells and shorts as they put in the gameplan for the trip to Seattle. A few nuggets:

*** The Bears mean business when they're talking about playing the starters more in the preseason, at least the ones on offense.

"Last week you know we played quite a bit,'' coach Lovie Smith said. "We plan on playing our starters at least a half, possibly into the third quarter this week."

If they go off the plan from last week against Kansas City, you can expect Kyle Orton to replace Rex Grossman at some point in the second quarter. But nothing is official. Stay tuned.

The Bears said not to rule Brandon McGowan out for Saturday's game at Seattle, but the strong safety will not practice tonight and agrees it would not be prudent to put him out there against the Seahawks.

McGowan sprained his right ankle in practice Monday when a teammate stepped on him during a special teams drill. He's been hard to find on campus since and said he's primarily holed up in the training room working to get better. The team took precautionary X-rays when it happened and they came back negative.

"It feels pretty good," he said Wednesday when getting off his bicycle in front of the dining hall. "It's just a small sprain, you know a freak accident. It would be kind of foolish to risk making it worse [on Saturday]. I'll be good in a few days."

Quick update before the final evening practice of training camp and the final practice open to the public:

*** Wide receivers coach Darryl Drake wants to get a long look at Marty Booker and Devin Hester at the beginning of the Seattle game Saturday night. The plan was to see more of them last week at Kansas City, but the Chiefs opening 16-play drive that chewed up half of the first quarter made some of the best laid plans go ... well, you know where.

According to Drake, Booker got only 12 snaps in the opener and it's a tricky thing as he is working so many bodies in with the ones.

"I don't need to see a whole lot of them,'' Drake said. "I just need to make sure they are getting in there early and doing some things."

Rashied Davis, Mark Bradley, Brandon Lloyd, Earl Bennett, Mike Hass and Brandon Rideau figure into the mix also. Just like the Bears have to eventually choose a starting quarterback, they need to pick starting receivers too.

Quick update following practice Tuesday night at Ward Field:

*** Devin Hester threw passes in the morning and evening practices out of different plays. It will be interesting to see when these plays are used in the preseason/regular season. Shotgun plays where he could run a draw and plays that get him on the perimeter where he has a run/pass option are going to be fun to watch. Teams are going to have to respect the possibility he is going to pass because he has a strong arm.

It's not a Marty Booker model cannon capable of 80-yard tosses, but Hester's arm can compete with some of the quarterbacks who have rolled through here over the last decade.

While the Bears still sort their way through the quarterback competition, some ex-Bears quarterbacks are doing fine elsewhere.

J.T. O'Sullivan, who did a stint in 2005 on the practice squad, and then was under control of the Bears after the 2006 season is in the lead for the starting job in San Francisco. O'Sullivan never merited much of a look with the Bears but Mike Martz thinks he's the perfect quarterback in his system. O'Sullivan has bounced all over the place, spending time in New Orleans, Green Bay, Detroit, Minnesota, Carolina, New England and in NFL Europe. There may be some other stops sprinkled in there as well.

Mike Freeman from CBssports.com came to town and wondered how Rex Grossman is still in a battle to be the team's starting quarterback. Well, he wondered how Grossman is still on the roster, actually.

One point worth noting is that the Bears have not gone out and made a bold play for a passer. General manager Jerry Angelo, in seven drafts, has selected three quarterbacks.

Grossman with the second of two first-round picks in 2003.

Craig Krenzel in the fifth round in 2004.

Kyle Orton in the fourth round in 2005.

One of four Bears' starters from the beginning of last season who was unemployed has found work.

Adam Archuleta has landed with the Oakland Raiders, where he will be a reserve safety or perhaps an outside linebacker.

The Bears cut Archuleta at the beginning of the offseason after a disastrous season. The thinking was he would return to form in the defense he starred in at the start of his career in St. Louis. That never materialized and he was let go.

They used to call him Father Moose when he was here, at least some of the wide receivers did.

Privately, they may be calling him something differently now.

Muhsin Muhammad told Sports Illustrated's Peter King that Chicago is "where receivers go to die."

Thank goodness Moose escaped with his life. His former teammates and coaches didn't have a lot to say and to a degree the silence was deafening. Position coach Darryl Drake pointed out that Bernard Berrian landed a $42 million contract based on what he did with the Bears.

Quarterback Kyle Orton was approached after practice and asked what Muhammad was like as a teammate.

"No comment," Orton said.

Chris Williams can take it from the best left tackle in the history of the organization: don't try to come back too soon from surgery to repair a herniated disc.

Jimbo Covert said a hasty return from surgery to repair a disc in his back in 1988 wound up shortening his career. When back issues came again in 1991, Covert needed a laminectomy, he was forced to retire after eight seasons. He never made another Pro Bowl after the disc surgery.

