Chicago Sun-Times

September 2009 Archives

The revolving door on the Bears' practice squad was spun around again.

Cornerback Woodny Turenne has been re-signed to the practice squad. He takes the place of guard Johan Asiata, who was signed back for a second stint on the practice squad last week.

General manager Jerry Angelo frequently shuffles players on the practice squad so he can get a good look at more than the eight players teams are allowed to carry at one time.

Linebacker Nick Roach has been fined $5,000 by the NFL, the result of a facemask penalty he was called for in Sunday's victory at Seattle.

Roach tackled Seahawks running back Edgerrin James in the third quarter, and got the facemask as he made the play.

Roach said he plans to appeal the fine.

Bears-Lions injury report

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Here is the first injury report of the week.

Bears

LB Lance Briggs, foot, DNP-
DE Alex Brown, left ankle, DNP-
LB Hunter Hillenmeyer, rib, DNP-
LB Pisa Tinoisamoa, right knee, DNP-
DT Anthony Adams, knee, LIM-
TE Desmond Clark, rib, LIM-
RB Matt Forte, knee, LIM-
DT Tommie Harris, knee, LIM-
DL Israel Idonije, knee, LIM-
LS Pat Mannelly, arm, LIM-
LG Frank Omiyale, ankle, FULL-

Lions

DT Sammie Lee Hill, ankle, DNP-
S Kalvin Pearson, quad, DNP-
RB Kevin Smith, shoulder, DNP-
DE DeWayne White, hamstring, DNP-
DE Cliff Avril, hamstring, LIM-
DT Grady Jackson, knee, LIM-
CB Eric King, shoulder, LIM-
LB Ernie Sims, shoulder, LIM-
QB Drew Stanton, knee, FULL-

pinkshoe.jpg

All Greg Olsen had to do was ask Jay Cutler to come in style for Sunday's game against the Lions, and the quarterback agreed.

Cutler and Olsen will be among a handful of Bears, including linebacker Lance Briggs, who will wear pink as part of the NFL's "A Crucial Catch: Annual Screening Saves Lives" breast cancer awareness campaign. There will be pink cleats, like the fancy one I snapped a picture of with the camera on the Blackberry, pink wrist bands, pink towels, pink hats, and pink C's on the jerseys for the captains. There might be even more pink, just no pink footballs.

Olsen's mother Sue Olsen was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001 and is a survivor.

"I know it means a lot to Greg with his mom,'' Cutler said. "So he asked me probably a month ago if I'd wear the pink cleats. It should be interesting."

It does mean a lot to Olsen, who has talked openly about his family's situation since the Bears drafted him in the first round in 2007.

"I think it's great what the NFL is doing,'' Olsen said. "They've really picked it up even more so than last year. They've got a lot of cool things I think the fans are going to get a kick out of. Anything you can do with the platform we have and the amount of eyes that are watching our games, the amount of opportunities we have are endless. So we have a few cool things with the cleats and the gloves and what not but the bottom line we have to go out and play well but at the same time we also have a few things that will make it fun and pay our respects and do anything we can to help the cause.

Defensive tackle Anthony Adams has been fined $5,000 by the NFL for the facemask penalty he was called for in Sunday's victory at Seattle.

Adams got the facemask of quarterback Seneca Wallace when sacking him on the first play of a drive in the third quarter.

"Of course I'm going to appeal,'' Adams said. "I've got to try to save my money."

It's expected that linebacker Nick Roach has also been fined. He drew a 15-yard facemask penalty two plays later when he grabbed the facemask of running back Edgerrin James. It's not known how much Roach was zapped.

The Bears will start practice in a little less than a half-hour.

The Bears are going to kick off the week for the Lions game at the top of the hour. Jay Cutler will hold his weekly press conference and I'll share some highlights in progress on Twitter.

We'll see if tight end Desmond Clark (rib) and linebackers Pisa Tinoisamoa (right knee) and Hunter Hillenmeyer (rib) are active when practice gets going at 1:30.

Lions coach Jim Schwartz held his media conference without media--before any media was allowed in Halas Hall this morning. So he chatted with some Bears employees. Schwartz was asked about running back Kevin Smith, who was knocked out of the victory over Washington with a shoulder injury.

"We will just see how that plays out this week,'' Schwartz said. "And see what we can get out of him and make a game-time decision on whether he can go or not. We have a dynamic playmaker in Calvin Johnson who can get open downfield, but that is largely dependent on how we run the football and Kevin is a big part of that.''

Stay tuned.


In another sign that the Bears believe they will be healed up soon at linebacker, the club has made a roster move at the position with an eye toward special teams and not the defense.

That means Derrick Brooks is not coming to town. Instead, veteran linebacker Darrell McClover has been brought in for the second time in just more than a month, according to a source close to the player. McClover was signed by the team and takes the place of DeAngelo Smith, who was claimed off waivers from the Cleveland Browns two weeks ago. The Chicago Tribune first reported Smith would be cut. McClover can help on special teams immediately, an area that has been thinned out because of the injuries at linebacker. The Bears signed Tim Shaw was as a young guy who could come in and help out on special teams after Brian Urlacher was lost for the season. McClover can also do that and he's probably more familiar with the defense than Shaw.

McClover was the sixth linebacker the team kept on the roster last year. He appeared in 10 games but was placed on injured reserve in late November with a pulled hamstring. He produced 14 tackles on special teams and added a blocked punt. McClover made 36 special teams tackles in 28 games for the Bears from 2006 to 2008, earning the nickname "Commando" from teammates. He had a tryout with the Houston Texans during the offseason, and then was brought in for the final two preseason games where the Bears got a look at him and then made him one of the final roster cuts.

It's been a while since I reached into the mailbag in Four Down Territory. The box was overflowing with inquiries about the offensive line and I'm going to tackle as many as I can. Here we go in an expanded Q&A:

Q: With all of the injuries the Bears have at linebacker, why not bring back Marcus Freeman, the fifth-round pick? He knows the system and probably has more upside than a veteran.

Marty F., Indiana

A: When the Bears cut ties with Freeman at the start of the month, and didn't pursue him for the practice squad that sent a clear message how they felt about him. I would be very surprised if Freeman resurfaces here. He joined the Buffalo Bills practice squad last week. The Bears didn't believe that Freeman played with much instinct and didn't see a lot of passion in his game. Plus, he did little on special teams and that is where they would want help from a reserve linebacker. Maybe the light turns on for him elsewhere. Sometimes a player needs a new environment.


Q: What do you think is going on with Nate Vasher? Is he hanging in there with an undisclosed (to everyone but him) physical injury? If not that, then what?

David H., Chicago

A: Vasher was on the field for a couple plays Sunday at Seattle. He spelled Zack Bowman when the right cornerback was knocked out of the game for one play, and Vasher came on when the Seahawks went to a five-wide package. I think what has happened is Vasher isn't the same player he once was. He hasn't shown the same confidence in his ability, and he looks tentative at times. The issue is he's not really a special teams contributor. But with the health issues that plagued Bowman and Charles Tillman during the offseason, the Bears can't afford to cut Vasher loose. He has experience, knows the scheme and is a better fill-in than they could find elsewhere right now. It certainly looks like his Bears' career is winding toward an end, however. He's still a stand-up guy, and remains a positive influence in the locker room, which is always a good sign.


Q: I know the running game has gotten a lot of grief for underproduction recently. Matt Forte, particularly, looks weak as a runner even though his receiving production has been up lately. It just looks to me like he has minimal explosiveness and that he falls down at the slightest contact. Are the effects of his off-season injury still bothering him? It seems like the closest thing we have to a power runner is A.P. Are the Bears looking to make any changes in the backfield? Are there any real options for them beyond the guys that they have?

Jay M., Salem, Mass.

A: I'd say your evaluation of the running game is pretty accurate, although I wouldn't say Forte goes down easily. That's not fair. He is a tough runner who has a knack for staying up. That being said, he has not looked particularly quick and there were a couple of runs at Seattle that looked like they should have gone for bigger gains. The Bears took it easy with Forte during the summer because of a hamstring injury he suffered in June. He dinged his knee against the Seahawks. He's probably not running at 100 percent right now, and the bye coming up in Week 5 will serve him well. Remember, the plan was for him to share the load with Kevin Jones, and that had to be scratched when Jones went down for the season. The Bears are sticking to their goal of limiting Forte's usage this season, and that is a smart thing. That is why Adrian Peterson and Garrett Wolfe have both been involved more. Teams can always find a running back on the street, but I don't see the Bears making a move. Not right now, at least.


Q: Did Lovie Smith explain why the penalties didn't offset on the 11-yard punt by Brad Maynard during the game at Seattle? I am very confused on that. He looked just as confused as me.

Martin M., Parts Unknown

A: I was just as confused as you were when that happened at the start of the second quarter on Sunday. Unfortunately, Maynard couldn't get a do-over with offsetting penalties. Here is why: the Bears drew a penalty because Nick Roach was ineligible downfield. The Seahawks drew a penalty on the play for holding by Lance Laury. The Seahawks were thrilled with the outcome of the short punt out of bounds by Maynard, so they declined the penalty on Roach for being downfield too early. The Bears, of course, accepted the holding penalty on Laury. The penalties were not offsetting because the Seahawks did not ask to have the Roach penalty enforced. The ball sailed out of bounds at the Bears' 37-yard line, and the 10-yard holding penalty backed Seattle up to the 47. I hope that make sense.

Q: Who should I be rooting for next Monday for the Vikings vs. the Packers?

Byron R., Parts Unknown

A: Are you talking about Brett Favre's first meeting with his former team, the game we'll hear about daily for a week now? If the Bears defeat the Lions on Sunday to go to 3-1, a Packers' victory over the Vikings would create a three-way tie for first atop the NFC North. The Packers would have a very early edge with a 2-0 record in the division, but the Bears are better off being tied than a game down after four weeks, right? I'll be rooting for a good game. The Monday night tilt in Jerryland didn't do a whole lot for me last night.


Submit your questions now for an edition of Four Down Territory on Tuesday.

All indications are that Hunter Hillenmeyer did not suffered a fractured rib in Sundays victory over the Seattle Seahawks.

Hillenmeyer was originally injured on a run play in the second quarter, and then he tried to continue playing before taking two more hits in the same area on his torso.

He was examined at Qwest Field, and in cases like this the team always gives the player an X-ray. Following the game, a source said the injury was not that serious, and coach Lovie Smith backed that up today at his press conference.

"We'll see how that plays out the rest of the week, hopefully he'll be able to go [Sunday vs. Detroit],'' Smith said. ``It isn't as serious as [tight end Desmond Clark's] injury, so hopefully we'll get good news on that front.''

Clark suffered a fractured rib in the opener at Green Bay, but he returned to practice for limited duty on Friday, and it's his hope that he will play vs. the Lions after missing just two weeks. Still, the Bears are going to have to consider adding some help at the position. They are razor thin at linebacker. Pisa Tinoisamoa will probably test out his sprained right knee in practice this week, and there is a possibility he will return to action against Detroit. Like Clark, he was injured in the opener. But when Hillenmeyer went down, the Bears were left with only one reserve linebacker--recently signed Tim Shaw. Nick Roach moved from strong side to the middle, and Jamar Williams took over at strong side.

SEATTLE--I have to hot foot it out of Qwest Field pretty soon here to catch the red eye home, but wanted to put together some quick reactions to the Bears' 25-19 victory over the Seattle Seahawks.

