Chicago Sun-Times

August 2010 Archives

Cutler and Cavallari? The QB explains

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Is Jay Cutler heading for the hills with a popular actress?

According to celebrity blogger Perez Hilton, Cutler and The Hills star Kristin Cavallari "were all over each other" Monday night at the Angels and Kings lounge in Chicago.

I'm not big on celebrity gossip, but someone mentioned it on my Twitter account, and I asked Cutler to straighten things out.

"I find it funny," Cutler told me. "That stuff, you just have to laugh about. I had dinner with her, and that was pretty much about it."

Cutler said he expects to draw that sort of attention.

"It's a sports town," he said. "It really is, and they love their football so it comes with it."

E! News reported earlier today that Cutler even met Cavallari's mother recently (Cavallari once lived in Barrington, Ill.).

I'm not into all this. But, E! didn't do Cutler any favors with the picture they posted. See for yourself.


For many players, including local products such as Homewood-Flossmoor's Freddie Barnes and Holy Cross's Garrett Wolfe, Thursday night's game in Cleveland may be a last chance to impress before rosters are trimmed to 53 players Saturday.

"For the most part we know what our 54-man roster is going to look like but we want to get one more look at some of the players," Smith said.

At other positions, like nickel back, where Corey Graham and D.J. Moore are competing for playing time, roles are still being defined.

"There are some key battles still going on," defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. "I always talk about three dogs, one bone and they're all fighting for it. I appreciate that."

Bears waive fullback

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The Chicago Bears waived injured fullback Will Ta'ufo'ou.

Martz on offense: "They're jittery yet"

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Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz said his line was"remarkably" better in the passing game, but he thinks the unit is "wound up and so tight."

"We made some mistakes I was a little surprised at," Martz said. "Fortunately, you get that out of the way now instead of the opener and get that out of their system.

"I think there's a cohesion now particularly in the passing game. We do a lot of protections where Jay gets a feel for all those protections. We're trying to get all that done in a preseason, a lot more than you might do in a game. So there's some mistakes, more than I would like to have. It's not because of a lack of effort or not knowing what to do. They're jittery yet."

But Martz said his line's pass protection was much better, saying Chris Williams did a "nice job" and that Lance Louis was a "standout."

"I wish I could show you tape of Lance on [Darnell] Dockett," Martz said. "He did a terrific job. Each week that group grows and gets better and better. I was very pleased with the progress, particularly with the protections and that group."

He said the players are practicing fine but not performing as well during games.

"That's where we are. In practice things go well and then the pressure of games does funny things to young players," he said. "They just have to experience that. That's why we put them in those challenges, so they can play through that and that's what's happening right now.

"The progress is good, I'm happy with where they are and obviously we're not where we want to be but we'll be there by the time we open up."

SI picks Bears third in NFC North

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The Bears may have attempted to upgrade their talent, but they are projected to finish 7-9 again, according to Sports Illustrated.

In its NFL preview magazine, SI senior writer Peter King picked the Bears to finish third in the NFC North, behind the Green Bay Packers (11-5) and the Minnesota Vikings (10-6) but missing a postseason spot. In fact, SI has the Packers losing in the Super Bowl to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Detroit Lions are projected to finish 4-12.

I still haven't thought about the division and how things will stack up. But, I honestly believe the Lions will win more than four games. The defense has holes, but the offense has the potential to win some shootouts. How the other three NFC North teams fare against the Lions could make a huge impact on the final standings.

Other things worth noting:

* King ranked Julius Peppers the fifth-best pass rusher in the NFL.

* King has Aaron Rodgers as the MVP and Chris Johnson as the offensive MVP. He has Justin Tuck as the defensive MVP. He also has Carolina's John Fox as the coach of the year.

Ready or not, backup quarterback Todd Collins, who signed with the team on Aug. 23, is expected to play in Thursday night's final preseason game against the Browns in Cleveland.

The veteran said playing in similar systems in Kansas City and Washington has made learning Mike Martz's offense much easier.

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Jay Cutler may not be as comfortable in Mike Martz's offense as he would like to be, but he's more comfortable than he may have appeared thus far during the preseason.

"I'm getting there," Cutler said Tuesday. "The more snaps we get the closer we're going to get.

ESPN's John Clayton came out with his quarterback rankings. He ranked Cutler 15th. Here is his analysis of the Bears quarterback: "Cutler was an elite quarterback in 2008 when he played for the Broncos, but 26 interceptions for Chicago in 2009 moved him out of my top group. With Mike Martz calling the plays, Cutler should regain his 4,000-yard form and re-emerge as the elite quarterback the Bears thought they acquired in a trade with Denver."

He rates Peyton Manning No. 1. Last is Jake Delhomme.

Here's the link: http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/preview10/columns/story?columnist=clayton_john&id=5489176

Smith insists Bears don't play soft coverage

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Bears coach Lovie Smith said he doesn't expect any problems handling third downs, although it has been an issue throughout the preseason.

"It's simple execution, really, for everything. There's no quick fix or anything for it. In the preseason, you look to a lot of different things," he said. "We put the guys in situations we won't normally do during the regular season.

"If we get those third and longs during the course of the season, we'll be in good shape."

Asked if soft coverage were to blame, Smith said, "We don't play a soft coverage.

"Eventually, you get a guy in a position and he has to make a play," he said. "Most of the problems that we've had has been that for the most part, plays that we'll make later on."

Here are some other highlights from Smith:

* On if anything else jumped out at him, after watching the game back: "No. Disappointed in some of the things we did. It's a 14-9 game. It wasn't 60 to 20 or anything like that. 14-9, you're doing some good things but not enough. We had some critical stretches where we didn't make plays, all three phases, that we need to.

* On Detroit: "We don't like some of the things we've done right now, but everything we do is geared toward being ready for Detroit. And by doing that, you find out some things you don't like and you correct them. And that's what we'll do."

* Getting some of the players back. You guys had a chance to talk to Earl Bennett. It's good to see him start to do more things on the practice field. Brian Urlacher practiced full today. Josh Bullocks practiced. So we're getting some of our players back.
At the same time, this is the fourth preseason game. You try to look at a lot of different things. Some of the players we haven't gotten a look with right now we will. Todd Collins did some good things in practice today.
Now, he's been around, it's big for him to get a few reps to see exactly what he can do. You always want to get back to the practice field.
Detroit is right around the corner for us, and we realize that.
And we're making progress.

* On how much starters will play Thursday in Cleveland: "Protocol as usual. We have a plan, that we're going to go with, that we feel real comfortable with. The record in the preseason, that means a little bit. But, what you want t et from the preseason is just seeing guys in certain situations and hoping you get better. And that's what we're able to do. We're not necessarily going to go out and play three quarters. The plan was to increase their time, until the third preseason game, like we've always done. We'll follow that same formula, for the most part."