"I came back and played seven weeks after surgery," Covert said Saturday night at practice. "Which was not smart. To try to come back and play, this is me personally, it shortened my career. That was too soon."

Couple nuggets from Saturday's practice under the lights at Ward Field:

*** The coaching staff was pleased with the way the offensive line performed Thursday against the Chiefs and that is one reason they have not switched the offensive tackles.

" It was a start,'' line coach Harry Hiestand said. "Guys have worked hard and we have a lot of work to do to keep getting better but it was a good start."

In the parlance of offensive line coaches, that is about as much praise as you will ever hear. The quarterbacks were rarely pressured and the backs piled up 175 yards. If there is a silver lining in all of the injuries on the line, it's that the remaining players have gotten an abundance of reps. That translated into an entire game for Josh Beekman. Rookie tackle Kirk Barton got extended time as well. They'll have a good idea in two or three weeks where these linemen are at.

While it remains to be seen if the Bears will shuffle the offensive line when they take the practice field tonight at Ward Field, there will be some new faces practicing for the first time.

Running back Kevin Jones has been removed from the physically unable to perform list and defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek has been taken off the non-football injury list. Both are expected to suit up and participate in drills.

We were waiting for the return of Chris Williams to the practice field to take a look at this information, but with the first-round pick sidelined for the foreseeable future now following surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back, we'll go through it.

Williams, the 14th overall selection, signed a five-year deal with a maximum value of $16 million.

Here is a look at how the numbers break down:

Ten initial reactions from Thursday night's preseason opener vs. Kansas City before turning in:

1. The development with first-round pick Chris Williams is unfortunate. The team is preaching optimism right now and plans to keep a space for him on the 53-man roster. That's all well and good, but this is the same group of people who were saying Williams would be out a week with back spasms. There is no way of telling how his recovery will go and what effects, if any, it will have on his career longterm.

It turns out where there was smoke there was fire with draft day reports that medical concerns about Williams had him falling on some draft boards. This was the draft to find a left tackle and this situation just keeps getting more confusing.

2. Quarterback play might have been uninspiring as Kyle Orton and Rex Grossman could not manage a drive longer than 37 yards, but the team that gets off the bus running did just that. Garrett Wolfe's 64 yards on seven carries led a 175-yard effort. Rookie Matt Forte got his feet wet with 10 touches and did a few nice things.

General manager Jerry Angelo spoke briefly following the game about Chris Williams' back surgery Wednesday night to correct a herniated disc in his lower back:

THOUGHTS ON CHRIS WILLIAMS HAVING BACK SURGERY?

Well, you know the good news is we'll get him back in the season, at some point during the season and you know, everything right now is ... we have to wait and see probably for a few weeks and see how the rehab is. We were hoping it was muscular, meaning it was spasms. When they gave him another look they determined it was a herniated disc and so, but the good news is we're going to get him back.

ARE YOU CONFIDENT THERE WAS NO PRE-EXISTING CONDITION WITH HIS BACK?

What the doctors told me, this was a new injury. He had injured his back approximately three years ago. He missed two or three days of practice. He had no symptoms of any kind of herniation when that injury occured. He had no missed time in the last three years so it's a new injury. It's unfortunate.

The organization that has had three first-day draft picks spend their entire rookie season on injured reserve over the last two season has had another serious injury.

First-round draft pick Chris Williams has had surgery to repair a herniated disc in his lower back. The plan is to keep him on the 53-man roster at this point, but when the offensive tackle will be able to return, no one can say.

The Bears are considering adding a veteran, including ex-Bear Fred Miller, and have already cleared a roster spot by placing running back Matt Lawrence on injured reserve.

The Chad Pennington era has officially ended with the New York Jets.

They cut ties with him this afternoon after acquiring Brett Favre from the Green Bay Packers. Pennington, 32, is on the street looking for a job and there has been some speculation he will find a home in the NFC North. The Palm Beach Post has reported that the Miami Dolphins have touched base with Pennington's agent, Tom Condon already.

It's unlikely the Bears will kick the tires on Pennington and give him a look and it's for a number of reason.

If you're fed up with the Rex Grossman vs. Kyle Orton quarterback debate, consider what the Kansas City Chiefs will offer up in tonight's preseason opener at Soldier Field.

Brodie Croyle and Tyler Thigpen, who will be working as the No. 2 quarterback for the Chiefs. Thigpen has managed to work his way past Damon Huard to become the backup to Croyle and a possible successor if Croyle stumbles. Kansas City's offense was even worse than the Bears' last season, producing just 23 touchdowns and only six rushing scores.

So much for seeing Brett Favre at Soldier Field this season.

His era in Green Bay came to an end when he left there Tuesday after two days of meetings with coach Mike McCarthy.