1. The most impressive element of the victory, greater than even the effort by Jay Cutler down the stretch, was the ability of the Bears to weather the storm. They fell behind 13-0 and had an interception in the red zone by Cutler and a missed 53-yard field goal by Robbie Gould. They also had an 11-yard punt by Brad Maynard that set the Seahawks up with prime field position. Through it all, they hung in there. Yes, Seattle was missing nine projected starters because of injuries, but it's a difficult place to play and this is the kind of game that would have doomed the Bears for sure last season.

2. Matt Forte wasn't much more productive than he has been as a runner--66 yards on 21 carries--but he caught six passes out of the backfield for 40 yards to give him more than 100 yards of offense. Once again, the running game was good enough to provide balance and the Seahawks sure loaded up vs. the run by routinely walking safety Deon Grant down into the box. The thing that was surprising was the third-and-one handoff to Garrett Wolfe early in the fourth quarter after Wolfe had run the ball twice. He was stuffed for a one-yard loss. Asking Wolfe to run up the middle is not playing to his strengths.

3. Johnny Knox continues to look better on kickoff returns, and early in the game that was the Bears' best play. He didn't hesitate running Olindo Mare's kicks out from eight yards deep in the end zone, and gained 53 yards on the first return of the game. Sometimes he tries to make a few too many moves. If he can reduce some of the shake and shimmy and do more one-cut-and-go, he'll probably break one at some point. The blocking has been solid.

4. Cutler did a nice job spreading the ball around, and you'll say that any time a quarterback throws touchdown passes to three different receivers. He really locked in on Brandon Marshall at times in Denver, and he's been getting everyone involved. Earl Bennett made a couple nice plays and should not be overlooked as it was Devin Hester, Johnny Knox and Greg Olsen who made the scores.

SEATTLE--The Bears' top draft pick Jarron Gilbert will be active for his first NFL game today.

Gilbert, a third-round pick from San Jose State, takes the place of defensive tackle Matt Toeaina on the 45-man roster for the game against the Seahawks. The Bears might have turned to him because he can help in the rotation at defensive end. Alex Brown will start, but he has a sprained left ankle and will not be 100 percent. Gilbert was drafted as a tackle, but has been worked at left end in practice for about a month now.

Here are the Bears' inactives: wide receivers Juaquin Iglesias and Devin Aromashodu, cornerbacks DeAngelo Smith and D.J. Moore, linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa, guard Lance Louis, defensive tackle Matt Toeaina and tight end Desmond Clark.

SEATTLE--Five random thoughts on the game this afternoon:

1. The Seahawks will be wearing neon green jerseys for the first time. It's called rave green, and if the pictures do it justice, it will be unsightly. The Bears' alternate orange jerseys, which they will break out this season Nov. 1 at Soldier Field against Cleveland, don't look much better. These Seahawks jerseys are downright hideous. It's too bad because a lot of the alternate jerseys are great, especially the AFL tributes being worn this season. The Patriots looked sharp in their season opener vs. Buffalo, and the silver numbers on the white Oakland throwback uniforms were also cool. That's my fashion police warning for the day.

2. Great point by Michael Lombardi at the National Football Post this morning. What were the Seahawks thinking when they passed on USC quarterback Mark Sanchez with the fourth pick in the draft? Sure, it's real easy to have 20-20 vision on a draft in late September, but Matt Hasselbeck suffered from a back injury much of last season. Seneca Wallace isn't the future for the Seahawks, although he's not bad for a No. 2 option. The Seahawks had better hope linebacker Aaron Curry is very good.

3. You can't go anywhere, even on the streets of Seattle, without getting questions about Matt Forte and the Bears' running game. I'm not expecting Forte to have 207 yards like Frank Gore did last week vs. Seattle in San Francisco, but the Bears should be OK. Remember, Jay Cutler is the quarterback now. That little saying Lovie Smith likes to use that the Bears "get off the bus running," I don't think that is the case any longer. Cutler developing some chemistry with the untested wide receivers that he's unfamiliar with is far more important in the big picture of the 2009 season than grinding out the ball in these early weeks. Besides, 30 carries last Sunday vs. Pittsburgh might have netted 90 yards. The Steelers have a remarkable run of being a terrific run defense. It was smarter to attack with the pass.

With the help of some modern medicine, tight end Desmond Clark is hopeful he can be on the field a week from Sunday when the Bears host the Detroit Lions.

Clark suited up today and was limited in participation in practice less than two weeks after he suffered a cracked rib in his back when he was hit hard by Green Bay safety Aaron Rouse, now an ex-Packer who is with the New York Giants. Clark knew when he suited up Friday that there was no chance of him playing Sunday. He is listed on the injury report as doubtful.

"That's the goal, to play against the Lions,'' he said. ``The doctors didn't tell me I would definitely play next week. I was trying to get that out of them. I'll take a shot. I've taken plenty of shots over the years. I'm quite sure I am going to take a few more, and I might take a few more to the back. I'll be ready though.


It looks more and more like Seneca Wallace will be the starting quarterback Sunday for the Seattle Seahawks.

Matt Hasselbeck was held out of practice Friday for the third consecutive day with a fractured rib, and the team has listed him as doubtful. Middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu, who has a pulled hamstring, is also doubtful after missing practice for the third consecutive day. Those will be major losses for Seattle, although one source who played under Seattle coach Jim Mora when he was in Atlanta said he is aggressive when it comes to waiting until game time to see a player can play through an injury.

Still, it's a long season and the Seahawks need to make the smart play with Hasselbeck in Week 3. Wallace provides a little more mobility for the Seattle offense, but the Bears have generally played well vs. athletic quarterbacks.

Here is the official report:

Bears

OUT

LB Pisa Tinoisamoa (right knee)--DNP, DNP, DNP

DOUBTFUL

TE Dez Clark (rib)--DNP, DNP, LIM

QUESTIONABLE

DE Alex Brown (left ankle)--DNP, DNP, LIM

PROBABLE

DT Tommie Harris (left knee)--LIM, FULL, FULL
DL Israel Idonije (knee)--LIM, LIM, FULL
LG Frank Omiyale (ankle)--LIM, FULL, FULL

Seattle

OUT

LB LeRoy Hill (groin)--OUT
RG Sean Locklear (ankle)--OUT
CB Josh Wilson (ankle)--OUT

DOUBTFUL

RB Justin Griffith (knee)--DNP, DNP, DNP
QB Matt Hasselbeck (rib)--DNP, DNP, DNP
LB Lofa Tatupu (hamstring)--DNP, DNP, DNP

QUESTIONABLE

DT Brandon Mebane (calf)--DNP, DNP, FULL
CB Ken Lucas (groin)--LIM, LIM, FULL
LT Walter Jones (knee)--FULL, FULL, FULL

PROBABLE

WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh (back)--DNP, FULL, FULL
WR Deion Branch (hamstring)--FULL, FULL, FULL
CB Travis FIsher (hamstring)--FULL, FULL, FULL
C Chris Spencer (quad)--FULL, FULL, FULL

Defensive end Mark Anderson said Friday afternoon he had still not opened the letter from the NFL offices informing him he had been fined for his shove of Pittsburgh tight end Heath Miller after a play last Sunday.

He'll find out soon enough when he sees the deduction in his paycheck. The NFL revealed that Anderson has been fined $5,000. He said he plans to appeal. That might be a difficult appeal. It's clear as day what happened in television replays.

Defensive end Alex Brown returned to the practice field this morning and will be listed as questionable on the injury report with a sprained left ankle that was heavily taped.

He is expected to start at Seattle.

"I'll be fine Sunday,'' Brown said. "I'll go out and do my best. We'll see what happens. Hopefully, we can all play together and equates to a win.''

Tight end Desmond Clark, who suffered a fractured rib in the season opener at Green Bay, also made it back to practice for the first time. He will be doubtful on the injury report and is not expected to play. However, it is a positive sign that will be be available next week vs. Detroit or after the bye that follows.

Strong-side linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa remains sidelined with a sprained right knee.

I examined the playing time for defensive tackle Tommie Harris in a story in today's edition.

The Bears have been careful using him in 2009, going all the way back to minicamp in March when Harris was given the last day of the three-day session off. It hasn't impacted his time on the field when it counts, though. Harris is actually playing more (or a greater percentage of the time) through two games than he did in 2008.

2009 1st two games--80 of 113 snaps, 70.8 percent

2008 1st two games--82 of 121 snaps, 67.8 percent

Thus far, it has worked out just like coach Lovie Smith said he was planning in the rotation. The Bears want to ensure that Harris is fresh for important situations--passing downs and crunch time in the second half. On Sunday vs. Pittsburgh, 27 of Harris' 44 snaps came in the second half.

"You start from there and you work from there,'' Smith said of the numbers so far. "All of our defensive linemen that we dress, we feel comfortable playing them. Situations will warrant maybe Tommie playing a little bit more. You kind of see how the game goes but we don't want him to play 100 percent of the time like we don't want any of our defensive linemen to play 100 percent of the time if we can get away from it.

"We haven't played the type of defense we want to play. Tommie is a part of that. We haven't gotten enough takeaways. Our third downs were too high last week. There are some things we have to correct but they are working hard. There is no reason not to believe we will improve and Tommie will lead the way.''

Playing time with Harris has always been worth noting. For starters, he's at the signature position in the Tampa Two scheme, but Smith has always preached the use of a healthy and well-oiled rotation. Second, Harris' contract has clauses in it that are tied directly to playing time. Harris was on the field for only 56.08 percent of the time last season (623 of 1,111 snaps). That was tops among the tackles on the roster, but the figure was reduced because he missed one game with an injury and was suspended for a second game. A rough estimate is Harris would have been on the field for 64 percent of the snaps last if you project him over 16 games, so it's easy to see he's being used a little more than that right now.

Bears-Seahawks injury report

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Alex Brown does not have to practice this week to play on Sunday in what would be his 114th consecutive game for the Bears.

Coach Lovie Smith said after practice today, which Brown sat out, that he is a veteran who could suit up despite taking the week off to heal a sprained left ankle.

"I'm optimistic that he will play,'' Smith said. "I look at the history a little bit of our players and what's happened with them, no doubt Alex Brown is a tough guy. You see it in his play every time and he's getting better, he was able to do a little bit more today, talking about on the side, and he's optimistic so we'll go from there.

"I think all players need to practice, but that's not to say, if Alex is ready to go Sunday, even if he hasn't practiced this week, we'll probably let him go."

The Seahawks have not released their injury report yet. We'll add the Bears information below and update Seattle when it comes across. Check back soon.

Bears

DE Alex Brown (left ankle)--DNP, DNP
TE Dez Clark (rib)--DNP, DNP
LB Pisa Tinoisamoa (right knee)--DNP, DNP
DT Tommie Harris (left knee)--LIM, FULL
DL Israel Idonije (knee)--LIM, LIM
LG Frank Omiyale (ankle)--LIM, FULL

Seattle

LB LeRoy Hill (groin)--OUT
RG Sean Locklear (ankle)--OUT
CB Josh Wilson (ankle)--OUT
RB Justin Griffith (knee)--DNP, DNP
QB Matt Hasselbeck (rib)--DNP, DNP
WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh (back)--DNP
DT Brandon Mebane (calf)--DNP, LIM
LB Lofa Tatupu (hamstring)--DNP, DNP
CB Ken Lucas (groin)--LIM, LIM
WR Deion Branch (hamstring)--FULL, FULL
CB Travis FIsher (hamstring)--FULL, FULL
LT Walter Jones (knee)--FULL, FULL
C Chris Spencer (quad)--FULL, FULL

Alex Brown is not dressed out to practice this afternoon as the Bears just got going on the fields behind Halas Hall.