* On D.J. Moore pushing for the nickel cornerback job: "He's a guy that was on the outside looking in. But he's done enough where he started this past game. I like some of the things he's done. Excellent hands. Good quickness. Has played the run fairly well, so he's doing some good things. I like some of the things that Corey Graham did at the nickel position, too. They'll keep battling, to see who is the guy."

* On what Caleb Hanie is doing: "Caleb is getting back into the mix, as far as being able to do a few things. He's not there yet, but he doesn't have to be. He is making progress. He's a lot better along this week, naturally, than he was."

Urlacher, Bennett and Hanie practice

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The wounded are slowly returning.

Brian Urlacher, Earl Bennett and Caleb Hanie were on the field for the early portion of practice open to reporters. They were, at the very least, limited during the session.

Urlacher, who didn't play against the Arizona Cardinals Saturday, doesn't need to show anything. But Bennett and Hanie have a lot to prove.

It's unclear if they'll play Thursday in the preseason finale against the Cleveland Browns. But, Bennett is fighting for a roster spot at receiver, and Hanie is battling with veteran Todd Collins to be the team's backup quarterback.

Craig Steltz, Nick Roach, Chester Taylor and Lance Briggs were among the veterans who were not practicting.

Robbie Gould wants to make sure everybody knows where the blame lies for two missed field goals in Saturday night's loss to the Cardinals. The first was blocked. The second hit the left upright.

"Both of them were my fault," the kicker said. "The first one took too long to get off. That's on me. Obviously, if it takes me longer it puts a lot of stress on the guys up front. I've got to take the blame for it. It was my fault and the miss was my fault, too."

Gould said not having long-snapper Patrick Mannelly because of a sore shoulder during training camp has not disrupted the unit's timing.

"It has nothing to do with it," he said. "It just happens. You make some, you miss some."

The Bears waived quarterback Matt Gutierrez, ex-Northwestern receiver Zeke Markshausen and defensive lineman Maurice Evans on Monday.

Gutierrez never appeared in an exhibition game.

A former Miami football booster told the Miami Herald that the Hurricanes' program is guilty of major NCAA violations involving over 100 former players.

Nevin Shapiro told the Herald that he is putting all the allegations in a book titled "The Real U: 2001 to 2010. Inside the Eye of the Hurricane."
"I want to make the average fan aware of what really exists under that uniform," Shapiro told the newspaper. "They might be great players, but they're certainly not great people."

Shapiro told the paper he feels abandoned by several former Hurricanes standouts, including Bears receiver Devin Hester.

"Once the players became pros, they turned their back on me. It made me feel like a used friend," Shapiro was quoted as saying.

My take: In addition to being hurt, Shapiro is clearly desperate for money, to repay his debts, since he's facing a lengthy prison sentence for allegedly running a Ponzi scheme.

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/08/29/1797096/new-book-to-allege-violations.html

Closer look at Chris Williams against the Raiders

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Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus has provided a very nice breakdown of the five sacks the Bears starting offense gave up against the Oakland Raiders.

It's definitely worth a peak, except if your name is Chris Williams.


http://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2010/08/26/first-impressions-raiders-bears/

On the bright side ...

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Let's give Dan LeFevour some love.

The rookie quarterback has looked like he is in over his head until Saturday night, when he completed 10 of 12 passes for 100 yards with one touchdown. He led the Bears to a touchdown and a field goal, which is more than starter Jay Cutler can say.

What do you fix first?

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On Friday, I asked what the Bears needed to do against the Cardinals to make you feel better about this team.

I'm guessing that nobody besides Packers', Vikings' and Lions' fans are feeling better after Saturday night's 14-9 loss to the Cardinals.

If this was the dress rehearsal we may want to skip the actual performance.

Last week, it was Brian Urlacher who left the game with a calf injury. This time, it was Lance Briggs who limped off the field never to return, casting doubt on the Pro Bowl linebacker's availability for the season-opener against Detroit.

Briggs injured his left ankle early in the first quarter of Saturday night's 14-9 loss to the Cardinals at Soldier Field. Briggs was unavailable after the game. Although the severity of his injury was not known, he was seen leaving the stadium wearing a walking boot, which isn't good news for a defense that has struggled during the preseason.

"We don't know the extent of the injury or anything right now, but he couldn't finish the game," Bears coach Lovie Smith said.

Briggs was replaced by Brian Iwuh. The veteran has primarily been a special teams performer in the past but has impressed coaches throughout camp with his play at linebacker. He had five solo tackles.

Nick Roach, who was competing with Pisa Tinoisamoa for the starting job at strong-side linebacker, recently underwent minor knee surgery and did not play Thursday.

Saturday night summary: Hot Mess

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It all went wrong, even after the Bears insisted they were going to take Saturday's game against the Arizona Cardinals more seriously.

Jay Cutler tossed two interceptions and was sacked four more times on a night when his passer rating was 31.0, which was far below either Derek Anderson (111.1), Matt Leinart (135.0) and even rookies John Skelton (70.1) and Max Hall (109.7). The Bears defense allowed the Cardinals to convert four-of-seven third downs, including three of seven or more yards. And even the usually steady field goal unit converted just one of three field goals, with the longest attempt from a manageable 48 yards.

"Not playing good enough football right now. It's as simple as that," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "This third preseason game is important for us."

Later, Smith said, "Blocking, tackling, those kind of things.

"Doesn't matter what the scheme is," he said. "We should be playing better ball, with some of the basic fundamentals of football."

Some of my initial reads:

After a decade of calling plays from the sideline, Mike Martz has returned to the coaches' booth for reasons that have as much to do with mobility as strategy.

There's so much negativity swirling around this team this season, especially on this blog. I understand why. That Bears have underachived for three straight seasons and fans have no confidence in general manager Jerry Angelo and coach Lovie Smith.

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Injuries to Brian Urlacher the past two season has made it easier to appreciate Hunter Hillenmeyer.

Hillenmeyer filled in for Urlacher when Urlacher sustained a season-ending wrist injury in the 2009 season opener. He stepped in for Urlacher again and finished with a team-high seven combined tackles when the Pro Bowl middle linebacker strained his calf against the Raiders last week. Now that coach Lovie Smith has officially ruled Urlacher out of Saturday night's third preseason game, Hillenmeyer will get another start when the Cardinals visit Soldier Field.

Speculation about whether they would be a place in Mike Martz's offense for Desmond Clark has long ended. The veteran has found his role. His transition from tight end to H-back has been so seamless that it's all but gone unnoticed.


Bears coach Lovie Smith confirmed that Brian Urlacher, who did not practice for a fourth straight day will not play against the Cardinals during Saturday night's exhibition at Soldier Field.