It looked like the Bears would still get to meet Favre, who drew strong interest from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who visit Sept. 21 in the first home game of the regular season.

But FoxSports is reporting that the future Hall of Famer has been dealt to the New York Jets. This could free up veteran quarterback Chad Pennington, who has led the Jets to the postseason three times. The Jets will likely need to clear some salary-cap room and he would be the obvious choice to go.

Wednesday's Q&A session

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Q: Which wide receivers appear to be on the bubble at this point? Has Mark Bradley's knee been holding him back any?

Adam P., Parts Unknown

Adam: This is going to be an interesting area to look at. The team that gets off the bus running kept six receivers on the 53-man roster last season and actually finished the year with seven after picking up Brandon Rideau at season's end. The Bears list Devin Hester as a returner on their roster, but make no mistake about it, he's a receiver. But the Bears never dressed more than five receivers with Mike Hass being inactive on game day 15 times.

One way of thinking is that since the Bears are not a passing team, there is no need to keep six receivers. Typically, they're only going to use four in a game any way, and remember tight ends Desmond Clark and Greg Olsen are expected to be heavily involved in the passing game. So, again, does the team that gets off the bus running need six receivers and two quality receiving tight ends? Keep all this in mind when you consider who is on the bubble at receiver.

Here is how the depth chart released earlier this week looks right now:

Rashied Davis and Hester are co-starters at one position followed by Hass, Rideau and Ryan Grice-Mullen.

At the other spot, Marty Booker and Brandon Lloyd are co-starters followed by Bradley, Earl Bennett and Marcus Monk.

That's 10 receivers for, at the most, six slots.

Absolute locks: Davis, Hester, Bennett. The first two guys got contracts and Bennett is a third-round pick.

Kurt Busch, the 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, was on the sideline at practice Tuesday night. The Inside the Bears staff, which has limited knowledge of stock car racing (turn left and floor it, right?), caught up with Busch briefly to find out how in the world a Las Vegas native is rooting for the Bears.

HOW DID YOU GROW UP A BEARS FAN?

I grew up in [Las] Vegas so I didn't have a team to root for. But my family is from the northern suburbs, Schaumburg, Arlington Heights, Rolling Meadows, both sides of the family. My mom [Gayle] and dad [Tom] went to the same high school, Forest View. They grew up in Chicago and I remember coming here when I was five, six years old. I just loved the city. I grew up in Vegas and it was all about gaming and that whole industry. When I came here, this was a real city. A city skyline with big skyscrapers. I fell in love with Chicago.

DID YOU SIT THROUGH THE NIGHT OF DELAYS AT THE CUBS GAME MONDAY NIGHT?

Oh yeah. That was awesome.

HOW IN THE NAME OF HARRY CARAY DID YOU NOT DO THE 7TH INNING STRETCH?

I was just blending in. It was my birthday. We were drinking Old Style and having a good time.

The Bears finally unwrapped the mystery that was hidden inside an enigma.

Kyle Orton will start at quarterback Thursday night at Soldier Field.

Rex Grossman will get some work and then he will start the next preseason game Aug. 16 at Seattle.

Lovie Smith said the decision had nothing to do with where the quarterbacks are in their competition almost two weeks into training camp.

"Of course I am excited to play in front of the home crowd," Orton said. "Practice has been going well so we'll go out and get the preseason off to a good start."

Check back later on for more.

If the Bears are looking into the free-agent market for possibilities at guard, it's slim pickings.

That is what you would expect in early August when training camp rosters are full.

Ruben Brown, the ex-Bear, remains a free agent. He'd expressed interest in continuing his career in the spring but making a move to bring him back could be viewed as an admission of error that the Bears did not work to re-sign him after last season.

Then there is ex-Cleveland Brown LeCharles Bentley, who was let go in June. It's hard to say what he could offer. Serious injuries have prevented him from doing much of anything the last two seasons after signing a $36 million, six-year contract in March 2006 to move over from the New Orleans Saints.

Forget the quarterback evaluation for the time being. The team that gets off the bus running has more issues on the offensive line than a rookie who can't seem to get on the field.

While the Bears try to figure out what is making first-round pick Chris Williams' back act up, they will also have to figure out what to do at left guard. At least for the time being.

Veteran Terrence Metcalf is expected to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his right knee and will miss at least a few weeks. If it's a simple procedure like former defensive tackle Ian Scott had two summers ago, he could be back in three or four weeks, in time for the season opener. But that's if it is an easy cleanout.

The top options right now are Josh Beekman and Anthony Oakley. Then there are late-round picks Kirk Barton and Chester Adams and former sixth-round pick Tyler Reed. For the sake of being complete, undrafted rookie free agent Ryan Poles is also on the roster.