Just because he has missed a second straight day with his sprained left ankle does not mean there isn't a good chance he will play Sunday at Seattle. Coach Lovie Smith prefers that his players be on the field, but he will go all the way to game time to make decisions with veterans. The Bears are thin at the position because they have only Mark Anderson behind Brown and Adewale Ogunleye. Israel Idonije can play end, but he is battling a knee issue and has been used more inside. Rookie third-round pick Jarron Gilbert has gotten some work at left end, and could be an option. The Bears also might consider promoting Ervin Baldwin or Joe Clermond from the practice squad.

However, unless something has changed significantly in the last 24 hours, the hope remains that Brown will be available. He has played in 113 consecutive games, the longest streak on the team.

Greg Olsen called the hits he received from Pittsburgh safety Tyrone Carter on Sunday clean.

The NFL found differently on one of them.

Carter has been fined $5,000, according to Scott Brown of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, for a shot that broke up a long pass from Jay Cutler along the sideline. There was no penalty on the play, and Olsen was slow to get up, explaining he was winded by the hit.

"Unreal," Carter told Brown. "I watched the play over and over and I hit him in the shoulder. The NFL sees something different."

Carter was filling in for injured strong safety Troy Polamalu and actually injured his left thigh on the play.

Olsen said afterward that there was nothing objectionable about the play.

"My head was fine,'' Olsen said. "It was a great hit, he made a great play.

The sudden emergence of rookie Johnny Knox through the first two games has raised an interesting question about a wide receiver that had a breakthrough during training camp and preseason--Devin Aromashodu.

Wide receivers coach Darryl Drake jokingly referred to Aromashodu as Wally Pipp and Knox as Lou Gehrig, a funny analogy but one that doesn't fit. Aromashodu can't be Pipp because he hasn't been out on the field with the Bears in the regular season yet. It's impossible to lose a gig he never had. But on the fields of training camp and in preseason, he quickly emerged as one of Jay Cutler's preferred targets. At 6-2, 201 pounds, he has good size, and the relationship was evident at the very beginning of camp. It was cemented in preseason when Cutler actively worked to feed him the ball.

But a slight quad pull sidelined Aromashodu for the season opener at Green Bay, creating an opening on the game day roster for Knox, who otherwise appeared destined to be inactive. He took the opportunity, and a few passes from Cutler, and ran with them. The Bears have only dressed four receivers for the first two games--starters Devin Hester and Earl Bennett--Knox, and Rashied Davis. It's going to be hard to justify bumping up another wide receiver when you consider special teams needs. Davis is a four-phase contributor on special teams, and that matters. He forced the game-ending fumble against Pittsburgh on the kickoff coverage unit. It's clear Cutler wants to see Aromashodu at some point, but the wideout will likely have to prove useful for special teams coordinator Dave Toub. Fourth and fifth wideouts have to be major special teams players.

T.J. Houshmandzadeh is preparing himself for a monster week against the Bears, regardless of who plays quarterback for Seattle.

Starter Matt Hasselbeck was sidelined with a fractured rib at practice Wednesday, and Seneca Wallace took the first-team reps in practice, but that hasn't stopped the veteran wide receiver from fashioning big plans. He has 10 catches for 110 yards through the Seahawks' first two games and pointed out those are the types of numbers he's accustomed to producing in a single week. After the Bears didn't give him so much as a sniff in free agency, he's prepared to show them what type of mistake they made.

"Ah, man, the Bears ain't hollered at me, man,'' Houshmandzadeh said on a teleconference with reporters. "Jerry Angelo probably didn't think I could play, so I'm going to show him Sunday."

Houshmandzadeh has started doing his homework too, reciting that second-year cornerback Zack Bowman, a fifth-round draft pick, is from Nebraska.

"I started watching film yesterday,'' Houshmandzadeh said. "Obviously, last week was his first week starting against Pittsburgh. He did fairly well. For him, it's just kind of getting out there and getting a feel for it. Obviously, coming from Nebraska, I am assuming when he first got to Nebraska they were probably a run team and they kind of evolved into a passing team, so he probably got better as his college career went on.

"But, obviously he has corners he can learn from. Vash [Nathan Vasher] has got great instincts and [Charles] Tillman is probably more the guy he would want to learn from because they're similar in size.''

The Bears probably would have been interested in Houshmandzadeh, 31, if he wasn't the only top-flight wide receiver that was in free agency. That drove up the market for him quickly and he signed for $40 million over five years in Seattle with the key number being $15 million guaranteed. He's a big target, which is one thing the Bears are lacking.

"That's their choice,'' Houshmandzadeh said. "That's what makes America great. You have the right to do what you want to do and they chose not to do that. It is what it is.

Bears-Seahawks injury report

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Thirteen Seahawks are listed on the injury report for Sunday's game.

"We're OK,'' Seattle coach Jim Mora said. "No, not really. We're a ittle beat up. That's the way the NFL goes."

Let's get to the injury report.

First, the Bears:

DE Alex Brown (left ankle)--DNP
TE Dez Clark (rib)--DNP
LB Pisa Tinoisamoa (right knee)--DNP
DT Tommie Harris (left knee)--LIM
DL Israel Idonije (knee)--LIM
LG Frank Omiyale (ankle)--LIM

Seattle

LB LeRoy Hill (groin)--OUT
RG Sean Locklear (ankle)--OUT
CB Josh Wilson (ankle)--OUT
RB Justin Griffith (knee)--DNP
QB Matt Hasselbeck (rib)--DNP
WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh (back)--DNP
DT Brandon Mebane (calf)--DNP
LB Lofa Tatupu (hamstring)--DNP
CB Ken Lucas (groin)--LIM
WR Deion Branch (hamstring)--FULL
CB Travis FIsher (hamstring)--FULL
LT Walter Jones (knee)--FULL
C Chris Spencer (quad)--FULL

Defensive end Mark Anderson got a special delivery today. It was one he was hoping to avoid.

It's a parcel from the NFL office, and chances are, oh, really good that it contains a notice that he has been fined for shoving Pittsburgh tight end Heath Miller after a play in Sunday's game. The Bears were penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct on the play as Miller spilled into umpire Butch Hannah after he was shoved.

Matt Hasselbeck is not practicing with a fractured rib today for the Seattle Seahawks, but the Associated Press reports that coach Jim Mora said he will be the starting quarterback Sunday against the Bears at Qwest Field provided he is medically cleared to play.

It could be that Hasselbeck is held out again Thursday, but he could still get the green light to play. Hasselbeck has vowed to fight through the pain and be on the field for the game. The Bears have never won at Qwest Field and their last victory at Seattle was in 1976, the first year for the expansion franchise.

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was asked about the prospects of playing with a broken rib.

"I can't imagine,'' Cutler said. "I've never had one. I've had bruised ribs and been sore. As much torque as you put on your body, and throwing the ball and your hips and stuff, it would be tough. It would be really tough. We'll have to see what happens with him."

The Bears have re-signed guard Johan Asiata to the practice squad.

Asiata was cut last week but general manager Jerry Angelo frequently rotates players through the eight-man developmental squad during the course of a season to maximize the number of players he can evaluate.

To make room for Asiata, cornerback Woodny Turenne was let go. There is a chance Turenne will return soon. He made some nice plays in training camp and preseason, but the Bears are stocked at the position with six corners, including rookies DeAngelo Smith and D.J. Moore. It's difficult to develop three young players at a position where only two or three are generally needed on the field at a time.

There will be plenty of football to get to today at Halas Hall.

I am sure the running game, or lack of a running game, will be a popular topic. It's probably worth pointing out right now that take away a Jay Cutler interception or two at Lambeau Field in the season opener and the Bears are 2-0 right now with the same ground attack. There's been scrutiny of the offensive line, and I'll get into more of that later, but keep in mind John St. Clair was a starter for 16 games on this line last season. Most believe the Bears upgraded and when a team changes three starters, it's going to take a little time for things to mesh.

Hopefully, we'll get a better indication of how defensive end Alex Brown's left ankle is, but all signals point to him playing Sunday at Seattle.

Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said on Monday that he hopes to be able to play with a fractured rib. It's unlikely Seattle will shed any light on that situation today, but we'll see. If the Seahawks provide Hasselbeck for the conference call this afternoon, he's always entertaining.

I'll Twitter some tidbits from the Jay Cutler press conference and that will start at noon. Check back later on.

When Alex Brown limped off the field during the fourth quarter Sunday afternoon at Soldier, unable to put weight on his left foot, it didn't look promising for the defensive end.

But the veteran vowed after the Bears' 17-14 victory over Pittsburgh to not miss any time, and it looks like that will be the case.

"Alex Brown has an ankle sprain,'' coach Lovie Smith said at his press conference this afternoon. "No more than that. He should be good to go.''

Took a look at one play from each quarter of the game Sunday to examine what happened and the significance of the play.

First quarter

Pittsburgh fourth-and-goal from the Bears' 1

The formation: Pittsburgh had three tight ends and two backs. The Bears were in their heavy package with five linemen, four linebackers--Lance Briggs, Hunter Hillenmeyer, Nick Roach and Jamar Williams--cornerback Charles Tillman and free safety Danieal Manning.

The play: Ben Roethlisberger faked a handoff to running back Willie Parker, who was running left. Roethlisberger then bootlegged right with right guard Trai Essex pulling in front of him. There were just two receivers in the pattern, tight end Matt Spaeth dragging across the back of the end zone and running parallel to Roethlisberger, and tight end Heath Miller, who was lined up on the right side of the formation and just stopped after crossing the goalline. Spaeth, with Manning trailing him, was wide open for a touchdown pass.

The significance: Steelers coach Mike Tomlin gambled early, especially when considering Pittsburgh was 31st in the league last season on third- and fourth-and-1. While it appeared Manning was at fault, Williams was responsible for Spaeth off the line of scrimmage. He was supposed to take an inside route there but stayed to check tight end David Johnson, who had come in motion. Johnson never entered the pattern, and Tillman was there as Johnson was his responsibility.


Ten reactions and tidbits from the game:

1. The question all week was how would the Bears defense respond without middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, lost for the season with a dislocated right wrist. It didn't look good from the start as the Steelers rolled up 144 yards offense on their first two possessions. Pittsburgh led just 7-0 because Ben Roethlisberger and rookie wide receiver Mike Wallace clearly were crossed up on an easy interception for Charles Tillman.

From there, the Bears' defense responded. Down two linebackers--Pisa Tinoisamoa missed with a sprained right knee--the Bears used three to fill the void. Hunter Hillenmeyer played middle linebacker and Nick Roach and Jamar Williams shared time on the strong side. On Pittsburgh's next seven possessions, it totaled just 164 yards offense. The difference was with the front seven. The Bears applied pressure and while defensive end Alex Brown got the only two sacks for the unit, Roethlisberger was forced to do two things. First, he had to get rid of the ball quickly. Second, he had to throw short. With the defensive backs doing a good job of tackling, it worked.