Brian Urlacher missed his third straight practice with a strained calf muscle, casting doubt on whether he will play in Saturday night's third preseason game.
"Right now, he's not ready to go, so we will watch that," coach Lovie Smith said. "But in time, he will be. Nothing serious with him. We never put any players out there until we feel like they can really play up to their potential. We're not quite there right now, but we'll get there in time."
Later, when asked more directly whether Urlacher would play against Arizona, Smith said: "We would like for all of our guys to practice before they play, but if we feel like a guy is ready to go and he's one of our best guys that can help us win, we'll play him then. That isn't the case with Brian. Brian right now needs to practice. We're not playing Detroit right away."

The latest issue of Forbes Magazine calls the Bears "financial flatliners."
The magazine's list of NFL valuations lists the Bears ninth, worth $1.07 billion, making them the league's lowest ranked big-market team. In the accompanying article, the magazine calls the Bears the "greatest unlocked asset in professional sports, with potential to be worth $800 million more than they are now."
One reason why the Bears may be ranked lower than other big-market teams is that they do not own their own stadium.
Team ownership was returning from league meetings in Atlanta on Wednesday and were unavailable for comment.
Forbes also claims that while team patriarch Virginia McCaskey plans to hold onto the team for the foreseeable future, the franchise could be "the deal of the century for a new owner."

Taylor and Forte getting along fine

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New Bears running back Chester Taylor has shared the backfield before, and he's getting along just fine with Matt Forte.

"I've been through this in Baltimore and Minnesota, with Adrian Peterson and Jamal Lewis. So I know how to work with another back and have depth in the backfield, because it's going to be a long season," Taylor said.

Signed in the offseason, after playing for the Vikings from 2006 to 2009, Taylor said he and Forte have a good relationship.

"We're real good," Taylor said. "We joke on the sideline. We hang out. We text each. I mean, he's a real good guy."

At this point, Forte is expected to start, but Taylor will also get meaningful snaps during the course of the game.

Brian Urlacher missed his third straight practice with a strained calf muscle.

Quarterback Caleb Hanie (shoulder), safety Craig Steltz (ankle), safety Chris Harris (knee), linebacker Nick Roach (knee) and receiver Earl Bennett (hamstring) also did not participate on Wednesday's practice at Halas Hall. Rookie safety Major Wright (finger) practiced but continues to wear the red jersey, which means he's not allowed to participate in contact.

I will update this entry after the afternoon practice.


Sports Illustrated has produced a list of the 101 greatest NFL players by jersey number. The Bears have the most players on the list with nine, including No. 3, Bronko (they spelled it "Bruno" on the press release) Nagurski; No. 6, Kevin Butler; No. 34, Walter Payton No. 40, Gale Sayers; No. 50, Mike Singletary; No. 51, Dick Butkus; No. 77, Red Grange; No. 89, Mike Ditka and No. 95, Richard Dent.

The Steelers were second with eight selections.

Here's the links:

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/writers/richard_deitsch/08/02/nfl.jersey/index.html?eref=sihp

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/

NFL owners met in Atlanta on Wednesday to discuss extending the regular season from 16 to 18 games. Six hundred miles to the North, Bears players are not warming to the idea of what owners are calling an "extended season," even if it would mean playing two fewer preseason games.

Jerry Angelo has told ChicagoBears.com senior writer Larry Mayer that backup quarterback Todd Collins has a chance to win the backup job from injured Caleb Hanie.

If Mike Martz doesn't use his tight ends this year it won't be for lack of confidence. The Bears offensive coordinator said he has been impressed by the tight ends in camp.

"We're very pleased," he said. "The tight ends probably had the best camp of all the guys on offense, they really did. We're very pleased with that group."

Martz also said that the signing of veteran backup Todd Collins is not necessarily a vote of no confidence to injured backup Caleb Hanie, who may not be able to return until the regular-season opener, if then.

Lance Louis returns to practice

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Right guard Lance Louis rejoined his teammates after missing Monday's practice with an ankle injury.

Here's a look at the other players who did not appear to be practicing today:

* S Chris Harris, LB Nick Roach (knee surgery), LB Brian Urlacher (calf), QB Caleb Hanie (shoulder), WR Earl Bennett (hamstring), S Josh Bullocks (quadriceps), DT Tommie Harris (knee) and S Craig Steltz (ankle).

* OT Kevin Schaffer was not on the practice field.

* Rookie S Major Wright continues to wear a red jersey, indicating that no one is to touch him. He's recovering after having surgery on his finger last week.

Highlights, you ask? Sorry. Those days are gone. We're in regular-season mode, which means practices are not open, except for a window to do a quick head count.

Jay Cutler laughed when asked if he would have more chances to scramble in Mike Martz's offense.

Pisa could win starting LB spot by default

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Bears linebacker Nick Roach could lose the starting strongside linebacker spot to Pisa Tinoisamoa for a second consecutive time.

Roach had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee today to clean out some debris, according to the team's website.

Roach should be ready for the season opener Sept. 12 against the Detroit Lions, the website added.

"We figured it was a small thing going in," Roach told the website. "Just with the timing of when the regular-season starts, it seemed like the right time to get it fixed, the proactive thing."

Roach and Tinoisamoa were in one of the better training camp battles, with both players having experience and athleticism. In fact, Tinoisamoa looked like he was going to have a solid season in 2009, until suffering a torn ACL in the second game and missing the remainder of the season.

Tinoisamoa has rebounded this offseason, and he takes a clear-cut lead with Roach sidelined after surgery.

Guard Marten stands out

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There's the obvious: that James Marten is a 6 foot 8 guard.

But the 26-year-old from Indianapolis has distinguished himself throughout training camp and earned a chance to be the primary backup to Lance Louis at right guard.

In fact, with Louis slowed with an ankle injury, Marten has gotten more than a few reps with the starting offense.

"That's always a good thing, to get in with them," Marten said.

Originally a third-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys in 2007, Marten was released in September 2008 and then acquired by the Oakland Raiders. He was released by the Raiders in September 2009, and the Bears added him to their practice squad a few days later.

But given his size, Marten is conspicuous on a unit that's generally inconspicuous.

"You got to stay low and shorten your steps," he said. "You're working in a phone booth."

And that makes it a challenge for someone his size. But, Marten has been through this before, starting 25 games at left guard during his college career at Boston College. He started his final 13 games at left tackle.

So far, with the Bears, he's practiced and played at both positions, which he hopes helps him.

"I got a chance," he said, "and that's all a player can ask for."

The Bears ranked 27th in the league in third-down defense last season, which made the ease with which the Raiders converted three third-and-long situations in the first half of Saturday night's 32-17 exhibition loss to the Raiders at Soldier Field more troubling.