Offense

WR--Rashied Davis/Devin Hester, Mike Hass, Brandon Rideau, Ryan Grice-Mullen
LT--John St. Clair, Cody Balogh, (Chris Williams)
LG--Terrence Metcalf, Anthony Oakley, Ryan Poles
C--Olin Kreutz, Josh Beekman, Anthony Oakley
RG--Roberto Garza, Tyler Reed, Chester Adams
RT--John Tait, Kirk Barton
TE--Desmond Clark, Greg Olsen, Kellen Davis, Fontel Mines, Marcus Stone
WR--Marty Booker/Brandon Lloyd, Mark Bradley, Earl Bennett, Marcus Monk
QB--Rex Grossman/Kyle Orton, Caleb Hanie
RB--Matt Forte, Adrian Peterson, Garrett Wolfe, P.J. Pope, (Kevin Jones)
FB--Jason McKie, Lousaka Polite

Veteran Milwaukee Journal Sentinel scribe Bob McGinn, who has one of the sharpest football minds out there, reports that Green Bay has had contact with Minnesota about a trade even with Brett Favre arriving in Green Bay Sunday. Yes, even with the Packers saying they will have a quarterback competition involving Favre and Aaron Rodgers. You know, kind of like the thing the Bears have going on here.

It's an interesting read and certainly another twist in the story that has to have a few twists left to it, right?

McGinn quotes an unnamed personnel source about the possibility of other NFC North teams vying for Favre's services.

Quick little practice synopsis:

*** Rex Grossman had his best practice of camp. He hit pretty much everything in 7-on-7 and team drills and was sharp. Deep balls to Devin Hester and Marty Booker were on the money. It's not like Kyle Orton had a bad day either. He made many nice throws himself and they both picked apart the secondary.

Apparently the offense got a talking to recently ... the group as a whole was told it was time to pick up its play.

*** Top pick Chris Williams (back) would not put a timetable on a return but you can just about rule him out of Thursday's game with Kansas City. Left guard Terrence Metcalf (bruised knee) missed again.

*** Defensive tackle Marcus Harrison was kicked in the shin but should be OK.

*** The offense is still struggling to put together an effective screen package.

We're not even going to try to track the Brett Favre saga today, but ESPN has reported that the quarterback has been reinstated by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and is headed to Green Bay today to bring this situation to a head. We'll see if the plane every leaves the ground in Hattiesburg, Miss. Remember, Favre was supposedly making that flight last week and it never happened.

No, this doesn't mean the Bears will have a change of heart and get into negotiations for the Packers in attempt to acquire Favre.

But it could bring Favre one step closer to going to another team, like the Minnesota Vikings. You better believe that possibility has the full attention of the Bears. Heck, they might even want to kick in some coin to boost the Keep Favre Retired Fund the Packers have started. Green Bay is offering to pay him between $20 million and $25 million over the next 10 years, reportedly, to stay retired and be the game's highest-paid ambassador.

Took a look at Devin Hester's contract extension in Sunday's print/online edition. The numbers are detailed here and this forum will probably be easier to display the information.

The four-year extension includes $40 million in new money and because it's an extension he's under contract for six seasons now with the total value over six years being $40,975,000.

There is $15 million guaranteed and the the base value of the new four new years is $22,036,000. A look at the numbers:

Steve Smith will not torch the Bears' secondary this time around no matter what coverage they employ in their Sept. 14 trip to Carolina.

The Panthers' wide receiver has been suspended by the team for the first two games of the regular season for his training camp beat down on defensive back Ken Lucas. Smith broke the nose of Lucas during practice on Friday and according to one report he was striking Lucas when he was in a defenseless position.

That's the position you could say the Bears were in when Smith racked up 12 receptions for a career-high 218 yards in a 29-21 victory by the Panthers in the divisional round of the playoffs Jan. 15, 2006, at Soldier Field. Smith ran wild that day and pretty much single-handedly controlled the game.

Fire away with any questions you have.

We will do our best to get to as many as possible and post a Q&A Wednesday after the Bears break away from Bourbonnais for the preseason opener Thursday vs. Kansas City.

Ask all you want but it's doubtful we will be predicting a winner in the QB derby. Include name and hometown.

Nothing will match the quarterback quagmire the Green Bay Packers find themselves in, but face it, if it wasn't for the great Brett Favre showdown the Bears' situation would be as muddled as any in the league.

That point was driven home in the practice Friday night at Soldier Field when the crowd of 24,977 had more than a smattering of boos for Rex Grossman during player introductions. Afterward, coach Lovie Smith more or less asked for patience in a QB derby that figures to run at least another three weeks. The boos intensified when he threw passes away on consecutive plays in the red zone. Never mind no one was open on the plays. Grossman's effort with the first team in the two-minute drill also sputtered short of the 50-yard line.

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