There is no question Urlacher was missed, but the defense is accustomed to playing without stars. At some point each of the previous five seasons, the Bears had to deal with the loss of safety Mike Brown. They also were forced to play without tackle Tommie Harris in their march to Super Bowl XLI.

2. In a perfect world, the Bears figured they might get some use out of Johnny Knox, the fifth-round pick from Abilene Christian, as a slot receiver. The club took the smart approach with him and kept it simple in training camp, asking him to just learn one position. The hope was he wouldn't be overloaded like Earl Bennett was last season when he was asked to learn all three positions at one time. Bennett wound up barely seeing the field because the coaches couldn't trust him. That's clearly not the case with Knox, who had a team-high six receptions for 70 yards and a touchdown. After two games, he leads the team with 152 receiving yards. To put that in perspective, last season's starting wide receivers Devin Hester and Rashied Davis each needed five games to amass that many yards.

The Bears had strong feelings for Knox. The area scout Chris Ballard knows Abilene Christian, the Division II program that also produced free safety Danieal Manning, well. Ballard coached in the Lone Star Conference previously at Texas A&M-Kingsville. He knows the coaches in the league and he sees the players frequently. When Knox went from an unknown to running a sub-4.3 40-yard dash at the combine, it only strengthened the Bears' belief in him. Some clubs viewed him as a project because he had spent two years at Tyler Junior College, but the Bears believed with his speed he could contribute quickly.

3. Knox's development looks like it might keep Devin Aromashodu on the bench for a while. Aromashodu won the No. 3 receiving job in preseason and became a favorite target of Jay Cutler quickly. But a pulled quad muscle sidelined him for the opener. Knox had a 68-yard reception at Green Bay, and the coaching staff wasn't about to send him to the sideline. Now, Aromashodu might have to bide his time because the offense hasn't shown much in the way of four-receiver sets, and Rashied Davis' special teams ability will keep him active on game days. When position coach Darryl Drake joked about Wally Pipp and Lou Gehrig, well, he wasn't really joking. Of course, Aromashodu can't exactly play the role of Pipp seeing as his next regular-season game in a Bears' uniform will be his first.

The expected starting lineup changes for the Bears are official, or as official as they can be until the defense takes the field.

Nick Roach will start at strong-side linebacker in place of Pisa Tinoisamoa, who is week-to-week with a sprained right knee.

Danieal Manning will make his 29th career start at free safety, taking over for Kevin Payne at the position.

Zack Bowman will make his first career start at right cornerback.

Hunter Hillenmeyer is stepping in for Brian Urlacher at middle linebacker.

For Pittsburgh, inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons will start. He missed the opener with a high ankle sprain, and reportedly tweaked it during the week in practice.

Two hours before kickoff, the CBS analyst Phil Simms was venting. He can't believe the scrutiny Jay Cutler has been under since his clunker of a debut with the Bears last Sunday at Green Bay.

Simms is here at Soldier Field to broadcast the game on Ch. 2 with Jim Nantz, the network's No. 1 crew. After watching tape of Cutler's four-interception performance during the week, Simms knew the Bears' new quarterback would come under fire. He's surprised at the level of criticism, which included Mike Martz and Jim Mora Sr. this past week firing on Cutler for his demeanor in a postgame press conference.

"Sure, I can believe it,'' Simms said. ``It's the reality of the NFL now. It might be a little higher here in Chicago right now, or a little more of a subject because you're reminded every day in this city about the history of quarterbacks. But really it is just commonplace now for NFL quarterbacks. Hate 'em from Day 1 if they don't win and throw all touchdowns and no interceptions.

"The critical comments, the overanalyzation of everything, Week 1, there is no other way to describe it except that it is out of control. That's all I can say. All I am reading is body language, `I can see this,' or `I can see that,' 'I can just tell.' I'm telling you, I wish I could go on and do the game today and do commentary on that because it is absurd.''

Simms doesn't see this being an issue for Cutler moving forward, but he also wasn't predicting an easy road this afternoon against the Super Bowl champions.

"The players don't listen don't listen to all the talk radio, read all the articles and watch ESPN around the clock where we have 40 guys analyzing every throw Jay Cutler makes,'' Simms said. "If I have to hear one more time, `Oh, you don't throw across the field.' That's another cliche that needs to be blown up because Jay Cutler has thrown across his body 300 times already in his career and he has hit about 100 big plays out of it. Is he going to make mistakes? Sure.


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The Chicago Park District completed a complete re-sodding of Soldier Field on Wednesday after two preseason games, a handful of prep games and two U2 concerts over the past month.

Promises for a beautiful field were not met. I'm not sure how it will look on television sets, but from my perch in the press box at the five-yard line in the Southeast corner of the stadium, it doesn't look too good. It's very apparent that a sod job has been done. There are a handful of workers surveying the turf and players are beginning to trickle out on the field. They did paint the "C" in the right spot at midfield this time. It was clear before the last preseason game vs. Cleveland that the "C" was initially drawn in the wrong spot.

Tight end Desmond Clark ripped the surface in his blog two weeks ago. Players have made it clear they've never approved of the surface. I can't say how it will be from a performance standpoint. It might look bad and actually perform well. From a visual standpoint, probably not what the Bears were hoping their home turf would look like.

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The 2009 NFL schedule was released April 14, 12 days after the Bears completed their trade with the Denver Broncos to acquire quarterback Jay Cutler, a move that sparked tremendous expectations for the team.

The season opener at Green Bay followed by the home opener this afternoon with the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers looked like a formidable start for all those not sipping the Kool Aid. Now, after a rough loss at Lambeau Field that has the Bears making four changes in the starting lineup on defense, two necessitated by injuries, the Bears know how important it is to avoid an 0-2 start. A loss to the Steelers could put the Bears two behind the Packers and fellow NFC North foe Minnesota. Green Bay hosts Cincinnati (0-1) and the Vikings, which also won their opener, are at Detroit (0-1) where the Lions will try to avoid their 19th straight defeat.

The statistics are daunting as well. Three of the 10 teams that started 0-2 last season--Miami, Minnesota and San Diego--reached the playoffs. But that kind of success is rare. Since 2000, nine of the 78 teams that started 0-2 reached the postseason (11.5 percent). Since the league went to a 16-game schedule in 1978, 30 teams that have started 0-2 made the playoffs, including three Super Bowl winners (1993 Dallas, 2001 New England and 2007 New York Giants). That's one a year. Finally, the Bears, the cornerstone franchise of the league, have never made the playoffs after an 0-2 start. Add in the fact that next week's game is at Seattle where the Bears are 1-4 all-time with their last win coming in 1976, the first year of existence for the expansion Seahawks, and this game takes on an added significance if you believe in looking ahead.

Enough with the numbers. Let's get to it. What are keys for the Bears to be successful?

1. The Steelers have been getting some heat for some time. Why don't they run the football more? What happened to the fullback? The fact is, Bruce Arians runs a passing offense that suits his personnel. But after failing to generate any kind of ground game in the opener, the Steelers are going to try to establish success early vs. the Bears. They flat ran over them the last time the teams played in 2005. That was a different offensive line with a different back running behind it in Jerome Bettis. This line outweighs the Bears' front by an average of 47 pounds. The Bears have to stop the run because if Pittsburgh is two-dimensional, Ben Roethlisberger will be very difficult to stop.

2. Be like Hunter. It will be interesting to see if there are subtle differences in the scheme with Hunter Hillenmeyer replacing Brian Urlacher at middle linebacker. He knows he can't try to be like Brian. He's not that player. I detailed here for the National Football Post how the change could affect the Bears when it comes to the blitz. The good news for the Bears is Hillenmeyer is probably a better middle linebacker than he is a strong-side linebacker, the position he started at for most of four seasons. The blitz will be key because the Steelers use a spread attack that forces the linemen to play in space. There will be opportunities to pressure Roethlisberger.

3. Safety dance. Lovie Smith was itching to get Danieal Manning in at free safety before training camp started. A pulled hamstring delayed that move. Now, Manning is in position. It's the 18th change in starting free safeties since Smith came on board in 2004. There have been 15 changes at strong safety. Hey, the Bears finally found a position to switch more often than starting quarterback. There is a chart of all the turnover during Smith's era here. Manning needs to curtail some of the glaring assignment errors that have marked his time at the position in the past. The wide open touchdown by Andre Johnson in the season finale last year at Houston comes to mind. The issue here is the team didn't use him at safety once during the offseason. He missed significant time in training camp with a pulled hamstring and he'll be going off classroom instruction more than anything else.

Two changes in the Bears' starting lineup on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers will be necessitated by injury.

Two more are part of coach Lovie Smith's plan to revamp the secondary, which ranked 30th in the league last season vs. the pass, and surrendered the game-winning 50-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to a wide open Greg Jennings last week at Green Bay.

Danieal Manning has been moved into the starting free safety position, a move Smith tried to make the week before training camp before Manning's pesky hamstring injury foiled those plans. But when Kevin Payne bit on a play fake by Rodgers and abandoned his spot in the deep post to let Jennings go uncontested after cornerback Nathan Vasher slipped, well, most figured something was coming. That's because change isn't really inevitable in the Bears' secondary as it is habitual. This marks the 18th change the Bears have made at free safety in Smith's tenure, a span of 82 games.

"I'm excited,'' Manning said. "It's a great opportunity. I'm quite sure they're going to throw deep a lot, especially me coming back from a hammy injury, they're going to try to go deep."

Manning is the most athletic of the defensive backs, and Smith believes the second-round pick from 2006 has made great strides since being moved into the nickel role last season. Manning has the best range of any safety, and is playing with more instincts now. He sacked Rodgers for a safety at Green Bay. Payne goes to the sideline and rookie sixth-round draft pick Al Afalava will remain the starter at strong safety. When he started last week at Green Bay, that marked the 15th change in starting strong safeties since 2004.

The Bears announced on Thursday that Zack Bowman would take over at cornerback for Vasher. Injuries will sideline middle linebacker Brian Urlacher and strong-side linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa. Hunter Hillenmeyer replaces Urlacher and Nick Roach is expected to start in Tinoisamoa's spot, however he will share reps with Jamar Williams. What happens in the nickel package remains to be seen. Payne could enter the game as the free safety and Manning could slide to nickel, or it could open the door for Corey Graham to get on the field as the nickel.

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If the Bears defensive backs have that feeling like they wish their heads were on swivels come Sunday afternoon, they can thank their own wide receivers coach.

It was Darryl Drake who helped mold Ward into the player he is today, one of the most ferocious downfield blockers the league has known for the last two decades, while at Georgia.

"The player you see out on the field today has a lot to do with coach Drake,'' Ward told the Sun-Times. "He motivated me. I got recruited as a quarterback and I didn't know anything about wideout. I played two years under him and all and all, he taught me the game itself, how to block, how to be a complete player and I owe it all to him.''

The two remain close and have already talked about the Bears' meeting with Pittsburgh at Soldier Field.

"When I got him,'' Drake said. "He was a 163-pound wide receiver. That kid could have been [Troy] Polamalu too. One of the best high school safeties I've ever seen.''

The defensive backs know they need to be on the lookout. Just because Ward has a rule named after himself now--the Hines Ward rule--doesn't mean he's not going to be seeking to knock someone sideways. The NFL has cracked down on blindside blocks, the kind he specializes in. Now, a blindside block with the helmet, forearm or shoulder in the head or neck area of the defender is a penalty and will likely draw a fine.