Bears cut Peterman

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To make room for quarterback Todd Collins, who was signed Monday, the Bears waived injured receiver Eric Peterman. The former NU standout muffed a punt that Oakland's Slade Waters recovered in the end zone for a touchdown in Saturday night's 32-17 exhibition loss to the Raiders.

Bears coach Lovie Smith didn't mince words.

Asked if the No. 2 quarterback spot is open, Smith said, "Every job is open to competition."

The job appeared to firmly be in the grasp of Caleb Hanie, who had a solid performance in the preseason opener against the San Diego Chargers. But, Hanie suffered a shoulder injury, and he's expected to be sidelined for at least another week.

The Bears today signed veteran Todd Collins, and they guaranteed him about $150,000 of a seven-figure base salary for the 2010 season. Collins won't get that money until he makes the opening day roster, but he was able to secure a portion of it, to make it worth his while to be here for the next two weeks.

"Got his feet wet a little bit today," Smith said of Collins. "Don't know if he'll play this week. As far as where he is on the depth chart and all those things, they'll work itself out, in time.

"Good to have him on the team."

Smith said Collins brings a lot of experience to the position, noting that he played in several offensive systems.

"Played in a system similar to our's, when he was in Kansas City and Washington, so it's a natural fit for him to come here," Smith said.

Meanwhile, Hanie said the team's decision to sign Collins was out of his hands.

"It's always good to have competition, to keep you on your toes," Hanie said. "I'm just going to keep on doing the same thing I'm doing.

"I can't really control what their thoughts are. They have their reason for doing things; they try to do what's best for the team. So, I just got to worry about what I can control, and try to get better."

Hanie, though, acknowledged that he needed to return quickly.

To make room for Collins, the Bears waived former Northwestern receiver Eric Peterman.

Fans at Soldier Field might have been concerned when Brian Urlacher left Saturday night's 32-17 loss to the Raiders after the fifth play with what turned out to be a strained calf muscle, but his teammates knew from the start that it was only a minor injury.

Collins will compete with Hanie for backup spot

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Veteran quarterback Todd Collins' decision to exercise patience has paid off.

When the Bears initially contacted him about eight days ago, Collins wanted the club to show him some money, to ensure he wasn't going to be a "camp arm." With Caleb Hanie sidelined with a shoulder injury, the Bears needed another quarterback to help Jay Cutler and rookie Dan LeFevour.

Collins didn't want to head to Bourbonnais, make $1,425 a week and then get cut before the season.

He signed a one-year deal today because the Bears made him a six-figure guarantee worth about $150,000. That means, at worst, Collins gets that much for about two weeks of work. And if he makes the opening-day roster, Collins will be guaranteed his entire 2010 base salary. Here's the interesting part: the veteran minimum for Collins is $855,000. But, the Bears are going to pay him seven figures, if he makes the roster, and they'll guarantee him about $150,000 regardless.

But indications are, Collins will have a chance to make a run at the backup quarterback position, which may be what he wants most.

"I'm out there to compete," Collins said. "I'm not going to sell myself short. I've been the No. 2 guy for a long time. You always try to play at the level the starter is playing at and ideally you can step in there and contribute just like the starter did.

"That's always been my goal throughout my career. Wherever I stack up at the end, we'll see."

Why the Bears may have signed Todd Collins now

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Last week, after they signed veteran Matt Gutierrez, I wrote that his days already might be numbered, because the Bears were hardly done looking to address the position. (http://www.suntimes.com/sports/jensen/2615082,CST-SPT-sean19.article)

The magic number might be five days.

The Bears haven't announced a corresponding move, so Gutierrez may get some more time to make an impression. But the fact that he didn't get into Saturday's game could be telling.

If Gutierrez suffered an injury against the Oakland Raiders -- a distinct possibility since the Raiders had six sacks -- the Bears would have been on the hook for money they never intended to spend.

What is certain, though, is that Dan LeFevour, a sixth-round pick, once again struggled in a preseason game. He got the bulk of the snaps last week, with backup Caleb Hanie out. But, LeFevour completed just three of 10 passes for 39 yards, with one interception. His passer rating was 3.8.

Collins, 38, was resistant to signing a deal with the Bears initially, because he wanted guaranteed money. It's not clear if he got what he wanted. But, it's probably safe to assume that the Bears at least gave him some sort of assurance of job security, so he wasn't going to be a "camp arm."

Besides, there's not many options out there at quarterback. The Bears did explore trading for a player, but they obviously weren't willing to part with any meaningful draft picks.

Collins won't be angling for the starting job, and he's proven to be a valuable backup. Remarkably, Collins started 13 games for the Buffalo Bills in 1997... then didn't start another game until 2007 with the Washington Redskins.

And he was gainfully employed by the Kansas City Chiefs between those starts! (Yes, that deserves an exclamation point.)

In 2007, in three starts, Collins was 3-0. He was just eight of 25 in his first game, but he was 44 for 60 for 498 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in the final two games, victories over the Minnesota Vikings and the Dallas Cowboys.

But his time in Kansas City helped him learn -- probably master given the amount of time -- an offense similar to the one new offensive coordinator Mike Martz runs.

This adds the distinct possibility, then, that the Bears will carry three quarterbacks this season: Cutler, Hanie and, it now, appears Collins.

Clark gets seasoning, Maynard says

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Punter Brad Maynard had a rough night, getting a punt blocked and averaging a modest 39.5 yards per punt.

Much of the issues for Maynard and kicker Robbie Gould (botched extra point) can be attributed to the absence of long-time long snapper Patrick Mannelly, who injured his shoulder in the preseason opener.

"He settled down," Maynard said of backup long snapper Desmond Clark. "It's good for him to get experience. Snapping is hard. Patrick Mannelly makes it look so easy.

"We take him for granted. But we got to have a guy to do it, if something happens. I'm still confident in Dez."

During the regular season, Mannelly would have played, or the Bears would have signed a temporary long snapper. But, the Bears wanted to get Clark the work.

Asked what went wrong early, Clark said, "Just trying to be perfect.

"Trying to do it, just right, and not mess up."

So what happened in the second half?

"I just said screw it. Just get the ball back there."