``You're going to be aware of someone when they make rules out there for him,'' said cornerback Zack Bowman, who will be making his first career start. ``He can lay some hits. Look at what happened to Keith Rivers last year. You always have to respect a guy like Hines Ward. He can catch, run good routes, and he can also block. You always have to respect a guy like that.''

When Lovie Smith wants to establish whether or not a team has toughness, that is the area he looks at.


Bears

Full participation

S Al Afalava (shoulder, limited on Wednesday)
DT Tommie Harris (knee, limited on Wednesday)

Limited participation

DE Mark Anderson (toe, out Wednesday)
S Danieal Manning (back, out Wednesday)
LG Frank Omiyale (ankle, limited on Wednesday)

Did not participate

TE Desmond Clark (cracked rib)
LB Pisa Tinoisamoa (knee)


Pittsburgh Steelers

Limited participation

ILB Lawrence Timmons (ankle, limited on Wednesday)

Did not participate
S Troy Polamalu (knee, out on Wednesday)
WR Limas Sweed (foot, not on report on Wednesday)

The Bears will not wait for Trumaine McBride to recover from a sprained right knee.

The veteran, who had the second-most special teams reps on the team last season, was waived/injured today, the club announced, to make room for cornerback DeAngelo Smith, who they claimed off waivers from the Cleveland Browns.

A league source said the Bears are seeking to make an injury settlement with McBride, who will be out four to six weeks.

Smith is the second ex-Browns corner the Bears will kick the tires on. They signed veteran Rod Hood at the end of preseason after Cleveland cut him.

Bears begin healing process

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Injuries certainly piled up in the opener at Green Bay, but the Bears made a step in the healing practice this afternoon.

They have just taken the practice field and nickel cornerback Danieal Manning (back) and defensive end Mark Anderson (toe) have returned to action in what is expected to be limited duty. That is a positive sign that they will be available Sunday against Pittsburgh. Manning took a shot from linebacker Lance Briggs at Green Bay when they were both closing in on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He slid to avoid the tacklers and Briggs went into Manning with full force.

Left guard Frank Omiyale (ankle) is also expected to be limited in practice, but he was on the field on Wednesday. Defensive tackle Tommie Harris (left knee) and strong safety Al Afalava (shoulder) were cleared for a full return after being limited Wednesday.


The fake punt the Bears ran that backfired in an embarrassing way on Sunday at Green Bay is still in the playbook.

Leading 12-10 early in the fourth quarter, and facing fourth-and-11 from their own 26-yard line, the Bears tried a run up the middle by running back Garrett Wolfe, who is the personal protector on punts. Long snapper Pat Mannelly had counted 12 players on the field for the Packers, the play was to see if Wolfe could pick up the first down. Otherwise, the Bears would line up and punt again after a five-yard penalty.

"He saw 12 and there was 12,'' special teams coordinator Dave Toub said. "He turns around to tell Garrett. As soon as he turned, the guy [Clay Matthews] ran off the field. He didn't see him run off the field and he still thought there were 12. It's a no-brainer if there are 12. It's a first down or you kick it again.''

Mannelly, a 12-year veteran from Duke with a sterling resume, accepted full responsibility afterward for the error. The Bears challenged the play, but officials counted just 11, noting Matthews got off the field on time after the replay review. Toub said Wolfe should have been more aware also in the pre-snap communications.

"You just have to check it,'' Toub said. "Garrett has to check it as well. He could have checked it. It's something that is a rare thing, something we talk about but not something we sit out here and practice. Garrett could see it and make a call to alert Pat."

So, if 12 Steelers are on the field when the Bears line up to punt on Sunday, look for Wolfe to get the ball again. After a re-count, of course.

Now that we have enough distance between "The Coaches Show" and Jay Cutler and four interceptions and Lambeau Field, we can get fully immersed in the preparation for Sunday's meeting with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Here are five points to consider as we start the day:

1. The Steelers have 10 days to prepare for the game having played the Thursday game last week as the defending champion, but it still might not be enough time for inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons to heal up. He sat out the Tennessee game with a high ankle sprain and tweaked it in practice on Wednesday. That's not a good sign for a defense already without strong safety Troy Polamalu, who Love Smith called their best defensive player. That's high praise considering outside linebacker James Harrison was the NFL's defensive player of the year last season. Plenty of talent all around.

2. Linebacker Tim Shaw went through his first practice with the team Wednesday after being signed to fill the roster spot created when Brian Urlacher was placed on injured reserve. He'll work toward a role on special teams after he gets acclimated to the defense. Shaw was a fifth-round by Carolina in 2007 from Penn State.

"He ran a 4.5 at the combine and he's fast,'' special teams coordinator Dave Toub said. "We liked him coming out of school as a special teams player. He's a good athlete.''

Toub is going to be challenged against the Steelers with Hunter Hillenmeyer and Nick Roach being forced into the starting lineup at linebacker. Cornerback Trumaine McBride (right knee) will be sidelined too so depth will be tested quickly, and Toub will have to juggle lineups.

3. Lovie Smith didn't leave much doubt that Zack Bowman was movin' on up in the secondary now that Charles Tillman is expected to man left cornerback by himself after splitting some time at Green Bay coming off back surgery. Tillman was not listed on the initial injury report on Wednesday. Bowman is going to chew up playing time from Nathan Vasher on the other side if not take it all together, a move that has been anticipated since training camp when Smith said he was holding two starting spots for Tillman and Bowman.

The Bears missed out today when they put in a waiver claim for defensive end Turk McBride, a former second-round draft pick of the Kansas City Chiefs.

McBride, who didn't fit the Chiefs' new 3-4 scheme, was cut loose and the Bears turned out to be one of three teams that placed a claim for him. He was awarded to the Detroit Lions, who are first in the waiver system by virtue of their 0-16 season last year. The waiver system will be based on current standings after Week 3. The Bears wouldn't have gotten McBride had Detroit not been involved, any way, as the Jacksonville Jaguars also put in a claim for him, and were ahead of the Bears.

Mike Tomlin entered the NFL as a 29-year-old defensive backs coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2001, hired by Tony Dungy at the same time Lovie Smith was heading out the door to become the defensive coordinator in St. Louis.

Smith was on the fast track to becoming the coach of the Bears, and Tomlin was a fast riser, as well, stopping in Minnesota as defensive coordinator in 2006 after five seasons with the Bucs, and then being tabbed by the Rooney family in 2007 as only the third coach in franchise history since 1969. Tomlin cut his teeth in the league on the Tampa Two scheme. It's what he implemented in one season with the Vikings, too, a defense now run by ex-Bear Leslie Frazier.

But when Tomlin arrived in Pittsburgh, he assessed his roster of players and coaches, and knew he was better using the 3-4 scheme in place that was being run by Dick LeBeau. Another Lombardi Trophy later for the Steelers, he made the right decision. Tomlin was asked on a conference call today about the Tampa Two and whether or not its losing popularity. Can you even call it the Tampa Two any more? Raheem Morris put an end to it with the Bucs when he hired Jim Bates as defensive coordinator.

"I don't know that that defensive philosophy or approach will ever go out of style,'' Tomlin said. "Things kind of moves in cycles in the NFL and I think people are gravitating toward the 3-4 defense at this present time, but there is nothing broken with that system. It's tried and tested. It requires a great deal of attention to detail and discipline, and if you're committed to it, no question you can play top quality football with it.''

The Bears had a solid defensive effort in the opener at Green Bay, allowing only 227 yards and getting four sacks. So the subject was taken a step further with Tomlin. If he was transplanted to a new city tomorrow and allowed to build his program from scratch, the ground up, what defensive scheme would he put in place?

Lovie Smith said he has not spoken to his former boss Mike Martz, who lobbied hard for Smith to get a head-coaching job at the end of the 2003 season, about the remarks Martz made Monday night on NFL Network about Jay Cutler.

Martz and Jim Mora Sr., on the debut episode of "The Coaches Show'' stirred the pot when they were critical of Cutler in his postgame press conference Sunday night at Lambeau Field. Cutler didn't do anything out of the ordinary, he's typically short with media, especially in postgame settings.

"I'm trying to get ready for Pittsburgh,'' Smith said when asked if he had spoken with Martz. "I'm talking to my wife, a little bit, right now. Everyone else is a little bit lower on my list."

Smith was familiar with the comments made by Smith and Mora, who said that someone in the organization needed to talk to Cutler, that Cutler was not being accountable and that Cutler needed to understand he represented the entire organization.

"First off, you have to look at the setting a little bit,'' Smith said. "We had just come off of a tough loss to one of our rivals. I looked at Jay's comments that he made, and it's a little disappointing especially coming from a couple of former coaches to make those type of comments about Jay. Everyone that has been around him, his teammates, former coaches, they know what type of player he is, what type of person he is.

They can't say Jay Cutler didn't put his best face forward this afternoon when he walked into the media room at Halas Hall and addressed the Bears' disappointing 21-15 defeat Sunday night at Lambeau Field, one of the worst performances of his career from the standpoint that he throw four interceptions. We're not going to interpret any words or slice up any quotes or spin this, we'll just put out parts of what said, particularly in relation to the game and the fallout from the game.

They said on TV you were nervous before the game, was that the case?

"I think everyone's nervous before the game. If you're not nervous, it means you don't care about it. It's probably time to hang it up. I think that whole locker room was nervous. Everyone had a few butterflies. It was the first game. It was the kick off of the season. It was a good nervous though."

So you were not more nervous than a typical game?

"No, not at all."

Were you satisfied with your composure during the game?

"Throwing four picks, it's tough. There's a lot of ups and downs. Normally in a game there are a lot of ups and downs. But the way we were coming on and off the field, I thought we did a good job of bouncing back. Even whenever I put the defense in a hole the way we did, the guys bounced back, made some plays and gave us a chance at the end."

Do you have to balance expectations for the receivers knowing they are young and inexperienced?

"We're young. That's no excuse, though. They know what to do. We practice it all week. We go over it. They know exactly what they're doing, and I thought they did a great job on Sunday for us. We'll continue to get better and better with those guys and I'll get better too."

What do you make of the analysis of everything from your facial expressions to sideline demeanor and is that expected?

"You expect it, and when you lose that stuff gets magnified even more. If we win that ballgame and I play a little bit better, it's going to be a lot better outcome. I'm sure some of the columns are going to be a little more positive. When you throw picks, you're going to get criticized, you're going to get picked apart a little bit, and that's as expected."

The Bears finally added fourth running back after losing veteran Kevin Jones to a season-ending ankle injury at the end of the preseason.

They have signed running back Kahlil Bell to the practice squad, trimming Johan Asiata to make room for him.

Bell joined the Minnesota Vikings as an undrafted free agent from UCLA, where he rushed for 1,741 yards in a four-year career.

The players will get back to work this morning in preparation for Sunday's home opener with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Just like that the focus shifts from Brian Urlacher being lost for the season, and the disappointment of a 20-15 loss at Lambeau Field, to the next opponent. A couple quick thoughts as we prepare to start the day:

*** Could there be 80 passes in this game? The Pittsburgh Steelers aren't a run-oriented team, and they have not been one for some time. They throw to get the lead and then try to grind opponents down. With the Bears facing issues in the secondary, will Ben Roethlisberger be called on to chuck it more than 40 times? If so, the Bears could have a big day rushing the passer. The Steelers' line has some real issues, and you noticed the Rod Marinelli difference after about, oh, one quarter up at Green Bay.

*** Orlando Pace will need to play better, and the Steelers will be bringing the heat at Jay Cutler with their linebackers. It's fair to say Pittsburgh will miss all-pro strong safety Troy Polamalu more than the Bears will miss Urlacher though. Polamalu keys so much of what they do in terms of blitzing and disguising coverages.

*** Cutler needs to involve Matt Forte as a receiver this week. Forte is one of the better backs in the league at catching the ball. An eight-yard gain to Forte is sometimes better than taking a shot downfield. Cutler usually sees the field very well.

*** Let's see if tight end Greg Olsen shows up this week. His much ballyhooed promotion to the starting lineup fizzled at Green Bay, and the Bears will likely be without Desmond Clark, who announced on his radio show Tuesday night that he has a cracked rib. We tuned in to "Sportsmanlike Conduct" on Voice of America Sports and it was a good listen. While perusing the lineups at VOA, I learned there is another show hosted by Dave "The Hammer" Schultz, and I'm all about The Hammer, who some would argue committed a lot of unsportsmanlike conduct.

Tight end Desmond Clark will have to heal from a cracked rib before he can get back on the field for the Bears.

Clark was injured at the end of a 23-yard catch in the third quarter Sunday night at Lambeau Field when he was hit from behind by reserve safety Aaron Rouse. Clark was taken to a hospital in Green Bay before returning to the stadium. He said on Monday that he was fine, but this is the kind of injury that could keep him on the sideline for a while. The Bears are fortunate because they were one of six teams to open the season with four tight ends, and Michael Gaines, who was inactive at Green Bay, will be able to fill in. Kellen Davis, the second-year player from Michigan State, will have to step up also.

"I'm sore right now,'' Clark said on his radio show on Voice America Sports. "It hurts. I'm grimacing when I move.''

At this point, it's fair to wonder if Lovie Smith shares the same viewpoints as his mentors.

Tony Dungy stepped out this spring and was critical of Jay Cutler's leadership ability, and now Mike Martz, another close friend to Smith who lobbied hard for him to get a head coaching job, has piled on.

Martz and Jim Mora Sr. made pointed remarks about Cutler's postgame press conference Sunday night at Lambeau Field after he threw a career-high four interceptions in a 21-15 loss to the Green Bay Packers. The Bears were 0-for-3 in the red zone and spoiled an all-around defensive effort. Cutler strung together a series of cliches and said miscommunications were partly to blame for the turnovers.

"When I saw that postgame press conference last night, I thought he looked completely immature,'' Mora said on the premier of The Head Coaches on NFL Network Monday night. "He acted like he didn't even care."

What's much more disturbing from the Bears' standpoint, however, is the criticism that came from Martz, who suggests the team is not handling him properly.

"He just doesn't get it,'' Martz said. "He doesn't understand that he represents a great head coach and the rest of those players on that team ... somebody needs to talk to him."

Smith remains close to Dungy and Martz both. It's difficult to imagine they would be critical of the marquee addition to the organization--the replacement for Sid Luckman six decades later--without knowing Smith would be understanding and accepting of their evaluations. Dungy called Cutler's makeup into question before.

"We'll see about his maturity level,'' Dungy said in a teleconference announcing his addition to NBC's coverage in early June. "That's what I would question. And some of the things that happened leading to him leaving Denver ... that would concern me as a head coach. He can make all of the throws, but quarterbacking is much more than just making throws."

Any time a veteran player suffers an injury that wipes out virtually an entire season, and he's on the wrong side of 30, it's worth examining the financial impact moving forward.

No one is suggesting Brian Urlacher, who is 31, is in danger because of his salary. But the middle linebacker received a unique one-year contract extension last summer. I say unique because it's rare for a player to have one year tacked on to his contract when still has four years remaining on his current contract. That's what happened though, and it was a tense few months as Urlacher dug in his heels and the organization wondered exactly what path it was headed down with the face of the franchise.

In the end, Urlacher received an $18 million, one-year extension through 2012 with $6 million guaranteed in the form of a signing bonus. Let's take a look at his remaining base salaries:

Age 31 2009 $5.625 million
Age 32 2010 $6.825 million
Age 33 2011 $8.025 million
Age 34 2012 $7.5 million

That's $27.975 million, including the pay he will receive this season. In today's NFL, that's in line with what elite veterans receive. Original negotiations for Urlacher last spring offered him the signing bonus, the $7.5 million in base pay for 2012, and then $1 million in the form of a likely to be earned bonus each season from 2008 through 2011. Urlacher just had to play in 85 percent of the defensive snaps each season to trigger the bonus. Negotiations dragged on, Urlacher threatened to miss minicamp (he didn't) and training camp. It didn't come to that as the team acquiesced in mid-July and simply tacked an extra $1 million on each season without a play-time provision. Urlacher was all smiles, the club was relieved and life moved on.

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The question has come in multiple e-mails, via Twitter, text message and personal e-mails.

Why can't Brian Urlacher heal up a little after surgery this morning, get a cast put on his right wrist and return to action in a month or so? It's a good question, and a fair question.

Cornerback Nathan Vasher and linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer both underwent wrist surgeries last season and returned to action. Vasher took a little longer than anyone expected, but still 1 1/2 months would be far better than losing the middle linebacker for the season. Heck, having him return for the second half of the season would be a huge boost. But it's not possible after he was placed on season-ending injured reserve to make room for Tim Shaw, who agreed to terms on a one-year contract and will sign the deal Tuesday pending a physical.

The reason Urlacher was placed on IR is because of the bone he injured. He dislocated the lunate bone, according to the Bears, and that is the bone that is at the center of the wrist, at the middle of the eight bones. It holds the wrist together, and the risk in not treating the injury immediately, or coming back before the injury is completely healed is significant. It could lead to permanent nerve damage and that could affect Urlacher's hand long term.


As expected, the Bears have agreed to terms on a one-year contract with linebacker Tim Shaw. It is conditional on him passing a physical.

Brian Urlacher has been placed on injured reserve. It's unknown if this will prevent the team from pursuing free agent Derrick Brooks any further.

"Derrick's been a great player for a long time in the league," said coach Lovie Smith, who was Brooks' position coach in Tampa Bay. "He's a linebacker who's available. We're looking at all available players right now. Derrick would be a part of that. There's no more than that right now. Looking at everyone that's out there available."

The Bears will sign linebacker Tim Shaw to a one-year contract provided he passes a physical, which he is expected to do, a league source told the Sun-Times.

Shaw, a fifth-round pick of the Carolina Panthers in 2007 from Penn State, is at least part of the solution for the Bears, who found out this morning that middle linebacker Brian Urlacher will miss the remainder of the season following surgery on his right wrist. Strong-side linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa is also out about a month, maybe a little more, with a right knee sprain. The Bears could need special teams help as well with Trumaine McBride signed.

If the Bears deem it necessary to go out and find some help on special teams, the club is believed to be at least considering veteran Khary Campbell, who was cut loose by the Houston Texans at the end of the summer.

Campbell was the leading special teams player for the Washington Redskins for the last five seasons, and fits what the Bears seek in a linebacker as he's a little undersized at 6-2, 224 pounds. Campbell can run, and the Bears might view him as a better backup at multiple positions on the defense than Darrell McClover, who they have had before. Of course, McClover knows the system, knows the coaches and could fit in seamlessly after a two-week stint during preseason.

It will be a trying press conference for coach Lovie Smith this afternoon.

ESPN has announced it will carry the presser live on ESPN2 at 3:45 p.m. Smith will address the fact that middle linebacker Brian Urlacher will miss the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery to repair his dislocated right wrist this morning. The Bears have a myriad of other injuries, as well, with strong-side linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa expected to be out about a month. That means Hunter Hillenmeyer and Nick Roach will be forced to step in.

It's not an ideal situation and certainly Smith will be tested as a defensive coordinator. The Bears could consider working to bring in veteran linebacker Derrick Brooks, who would be interested in playing for them, his agent Roosevelt Barnes told the Sun-Times. It's not known what kind of shape Brooks is in, but Barnes said he has been training as if he will play this season. Scout.com reported that the Bears could consider Tim Shaw, who was in Jacksonville in preseason and played at Penn State. Surely, there are many other options and what the Bears do could also depend on how they believe they need to address special teams. Veteran Zach Thomas is on the street, but a source said he suffered an injury in training camp with Kansas City and he called it an "ongoing issue.''


Just rolled in from Green Bay and want to get some reaction to the wild season-opening loss up. I won't call it rapid reaction because nothing after the three-plus hour commute back from Lambeau Field is going to be rapid, but hopefully it will make a little sense. We can continue the discussion through the day. For starters, Jay Cutler Twittered about two hours ago, maybe when I was winding my way through Sheboygan, "Rough start to 2009 season. 15 games left, plenty of time left. We will get better, I promise you that." Sounds just about like what he said in his press conference afterward, verbatim. On to our 10 points before the head meets the pillow:

1. Cutler couldn't have been much worse. The guy who drew rave reviews in preseason for making plays on the run and being accurate when he was on the move was, well, terrible. As veteran Packers reporter Tom Silverstein said after the game, "Brett Favre was back.'' He made those types of interceptions. Just didn't look to play with much poise, especially when the game was so close. It's one thing to make bad decisions trailing big. The Bears were never trailing big.

2. Middle screen? The middle screen to Matt Forte inside the 10-yard line begged the question, how about throw the ball in the end zone? You know, sort of like John Shoop got beat up for three-yard passes on third--and-eight. Eight yards from the goalline, throw the ball in the end zone. Ron Turner called it a great play by defensive lineman Johnny Jolly. I agree. The call left plenty to be desired too.

3. Thought the defense played hard and fast. They were really flying around, and the pass rush was alive (although we're guessing Allen Barbre isn't the right tackle much longer). But Rodgers was sacked four times and he didn't get forced into the bad picks. Granted, Rodgers has far superior receivers and he's worked with his guys longer.

4. While we're on the subject of the defense, which played well enough to win (67-yard interception return to the one-yard line set up the Packers' only touchdown before the 50-yard Greg Jennings bomb), it still has to hold Green Bay at the end. The Packers got the ball on their own 28 with 2:35 to play and the defense needed a stop to win the game. Didn't happen.

5. Greg Olsen? So much for Olsen breaking out, at least in the opener. Press box statistics show he was targeted six times and had just one catch. There was definitely one drop too. Without proven threats outside, defenses are going to be able to pay attention to him.

GREEN BAY, Wis.--The Bears announced that Charles Tillman will be active and is expected to start at left cornerback.

Tillman warmed up on the field two hours before the game with Lance Briggs, and had a short visit with Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

The surprise is that Zack Bowman, who the Bears raved about all spring and summer, has not supplanted veteran Nathan Vasher at right cornerback. Coach Lovie Smith hinted strongly during training camp that the Bears were holding starting spots for Tillman and Bowman while they were injured, but Vasher gets the nod.

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I'm going to point the car north toward Green Bay here very soon and make good use of cruise control. No need to catch the attention of Wisconsin's version of Ponch and John. Before I push off, let's go over what I believe are some keys to the game for the Bears:

1. Pass rush. We can just cement this one atop the list just about every week. The Bears have to be able to get after the quarterback, Aaron Rodgers in this instance, with their down linemen. Otherwise, the Tampa Two scheme is really compromised. Say you want to blitz Rodgers? You better get there. His passer rating was over 107 last season vs. the blitz. That's a real roll of the dice.