The special teams allowed two long returns and a blocked punt for a safety in a 25-10 loss to the Chargers in the preseason opener. Special teams coordinator Dave Toub will have more "teaching moments" this week after watching his units botch three snaps , muff a punt that was recovered in the end zone for a touchdown and have another punt blocked.
Desmond Clark, subbing for injured long-snapper Patrick Mannelly (shoulder) was responsible for the bad snaps, one of which resulted in kicker Robbie Gould, of all people, being flagged for intentional grounding.
Clark's first snap of the game skipped to punter Brad Maynard, who was kicking out of his own end zone. Later in the first quarter, after Matt Forte's 89-yard touchdown run, Clark again bounced a snap to holder Maynard, who had no choice but to fall on the ball during the extra-point attempt.
Gould was lining up a 37-yard field goal in the second quarter when another low snap squirted past Maynard. Gould picked it up and fired it down the field, drawing the flag.
"I'm not going to make excuses," Clark said. "Once I started trusting what I was doing I was OK. Once I stopped trying not to mess up it worked pretty good."
The upside? Toub sent the field goal unit into the game only to have coach Lovie Smith pull them back when he elected to go for it on fourth-and-seven at the Raiders' 22 yard line later in the second half. Quarterback Jay Cutler ended up throwing a touchdown pass to Johnny Knox that gave the Bears a 14-13 lead at the break.
The Bears led 14-13 early in the third quarter when ex-Northwestern receiver Eric Peterman muffed a punt that Oakland's Slade Norris recovered for a TD that gave the Raiders a 20-14 lead. Norris lated blocked a Maynard punt that rolled through the end zone for a safety.

Brian Urlacher left Saturday night's 32-17 exhibition loss to the Raiders at Soldier Field after injuring his calf on the fifth play of the game, bringing back memories of last year's regular-season opener, when a wrist injury early in an ugly loss to the Packers shelved the Bears' middle linebacker for the entire 2009 season.
Fortunately for the six-time Pro Bowl linebacker and the Bears, this latest injury, which Bears coach Lovie Smith described as a strained calf muscle, is not believed to be serious enough to prevent him from starting the season opener against the Lions.
Urlacher left the game after the game's fifth play. His left calf was immediately wrapped in ice on the sideline and, although the ice pack was later removed, he did not return to the game.
"It shouldn't be anything major," Bears coach Lovie Smith said.

Bears offense looking to take the next step

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The Bears subscribed to KISS philosophy last week, for the the preseason opener in San Diego.

On offense, in particular, they focused on routine things like quarterback-center exchange, offensive line disciple (as in avoiding procedural penalties) and relatively basic plays.

They will ramp it up but don't expect anything that resembles what Mike Martz did in St. Louis. They may work in a few razzle-dazzle plays, to pump up the Soldier Field crowd. But, Martz doesn't want to tip his hand, to what they are going to do for the season opener against the Detroit Lions.

Anyone who watched the Bears in Bourbonnais knows that the offense is an aggressive one that works the ball to each skill player to all parts of the field. There's a lot of motioning and shifting, almost resembling the Arena League.

Surely, though, the Bears would like to pop some decent runs and work the ball to players like Greg Olsen and Devin Hester, to get their feet wet.

But the second half could be really interesting. Dan LeFevour had a turbulent week at practice, and Matt Gutierrez is learning the offense on the fly. He throws a solid ball, but he appeared to miss more than he hit on Thursday in practice.

Here are three offensive players I'm curious to watch today:

1) Devin Hester -- He runs hot and cold in practice, but he dominated Wednesday's session. It appeared, in fact, like it was Devin Hester Day. Certainly, this team wants him to succeed in that position, and I would think he'll get a few chances to fire up the fans today.

2) Lance Louis -- It's pretty remarkable that he is the man to beat, since a couple of veteran options are available. I've watched him a lot in practice, but I really want to see how he responds today and focus on him from play to play.

3) Matt Forte -- He didn't have much to work with last week, since the line didn't give him much room to operate. But, Forte never flashed the speed he has in training camp practices. It would be nice to see him at least get a pass in space, to showcase his wheels and to prove whether he's capable of making a defender miss.

Game info from the Bears

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This is from a team press release:

LAKE FOREST, IL - With the Chicago Bears 2010 preseason home opener slated for this upcoming Saturday, the following is a list of reminders and stadium upgrades this season that fans should be aware of to make their experience at Soldier Field more enjoyable on gamedays:

Isaac Bruce open to coaching

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He doesn't have any offers, and he needs a green-light from his wife, but former St. Louis Rams receiver Isaac Bruce said he enjoyed his coaching internship with the Bears.

Bruce, who spent about two weeks with the Bears as part of the NFL's Minority Coaching Fellowship, worked closely with the receivers and passing offense. A four-time Pro Bowl selection, Bruce starred in Mike Martz's offense with the Rams, helping the team win Super Bowl XXXIV.

"You know, if the avenue presents itself, and if the situation is good, we'll see," Bruce said. "I have to talk to my wife."

Bruce said he'll leave the team Sunday.

*Johnny Knox set down his helmet and began signing autographs after the last public practice of training camp in Bourbonnais on Thursday.

One boy, who couldn't have been more than 4-years-old, handed him a Bears helmet to sign, which Knox did with a silver marker.

The boy then put the helmet on and walked away.

Knox didn't realize until a few minutes later that he had just signed his own helmet. He had to chase the boy down to get it back.

Jay Cutler strolled on to the practice field with his jersey off and his helmet tipped up on his head, which set the tone for a laid-back workout that saw newcomer Matt Gutierrez get most of the snaps, presumably to force feed him so he can play in Saturday night's preseason game against the Raiders at Soldier Field. Cutler hooked up with Devin Hester on a crowd-pleasing bomb on Wednesday. On Thursday, he tried twice more, and overthrew Hester both times. When he wasn't running the offense, he played catch with backup Matt LeFevour and visited with his teammates.

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To hear defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli tell it, the competition at strong-side linebacker between Pisa Tinoisamoa and Nick Roach will go down to the wire.

Both players have been rotating between the first and second teams. Expect special teams to play a role in the decision. Roach has been a key special teams contributor and keeping him in a backup role would likely make it easier for him to play on multiple specialty units.

"They're both playing well," Marinelli said. "They're going after it. We've got competition at that end position. There's some competition at the safety position. It's been good. It's so important that every snap, every game, it matters, and not just within our system and our techniques. We've got to find out who can step up and play.

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Jerry Angelo held his first press conference on the second-to-last day of training camp at Olivet Nazarene University on Thursday. The Bears general manager addressed everything from the quarterback situation to Tommie Harris' performance in camp to the likelihood of rookie safety Major Wright assuming a starting role.

Here's a sample:

What about Jeff George?

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Jeff George is 42. Yes, 42! But earlier this month, amid all the annual Brett Favre retirement drama, George lobbied for himself on sports talk radio station KFAN in the Twin Cities.

Ridiculous, you say? Well, Mark Brunell is 39, and he's still got a job in the league.

Cutler on if he wants veteran QB: "Mike is the guy"

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Bears starting quarterback Jay Cutler said he didn't pay attention to the veterans being mentioned as possible backups.

As far as he's concerned, he doesn't need a mentor-type of veteran behind him.

"Mike is the guy," Cutler said, referring to offensive coordinator Mike Martz. "Any questions I have, I go straight to him. He's the all-knowing source for this offense. It's kind of his baby, and he does a great job of giving me all the information.