2. Matt Forte. The quickest way to take what will be an energized Lambeau Field crowd out of the game will be a nice, long drive. Jay Cutler has been the focus ever since the Bears traded for him back on April 2, but Ron Turner will show you quickly that the Bears, indeed, got off the bus in Green Bay running.

3. Wide receivers. I broke it down in Saturday's paper how the Bears' wide receivers totaled just seven receptions in two games vs. the Packers last season. Charles Woodson and Al Harris simply manhandled the Bears' receivers. They're going to need to make some plays for Cutler, particularly on third downs. They don't have to have huge games--we'll see very quickly that Greg Olsen is probably his go-to target--but they have to make plays at key junctures.

4. Weak lead. That is the play Ryan Grant ran for huge chunks of yardage in the game at Lambeau Field last season. He was getting 10 yards before a defender would be near him. Basically, it's a run play that is designed to let the back pick his hole. Grant runs along the line, looks for one player to be out of position, and hits it upfield. The Bears must maintain gap integrity, or he will gash them again. If the Packers are running the ball, Rodgers will be even more difficult to stop.

5. Special teams. The Bears have been one of the best units in the league since Dave Toub arrived. The Packers traditionally have struggled, but they have improved of late. Devin Hester had a punt return for a touchdown in his first game at Lambeau Field. It sure would be a boost for the Bears if they can win the battle of field position with special teams.

Charles Tillman will be questionable for Sunday's game at Green Bay when the injury report is released later this afternoon.

Coach Lovie Smith said that the decision will rest in the hands of medical people, but at this point, two days before the start of the season, you would have to imagine a decision has been made. Tillman had back surgery in July, and just returned to the practice field on Monday. He completed his fourth practice this afternoon, and he and fellow cornerback Zack Bowman were the last two players on the fields behind Halas Hall.

"Either way,'' Smith said when asked if he didn't know or just didn't want to say. "What difference does it matter? Don't want to say, don't have to say, what I have to say is give you a questionable for him and that's what I'm saying right now and why would I want to say anymore.''

Tillman, well coached on the matter, said his gut feeling is ... what else? Fifty-fifty.

"I'm in the paper all week long,'' Tillman said. "What the hell?''

Tillman said the difference today as opposed to earlier in the week is he is no longer sore.

"It's really not about me pushing them to make me play,'' he said. "They're going to make their decision and the doctor is going to make his decision regardless of what I say or what I do. They have the green light to whatever it is I need to do. I'm just prepared if I get it, prepared if I don't get it. That's why I've been saying 50-50 all week.''

Did Lovie Smith tip his hand on the plan for Sunday night at Green Bay?

We're going to have to wait until we get to Lambeau Field to find the answer, but Smith at least seemed to indicate that veteran cornerback Charles Tillman will be on the field against the Packers.

Smith was asked how tough it has been to prepare the secondary through what has been a series of injuries. Tillman didn't return to practice until Monday after missing all of the preseason, training camp and the majority of the offseason program as he had back and shoulder surgeries. Cornerback Zack Bowman missed most of camp and three preseason games with a pulled hamstring. Projected free safety and nickel back Danieal Manning was in and out with a hamstring pull, and now looks like he'll just play the nickel, at least to start the season.

"Well, I think it is a good thing though because now we have all of the players that we started training camp hoping would be on the field, we have for our first game,'' Smith said in answer to the question. "That's a good thing. Players tell you who should start, who should dress. We have a pretty good idea of how we will play our players this week. We are confident they will play well and again we have a good group to choose from."

The Bears reached an injury settlement with rookie safety Dahna Deleston, and have waived him from injured reserve, he said.

Deleston was signed as an undrafted free agent from Connecticut with an eye toward him potentially being able to contribute on special teams.

He suffered a minor hamstring injury late in preseason, and was placed on inured reserve when final cuts were made Saturday.

The Bears were one of 21 NFL teams to freeze or lower tickets prices for 2009 (their tickets remain at the same price as 2008 seats) but the average cost of a ticket to a game is up 3.9 percent leaguewide this season.

That's due in large part to the large structure that's been erected in Arlington, Texas, Dallas Cowboys Stadium, this according to the Team Marketing Report.

The average cost of a ticket to Jerry Jones' football palace is $159.67, a figure that blows away the previous high by more than $40. New England established a previous high last year with an average ticket cost of $117.84. The Patriots remain at that price this season. The Bears come in with the fourth-most expensive average ticket in the league at $88.33, nudged out of third place by the New York Giants by 30 cents. However, the Bears are the third-most expensive team for a family of four to see a game at, according to the report, at $501.33, up 3.5 percent because of changes to some concession rates.

Here is a breakdown of how the Bears fare according to the report:

Average ticket: $88.33, No. 4 in league
Average premium ticket: $312.50, No. 5 in league

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Ran down the list of Pro Bowl quarterbacks and wide receivers that the Bears face in the first eight games of the season in the print edition this morning.

Pretty impressive list.

Sept. 13 at Green Bay Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings, Donald Driver (3)
Sept. 20 Pittsburgh Ben Roethlisberger (1), Santonio Holmes, Hines Ward (4)
Sept. 27 at Seattle Matt Hasselbeck (3), T.J. Houshmandzadeh (1)
Oct. 4 Detroit Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson
Oct. 18 at Atlanta Matt Ryan, Roddy White (1)
Oct. 25 at Cincinnati Carson Palmer (2), Chad Ochocinco (5), Laveranues Coles (1)
Nov. 1 Cleveland TBA, Braylon Edwards (1)
Nov. 7 Arizona Kurt Warner (4), Larry Fitzgerald (3), Anquan Boldin (3)

(Pro Bowl appearances in parentheses)

You have to figure Rodgers and Ryan both have all-star games ahead of them as brightly as they began their careers last season. I think you could put together a case for the Packers presenting the most challenging group, too. Cornerback Charles Tillman was asked Monday if the Packers' receivers are among the best in the league.

"Driver and who was the other one, Jennings, Greg Jennings,'' Tillman said. "They get a lot of YAC after the catch. I think they do a great job of catching the ball and going north and south. They don't dance around. They go north and south. They do a good job of turning up the field and getting as much yardage as they possibly can. So we've definitely got our hands full.''

Tillman, who is no lock to play in the game, pointed out that Rodgers bring a different dimension to the Green Bay offense than Favre did. He's less prone to errors and threw just 13 interceptions last season in 536 attempts. Only one quarterback, Peyton Manning, had more attempts (555) and less interceptions (12).

The Bears will fill out their practice squad by signing offensive tackle Jim Marten.

A third-round pick from Boston College in 2007 by the Dallas Cowboys, Marten was claimed off waivers last season by the Oakland Raiders last season and was inactive for 14 games before appearing in the season finale on special teams. The Bears have been watching Marten for a while as the club put in a failed waiver claim for Marten a year ago.

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The Soldier Field playing surface looked lousy last Thursday night when the Bears hosted the Cleveland Browns in the preseason finale, and the view from high above the turf in the press box was not deceiving.

It looked bad from the players' perspective, too, but that is nothing new.

Veteran tight end Desmond Clark, entering his seventh year playing home games at Soldier Field, was critical of the field in his blog in an entry titled "Our field is terrible.''

"Let me get all of my negative energy out first. Did you guys take a good look at our field. If you did you had to be disgusted. Lets take a look at some of the things before I make my statement about how I feel. Just assume you didnt read the title of this blog. Last week we played on a field that was immaculate in Denver. We have only played one game at Soldier Field. We are basically the biggest market in the league and I say that because New York is split between two teams. Green Bay has a nice playing surface. It was not always this way until the last couple of years when they revamped it by adding a synthetic grass that is woven in with the real grass. Some of our opponents comments: "yall play on a cow pasture" "this is the [worst] field in the league" "what the hell is going on with this field". These are a few comments that come to mind. What the hell is the park distict of Chi cgo doing when it comes to taking care of this field. They have to resod the whole field before we play Pittsburgh, which will lead to loose turf. Basically, to some it up in a sentence, we have one of the worst fields in the NFL and there are no excuses why the Chicago Bears, of all teams, should have to play on such a bad surface. Thank God preseason is over and here we come Green Bay. Sunday night football, couldnt think of a greater way to start the season"

I say this is nothing new because Bears players hammered the Soldier Field playing surface last year. In a bi-annual survey conducted by the NFL Players Association, 52 Bears players responded and they ranked Soldier Field as the worst natural grass surface in the league. Overall, the leaguewide survey conducted during team meetings between September and November named Soldier Field the fourth-worst grass playing field, ahead of only Pittsburgh, Oakland and Miami.

Teams are not permitted to begin forming eight-man practice squads until 11 a.m., but there are a few candidates among the Bears' cuts that could return.

A league souce said that center Donivan Raiola will likley be signed to the practice squad. The Bears signed him in August, and with eight linemen on the 53-man roster they are expected to sign at least two to the practice squad if not three. The Bears carried nine linemen for most of last season, and they had two on the practice squad. Defensive end Ervin Baldwin is also expected to re-join the practice squad provided he clears waivers. Quarterback Brett Basanez is a definite possibility because he knows the system, and he performed well in the preseason victory Thursday night over Cleveland.

Here are the cuts from Saturday that are eligible for the prcatice squad. You will notice that wide receiver Brandon Rideau is not on the list.

The Bears have made it official with a series of moves today to reach the 53-man roster limit before proceeding to the start of the 2009 season. The players will get back to work with practice Monday at Halas Hall. Here are the moves reported on the team's Web site:

CB Charles Tillman was promoted from the physically unable to perform list to the active roster

RB Kevin Jones was placed on inured reserve with a torn ligament in his left ankle

DE Henry Melton was placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury

S Dahna Deleston was placed on injured reserve with a hamstring injury

Melton's ankle injury was not believed to be serious and it could be a way to stash the fourth-round pick from Texas on the squad for a year. The problem is he cannot practice while on IR so the only work he can do is in the classroom and weight room. This marks the third time in four years the Bears have placed at least one draft pick on IR prior to the opening of the season. It could be concerns about depth on the interior of the line cost him a spot as the Bears kept tackle Matt Toeaina, who right now figures to be third in the rotation at nose tackle.

Here are the official cuts:

QB Brett Basanez
FB Jason Davis
FB Will Ta'ufo,ou
WR Eric Peterman
WR Brandon Rideau
G Johan Asiata
OT Cody Balogh
G Dan Buenning
C Donovan Raiola
DE Ervin Baldwin
DE Joe Clermond
LB Marcus Freeman
LB Kevin Malast
LB Darrell McClover
LB Mike Rivera
CB Rudy Burgess
CB Rod Hood
CB Marcus Hamilton
CB Woodny Turenne

Either I missed the story online that is in Saturday's print edition, or somewhere it got lost in the shuffle on the World Wide Web. So here is the unedited version of the story that is or was to be printed in Saturday's paper:

The Bears are going to have to evaluate one of the first goals of their offseason after discovering Friday running back Kevin Jones will miss the season with a torn ligament in his left ankle.