"That's one thing that he's excelled since he's got here. Hs going to give me every possible tool to succeed."

Mike Martz addressed a variety of subjects Wednesday, including why quarterback Jay Cutler only got eight snaps in the team's first exhibition game, a 25-10 loss to the Chargers in San Diego on Saturday night.


The Bears have waived guard Vince Vance and injured linebacker Matt Mayberry.

The moves came in response to the team signing backup quarterback Matt Gutierrez and defensive back Aaron Webster earlier in the day.

Gutierrez will wear No. 8 and will practice with the team for the first time this afternoon. How quickly the former Patriots and Chiefs backup can pick up Mike Martz's offense will likely determine whether he sees action in Saturday night's exhibition game against the Raiders at Soldier Field.

"The coach has had a lot of success with the offense," Gutierrez said. "It's for a reason. I'm just excited to be here and try to learn it."

Webster's signing is a result of injuries to safeties Craig Steltz (ankle) and rookie Major Wright (finger). The former Cincinnati standout was signed by the Texans as an undrafted free agent and later released.

Gutierrez officially signs

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According to a league source, quarterback Matt Gutierrez has signed a contract with the Bears and is expected to practice this afternoon.

The Bears have been looking to sign a quarterback since Sunday, when they learned the extent of a shoulder injury to backup Caleb Hanie.

Gutierrez arrived late Tuesday night to Bourbonnais.

Hanie is not expected to be out long, but the Bears still tried to convince a veteran to sign with the club, although they wouldn't promise the player a guaranteed spot or any guaranteed money.

Trent Green and Todd Collins were among those that passed. Josh McCown was not an option because he wanted to honor his UFL contract (here's the story http://www.newbritainherald.com/articles/2010/08/17/sports/doc4c6b3a9654d08701486987.txt)

Gutierrez was undrafted in 2007, but he has spent time in the NFL with the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs.

Getting to know... Roberto Garza

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Feel free to send in your suggestions and questions. In our third installment, we get yet another offensive player. This time, it's starting left guard Roberto Garza. He is the second lineman (Olin Kreutz was the first), and he was happy to oblige Ryan Cox's request.

Here are Ryan's questions, with a couple of my follow ups. Great job, Ryan!

RC: What is the most challenging part of transitioning into a new offense?
RG: Picking up the techniques and the details of the offense, obviously. The terminology is going to be different, and the philosophy. Just getting comfortable with what the plays are and knowing what to do.

RC: Who is the best player you have faced in the NFL?
RG: Probably Warren Sapp, when he was in Tampa. I was a rookie, so he worked me over pretty good. He's a tough player. He's one of the greats to ever play the game.

SJ: What made him so hard?
RG: His first step was really explosive, and he was a smart player on the field, and he was tough to block.

RC: Did you try to emulate your game after anyone when you were growing up?
RG: Growing up, I was a Dallas Cowboys fan. So they had one of the best offensive lines during that era. I was not a real big guy, so I liked Mark Stepnowski the center. At the time, I was only 270, 280. So he was one of the guys I looked up to.

RC: Is it difficult playing a position that gets hardly any fanfare?
No, we do this because we love to play football. you don't do it for the accolades or anything. We do it to be a part of the five guys that are out there fighting every single play to make the play happen. You become an offensive lineman to be a part of the camaraderie and the friendship you build with those guys, and going out there to battle, play after play.

Q: What are you most proud about (in terms of your career)?
Obviously the NFC Championship. That was a special moment for the Bears organization for us and being able to play in that.

Jay Cutler didn't let the slow, steady rain that fell during Tuesday night's practice at Olivet Nazarene University prevent him from making several of his patented strong tosses, including a perfectly thrown over-the-shoulder beauty that tight end Greg Olsen caught deep downfield between two defenders. Cutler also threaded the needle to Rashied Davis a split second before the receiver collided with a defender. Lance Briggs made a nice play when he made a leaping deflection of a Cutler pass near the line of scrimmage.

The Sun-Times has confirmed that former Patriots and Chiefs backup quarterback Matt Guiterrez is en route to Bears training camp in Bourbonnais and could sign pending a physical.

The former Patriots and Chiefs backup was considering playing for the UFL's Omaha Night Hawks if he did not receive an NFL offer.

Gutierrez played collegiately at Michigan before transferring to Idaho State for his senior year. He prepped at De La Salle High School in Concord, Calif., where he was a three-year starter and never lost a game.

Anybody at all?

Expect the Bears to sign a quarterback today. They have no other choice. The clock is ticking as Saturday night's exhibition game against the Raiders at Soldier Field approaches and they need another body because they don't want Jay Cutler to play more than a quarter and they don't want rookie Dan LeFevour to play for three quarters.

What if LeFevour got hurt?

Collins passes on Bears offer

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Veteran quarterback Todd Collins passed on a minimum contract offer from the Bears, according to a league source.

It's believed Collins was looking for the Bears to guarantee him some money, so he wouldn't be used as a camp arm but the Bears apparently weren't willing to give him the money.

That the Bears won't guarantee any money to a quarterback is an indication that they do like Caleb Hanie as a backup and that he shouldn't be sidelined long.

UPDATE: Veterans like Collins would only make $1,400 a week during training camp. That's why he would want guaranteed money.

The Bears inquired about the possibility of signing Trent Green, but the veteran quarterback will remain retired, his agent Jim Steiner told the Sun-Times.

"We had some conversations about it, but Trent's been engrossed in broadcasting," Steiner said. "It just didn't work out."

Green, who retired in 2009, does broadcasting work for the NFL Network and Westwood One Radio.

The decision was a tough one for the 40-year-old Green, Steiner said.

"His heart says yes, and his emotions say yes," Steiner said. "But it's time to stay right where he is."

The Bears are looking to add a quarterback with backup Caleb Hanie nursing a shoulder injury.

A two-time Pro Bowl selection, Green made a lot of sense for the Bears. He knows Mike Martz's offense, so he could offer some insight to starter Jay Cutler but not be a threatening presence.

There are certainly options out there. But, the veterans like Daunte Culpepper, Jeff Garcia and Josh McCown are under contract to UFL teams, which have started or are about to start training camps.

Todd Collins is currently an unrestricted free agent.

UPDATE: The Bears also reached out to Collins and Damon Huard, according to a league source. Huard spent a few months with the San Francisco 49ers last season. Collins, 38, could be appealing to the Bears because he previously played in a system similar to the one Martz runs.

Wright scheduled to have surgery on finger

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Bears rookie Major Wright, who has had a strong preseason, is scheduled to have surgery on his fractured left index finger on Tuesday, a team spokesman said.

Wright injured his finger during the preseason opener in San Diego Saturday. He was pushing for a starting spot but this will hurt his chances.

Greg Gabriel was the Bears college scouting director for nine season, up until his contract wasn't renewed after the latest NFL Draft.

Now, Gabriel provides insight for the National Football Post, and he was critical of his former team in a breakdown of this past weekend's preseason games.

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Despite only averaging 2.3 yards per carry and allowing six sacks in Saturday's 23-10 loss to the Chargers in the preseason opener, Mike Tice was encouraged by the play of his offensive line, which he said made only one mental error during the first half against the blitzing Chargers.

"What was nice was they gave us a lot of pressure," he said. "From the first play of the game when they ran an inside cross dog to late in the game in the two-minute drill they brought pressure. That was good. Some people can look at that differently. I look at that as that's good work for us."

Tice said the line performed well enough to be right on schedule if it makes another big jump in Saturday's second preseason game against the Raiders at Soldier Field. He also singled out guard Lance Louis, who played in his first NFL game.

"He's a young guy that's going to have to continue to clean up some of the details like splits and how to utilize them to help himself and where his help is but he played very physical," Tice said. "I thought that was obvious to anyone who watched the game. At one point he hit a linebacker so hard he knocked down our left guard and our left tackle. He's what we thought he was. He's very mature and he is trying to learn and as he grows and continues to learn he'll clean up some of those details he's missing right now."

Manumaleuna expected to practice today

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After resting his knee most of last week, Bears tight end Brandon Manumaleuna is planning to return to practice today.

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Manumaleuna re-injured his right knee, which he had offseason surgery, but he said the rest last week has him feeling much better.

"It's been frustrating," he said. "But you can't do nothing but deal with it."

Manumaleuna was signed on the first day of free agency, along with defensive end Julius Peppers and running back Chester Taylor. Manumaleuna, who received a five-year, $15 million contract that included $6 million in guarantees, played for new offensive coordinator Mike Martz in St. Louis.

Despite wearing a sling to protect his injured throwing shoulder, Caleb Hanie was confident Monday that the injury he suffered in the Bears' 25-10 loss to the Chargers on Saturday night in San Diego will not prevent him from continuing to serve as Jay Cutler's backup.

I got home from vacation (it was booked before I was assigned to the Bears) last night just in time to turn on the Chargers game. I've been gone for two weeks, and therefore my observations may not be much more informed than your own.

That said, here is what struck me while watching the Bears fall to the Chargers 25-10 in a preseason opener that revealed little.

With Hanie's status unclear, what QBs are out there?

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Bears backup quarterback Caleb Hanie, whose right arm was in a sling, will undergo tests Sunday to determine the injury to his right shoulder.

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Hanie had two turnovers, but he had several encouraging plays, including a 47-yard completion to receiver Devin Aromashodu. For the game, he was 10 of 17 for 148 yards, for a passer rating of 82.5.

If the Bears need to bring in a veteran, the available options include a former No. 1 overall pick, a former MVP candidate and a four-time Pro Bowl selection. Unfortunately, though, the stock isn't real high on either JaMarcus Russell or Daunte Cupepper or Jeff Garcia. Other available quarterbacks include Josh McCown, Todd Collins, Matt Gutierrez and Brian St. Pierre.

McCown worked with Martz in Detroit, during the 2006 season, and he expressed a strong interest in signing with the Bears in May.

Not giving the Bears much encouragement was rookie Dan LeFevour. The former Central Michigan standout struggled throughout Saturday's game, completing just two of 10 passes for 21 yards.

"It could have been better, obviously," he said. "Things were happening quickly, but I didn't react quick enough.

"Just got to roll with it. You got to do the best you can."

Cutler hopes to play more in next game

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Jay Cutler said at half time that he hopes to get more than one series in the next preseason game.

"Yeah, we definitely have to play more," he said. "We were excited to get into rhythm. We just wanted to get in there and knock some of the jitters off.

"We're learning a new offense. We wanted to get in and out of the huddle and get in a little bit of a rhythm. We definitely have to play more and get a little deeper into the first half."

Cutler played only one series, going two-for-two for 47 yards. His drive set up a 38-yard field goal for Robbie Gould.

My take: I was very surprised that Cutler only played one series. I had no problem with Mike Martz showing a very vanilla offense. But, it would have been nice to see some of the timing-based throws that are -- based on training camp practices -- are a staple of Martz's offense.

The offensive line definitely didn't do anything to temper the heat they've endured, especially in the run game. But, given the relatively short time they've been together, I also don't think it's time to panic about the group.

I thought it was silly of former Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera to blitz his defensive backs at least three times in the first few series.

What's encouraging: Knox, Devin Aromashodu, Caleb Hanie and Chester Taylor (as a receiver) on offense. And rookie Major Wright, linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa and Brian Urlacher on defense.

What's discouraging: Special teams. It's understandable to give up a big return or two, since there's so many young players they want to look at. But the night, overall, was pretty ugly. Also discouraging was the defensive backups and rookie quarterback Dan LeFevour.

Danieal Manning to sit

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Bears safety Danieal Manning did some warming up with his teammates.

But he will not play tonight, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. It's a precautionary move, since Manning missed a couple of practices last week with a hamstring injury.

Craig Steltz is expected to start opposite Chris Harris. But rookie Major Wright surely will also see significant playing time.

Manning is currently listed atop the depth chart at strong safety.

He started 10 games last season.

What will the Bears do with LeFevour?

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The Bears used a sixth-round pick in the NFL Draft to select Downers Grove native Dan LeFevour.

He was an intriguing player, given his brilliant career at Central Michigan, where he broke numerous records and made plays both with his feet and his arm.

But after two weeks of training camp, LeFevour has hardly looked ready to make a meaningful contribution to the 2010 Chicago Bears. LeFevour hasn't consistently made plays and, perhaps most alarming, his arm just doesn't look like NFL material.

What about his legs, which propelled him to nearly 3,000 rushing yards and 47 rushing touchdowns? He hasn't been running circles around the Bears first-, second-, or third-string defenses.

Bears prepare for preseason opener

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Bears coach Lovie Smith said some of his offensive starters may up to the half.

"We're going to get into the first quarter and see how many plays we have," Smith said. "We could let some of the guys go a little bit longer than we normally do, maybe to the half or something like that.

"Different positions will do different things."

Smith declined to elaborate. But, given the shuffling along the offensive line, the Bears may want that unit to see some extended time together against the San Diego Chargers.

Smith also said Thursday was the team's first prep day for the Chargers.

"Challenging offense [and] defensively, we're going to play a lot of 3-4 teams this coming season, so it's good," Smith said. "It's a prefect preseason game to open up the season against."

With temperatures in the mid-90s, the Bears didn't don shoulder pads, and they ran a lot of drills at half- or three-quarter speed. Not a whole lot of highlights to mention, but here are a few.