Jones, who they were featuring Thursday against Cleveland at Soldier Field to get a little extra work in before the regular season begins, jumped into the air along the sideline and when he landed on his left foot it buckled. An MRI revealed the damage and he will undergo surgery next week. Rehabilitation is expected to take 10 months, but Jones proved he was a quick healer when he came back from a torn ACL in his right knee last summer.

While he was a luxury addition last year, Jones was headed for an expanded role as Matt Forte's primary backup when he returned with a $3.5 million, two-year contract. Adrian Peterson might have been on the bubble to make the club and now he's a lock for the 53-man roster when it's officially announced later today along with Garrett Wolfe. The Bears could seek a free agent but word around the league was they are content to roll with three backs for now.

``We were anxious to give him a lot of carries and see where he was,'' offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. ``I feel bad for him. He's had a good training camp and I know he was looking forward to getting a chance to make some plays and was excited about playing. You hate to see it.''

The question is whether or not Forte will get off the field. He rarely did last season, participating in 84 percent of the club's offensive snaps, the highest figure for a back in the league. Forte was third in the NFL with 316 rushes, and when you add in 63 receptions, he had 379 touches, most for the Bears since Walter Payton had 434 in 1984. Turner talked on multiple occasions last season about working in others, and the danger now is it will be all talk again. Forte was dogged by a toe injury late last season and the workload wore on him a little bit on his way to setting a rookie franchise record with 1,238 yards.

``It's tough,'' Forte said. ``A.P. has been playing, this is his eighth year, he knows what he's doing too. We've got Garrett too. We don't have any issues with that. We're real confident with both of them getting in the game.''

The Bears have cut linebacker Marcus Freeman, a fifth-round pick from Ohio State.

Running back Kevin Jones suffered a torn ligament in his left ankle in the first quarter of Thursday night's game at Soldier Field.

Jones has been informed that he will require surgery to repair the injury, and the rehabilitation process will take up to 10 months.

This means the veteran will be out for this season.

The Bears will release linebacker Darrell McClover, a special teams standout who was signed two weeks ago. If the team needs special teams help down the line, it's possible he could return.

The club has also informed linebacker Mike Rivera he will be released.

I expect rookie fifth-round pick Marcus Freeman to be released, but no official word on that.

An 18-yard touchdown catch from Brett Basanez Thursday night against Cleveland was too little too late for wide receiver Brandon Rideau. He was informed he will be released.

Rideau has four touchdown catches over the last two preseasons, but it looks like he has lost out to Devin Aromashodu and Rashied Davis, who are expected to make the team.

The Bears have informed veteran cornerback Rod Hood he will be released three days after the club signed him with durability concerns plaguing the defensive backfield.

This greatly increases the chances Trumaine McBride and D.J. Moore make the roster.

Check back for more soon.

The following players have been informed they will be released:

G Dan Buenning
C Donovan Raiola
FB Jason Davis
DE Joe Clermond
WR Eric Peterman
CB Rod Hood
WR Brandon Rideau
LB Kevin Malast
LB Darrell McClover
LB Mike Rivera
LB Marcus Freeman
G Johan Asiata
OT Cody Balogh
FB Will Ta'ufo'ou

Check back for updates. Names will be added to this list when they are confirmed.

The Bears have informed veteran offensive lineman Dan Buenning, who they traded for at this point last year, that he will be released.

This move likely increases the chance that seventh-round pick Lance Louis will make the team. Louis was used at left tackle during training camp and preseason but probably projects as a guard.

Choosing the 53-man roster is not an exact science.

Figuring out the practice squad, well, that is a pure guessing game. But that won't stop me from giving it a shot here. Final cuts are due to the league office by 5 p.m. on Saturday. Clubs can begin assembling an eight-man practice squad at 11 a.m. Sunday. Teams will let players now when they are waiving them that they would like to make them a priority to add to their practice squad.

Bears general manager Jerry Angelo has a history of identifying about four or five players he wants to keep the entire season, or most of the season on the practice squad. He uses the other three or four spots in a revolving manner, bringing in players for a look that might last a week to a month. Then, he filters them out and brings in new players. It allows the Bears to look at more than a dozen players over the course of the season.

Typically, he will keep two offensive linemen, at least one defensive lineman, a linebacker, a tight end and a fullback. The Bears are also expected to place a quarterback on the practice squad this season. They generally fill about five slots from within and then go out and sign players they liked heading into the draft who are cut loose elsewhere.

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My final cuts are in.

Sorry, no refunds for a lack of accuracy on this one. Got a chuckle with David Haugh from the Tribune when we e-mailed back and forth about undertaking the same project. Our selections are pretty similar, and we didn't share notes.

Here is my list, and you can find the story from the print edition here.

Quarterback (2): Jay Cutler, Caleb Hanie

The Bears will find a practice squad quarterback and it could be Brett Basanez.

Running backs/fullbacks (5): Matt Forte, Kevin Jones, Garrett Wolfe, Adrian Peterson, Jason McKie

Two weeks ago, Peterson would not have made my cut.

Wide receivers (6): Devin Hester, Earl Bennett, Devin Aromashodu, Rashied Davis, Juaquin Iglesias, Johnny Knox

I hope Brandon Rideau gets a shot somewhere because the guys does the right things, says the right things and probably can play. Draft picks who won't play block his path here.

Tight ends (3): Greg Olsen, Desmond Clark, Kellen Davis

Just didn't see enough of Michael Gaines in preseason.


Offensive line (8): Orlando Pace, Frank Omiyale, Olin Kreutz, Roberto Garza, Chris Williams, Kevin Shaffer, Josh Beekman, Dan Buenning

The Bears didn't expect to keep Lance Louis when they drafted him, although he's done plenty to stick around on the practice squad. On paper, it's the deepest line Jerry Angelo has had with the Bears.

Defensive line (10):
Alex Brown, Anthony Adams, Tommie Harris, Adewale Ogunleye, Mark Anderson, Henry Melton, Israel Idonije, Marcus Harrison, Jarron Gilbert, Matt Toeaina

If they drop down to nine here the final cut is between Melton and Toeaina. And for my money Toeaina is the player they will need more this season.

Linebackers (6): Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Pisa Tinoisamoa, Nick Roach, Jamar Williams, Hunter Hillenmeyer

Tried to find a spot for special teams man Darrell McClover but couldn't make it happen. I could be wrong. Undrafted rookie free agent Kevin Malast will get a job somewhere, even if it's just on the practice squad.

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There is throwing darts against the wall, taking a stab at something, giving it the ol' college try and taking a shot in the dark.

Somewhere amongst those exercises falls my effort to select the Bears' 53-man roster before it is selected by the men who make the decisions--Jerry Angelo, Lovie Smith and their staffs. The best guess after evaluating training camp, preseason, past history and everything else that goes into trying to enter another man's mind will appear in Thursday's edition of the Sun-Times. We'll lay it out here on Thursday for continued discussion, a much worthier topic than what you're actually looking forward to seeing in the preseason finale vs. the Cleveland Browns. Final cuts, by the way, are due to the league office by 5 p.m. Saturday.

But I'll list some bubble players here, some that made my 53 and others who didn't:

Offense

Adrian Peterson: A coach once called the veteran running back a security blanket for his ability to stick around. He doesn't do anything particularly well where he jumps out at you, but he does everything the right way and is about as reliable a player as you will find on the roster. In my estimation, a roster spot comes down to him and tight end Michael Gaines (more on that in a little bit). Peterson ran hard and ran well last Sunday in Denver, prompting one scout from another organization to inquire about what kind of guy he is. If the Bears let Peterson go, he's likely to find work elsewhere. The obvious plus to keeping a player like Peterson is his ability on special teams, but he wasn't quite as strong in that phase last season as he was in previous years.

Devin Aromashodu: From the looks of things there are three wide receiver battling for two roster spots. Yes, it strikes me as odd that the team that gets off the bus running is going to keep six wide receivers, but that's what happens when they draft three and plan to keep two--Juaquin Iglesias and Johnny Knox. Aromashodu has the least special teams value of the wide receivers on the bubble, at least based on his use in preseason. But he's a big target who Jay Cutler started referencing early in training camp before anyone knew who he was. When Aromashodu is on the field, Cutler looks his way. if the quarterbacks gets a vote, and boy we know he'd like one, he sticks.

Rashied Davis: Of the wideouts who circulate through with the first team, none got less action than Davis. He's trying to regain some momentum after a 2008 season in which he was used completely out of position by the coaching staff. Davis simply hasn't done much on offense and Cutler has not thrown a pass to him in preseason. But if you were starting to cross him off your list, he made tackles on the first two special teams plays of the game at Denver. Davis also has experience in the slot, even if Earl Bennett is getting most of the work there right now, especially in some of the packages where tight end Greg Olsen is flexed out wide.

Brandon Rideau: He opened the preseason as the No. 3 wide receiver on the depth chart and he's remained in that spot as he was the first one off the sideline when the Bears went to three at Denver. But Cutler has not looked his way like he has Aromashodu. Rideau, however, scores points because he's been more active on special teams than Aromashodu. They are both about the same size and offer something different for the quarterback in the system.


Michael Gaines: Signed to be a blocking tight end and an H-back who could also line up in the backfield, Gaines just hasn't gotten a lot of action in preseason. It's hard to justify keeping four tight ends on the roster unless there is going to be a specific duty for each one on Sundays. Typically, the Bears keep a fourth tight end for practice purposes on the practice squad, and the expectation is they will do that again this year. Gaines could help, though, because Jason McKie is the only fullback expected to make the roster. Having Gaines would give the team some flexibility if they needed help at the position during a game.

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The wobbling economy has hit the NFL hard in some markets but the Bears remain strong.

Forbes released its annual list of franchise values on Wednesday and the Bears came in ninth at $1.082 billion. What's better, the club ranks eighth in operating income at $41.6 million. It's no surprise that Dallas was tops on the list at $1.65 billion, a figure bolstered by the sparkling new Dallas Cowboys Stadium. Washington came in second at $1.55 billion and Daniel Snyder was the runaway leader in operating income at $90.3 million, almost $20 million more than the next closest team.

The rest of the top 10 in current value--New England, New York Giants, New York Jets, Houston, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Bears and Denver. Nineteen teams were valued at $1 billion or more, but for the first time in a decade there were franchises that lost value. In fact, eight teams dropped in value, led by the Oakland Raiders, who dipped seven percent to $797 million.

The publicly held Green Bay Packers were 18th at $1.019 billion with an operating income of $20.1 million. Because their books are public, Forbes can obtain great detail on the franchise.

Forbes noted that the Bears are the second most expensive stadium to attend a game at according to Team Marketing Report behind only New England. Forbes characterized the Bears' contract with the Chicago Park District to play at Soldier Field as a sweetheart deal.

The Bears have one of the best stadium deals in the NFL. The team pays $5.7 million a season in rent and gets all football-related revenue at Soldier Field. A big plus for the Bears: $35 million a season from premium seating. The Bears also have one of the leanest operations in the NFL, a tradition that started with the team's founder, George Halas. As a result, the team should still make a fortune this season despite not increasing ticket prices.

But one writer believes the Bears should be doing more, much more with their corporate opportunity. Mike Silver of Yahoo! Sports, the former longtime NFL writer for Sports Illustrated, released his annual ranking of the owners, or the bottom half of the owners. The top half comes on Thursday. Silver hammers the McCaskey family, ranking them 30th, ahead of only runaway maverick Al Davis in Oakland and Mike Brown of the Cincinnati Bengals.

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