* Safety Chris Harris had an interception for the third consecutive day. He got this one on a deflected ball.

* Craig Steltz got a lot of reps with the starting defense, opposite Harris.

* Veteran linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer returned to practice. So did tight end Kellen Davis and young players Kahlil Bell and Greg Mathews.

* Nick Roach got most of the snaps Thursday with the starting defense.

Bears place Unga on injured reserve

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The Bears announced that rookie running back Harvey Unga has been placed on injured reserve.

Unga has missed most of training camp after suffering a hamstring injury. Selected with a seventh-round pick in the NFL's Supplemental Draft, the Bears were intrigued by Unga's size and potential as a hybrid fullback.

Unga will count toward the 80-man roster until the team is required to cut down the roster to 75 players on Aug. 31.

The Bears have been pleased with the play of Kahlil Bell behind veterans Chester Taylor and Matt Forte. Garrett Wolfe is also in the mix.

Bears linebackers become Mohawk militia

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Maybe they were bored. Or maybe one of the longer, tighter units on the team just decided to do something together.

Regardless of the reasons, the Bears linebackers are sporting Mohawks -- sort of.

Brian Urlacher's head is pretty clean shaven, and you can only see the outline of it on his head. Pisa Tinoisamoa insisted he needed some gel to make his "look cooler." But middle linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer's Mohawk was hard to make out.

It started with Bears Pro Bowl weakside linebacker Lance Briggs, who gave some credit to San Diego Chargers linebacker Shawn Merriman, who sported the haircut last year. But Briggs pitched the idea to his teammates, and they supported it.

"I spearheaded the movement," Briggs proudly said, showing off his Mohawk to more than a dozen reporter.

But Briggs has big plans for the Mohawk.

"Hopefully, the whole city of Chicago will have them," Briggs said.

In addition, Briggs said he's got confirmation from linebacker coach Bob Babich that he would get one if the Bears start 3-0.

Hillenmeyer said not everyone in the group was thrilled about the idea. But he didn't have any issues.

"I was one of the guys most excited about it," he said. "When else am I going to have a Mohawk?"

In reality, though, Hillenmeyer is sporting more of a "Faux Hawk."

Nathan Vasher off to strong start in San Diego

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Former Bears Pro Bowl cornerback Nathan Vasher is apparently taking advantage of his fresh start in San Diego.

With Antoine Cason out with a hamstring injury, Vasher has spent several days with the first-string defense.

"I think he's doing outstanding," Chargers coach Norv Turner said of Vasher, according to the team's website. "I think he's been very, very consistent. He's got a good understanding of what we're doing.

"I'm excited to watch him play in these preseason games."

Vasher intercepted eight passes in 2005, en route to his lone Pro Bowl appearance. But he struggled to find his form after that.

"My time in Chicago had run its course," Vasher told the Sun-Times in April, after the Bears released him. "I feel I have an opportunity to do something special and bring those big play capabilities to San Diego."

Due to make $2.95 million in 2010, the Bears released him, and he signed a two-year, $4.5 million deal with the Chargers. The Bears had no qualms with the decision because of their belief in third-year cornerback Zackary Bowman.

After playing in only 12 games in 2007 and 2008, Vasher only started two of 15 games in 2009.

"I feel they lost confidence in my abilities," Vasher said in April. "I didn't understand, but the coaches were making decisions, and it was just one of those things that you can never change their mind about.

Chicago Bears Day 11 Summary: Chris Harris hot

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Veteran safety Chris Harris missed some practice time, and he hasn't made very many notable plays.

But he was dialed in Wednesday afternoon.

Harris intercepted two passes, and he defended at least one other.

The Bears traded for Harris and hope that his veteran presence will stabilize a secondary that struggled in 2009.

Harris didn't do much to stand out earlier in camp, but he also had a strong night Tuesday, with an interception of Jay Cutler.

He wasn't alone, though. Al Afalava and Josh Bullocks also had interceptions.

Other notes and thoughts from today's practice:

* Cutler had a second consecutive shaky practice. But, like Tuesday night, Cutler made some outstanding plays, as well. He hit several receivers for huge gains, including running back Matt Forte, tight end Greg Olsen and receiver Devin Hester. But, his most impressive connection was with Johnny Knox, inside the red-zone. Cutler rifled a pass toward the right, front pylon, and Knox reached toward the sideline and brought the ball in, with cornerback Charles Tillman right on him.

* Caleb Hanie continues to perform well, and his most notable pass was to Desmond Clark on the left side of the end zone.

* It wasn't a physical practice, since the players were not wearing pads.

* Danieal Manning was able to return to practice, which is important since rookie Major Wright has made several notable plays in his absence.

Bears coach Lovie Smith said receiver Earl Bennett will not play Saturday in the preseason opener against the San Diego Chargers.

"But for the most part we should have most of our guys ready to go."

Bennett has been sidelined the last few days with a hamstring injury. He's currently listed as the fifth receiver on a depth chart released by the team.

Smith said running back Kahlil Bell also has a hamstring injury.

"Hopefully, he'll be ready to play for the game," Smith said of Bell, currently the third-string running back.

In other injury news, Smith said tight end Kellen Davis has a minor back injury but should play Saturday.

* Safety Danieal Manning returned to practice.

* Linebackers Hunter Hillenmeyer, Brian Iwuh and Pisa Tinoisamoa, receiver Greg Matthews and running back Harvey Unga among those not practicing Wednesday.

Jay Cutler: "I got it pretty much down"

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Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz said he's thrown a lot of information at Jay Cutler. But the quarterback said he's very comfortable with the offense and has a good handle on the "concepts."

"At this point, I got it pretty much down. There are some new plays, each and every day," Cutler said. "But once you get the formations and protections, and where we're trying to go with the ball against each coverage, you're pretty good after that."

Cutler had a shaky practice Wednesday, with a couple of picks and deflected passes. But
he said his teammates are anxious for the preseason opener against the San Diego Chargers Saturday.

"Yeah, we've been going at it for a couple of weeks now so I think the guys are a little bit anxious to hit somebody else for a change," he said. "It's going to be a good test for us."

But Cutler outlined some modest goals for Saturday's game.

"We just got to get in and out of the huddle, set a good tempo," he said. "We don't want to any missed assignments. There's going to be some things we haven't seen before - it's a 3-4 defense.

"We're not really preparing for this," he said. "It's not a real game for us. But we want to go out there and take care of ourselves."


Martz believes in Omiyale, despite slow start

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Bears right tackle Frank Omiyale has endured his ups and downs so far at training camp. But Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz gave Omiyale a big vote of confidence.

"He's not where he needs to be," Martz said. "But he's so talented, and he's got the ability to be an exceptional right tackle. He really does. But he needs, like all young players, and guys at that position, just the little nuances and the mental party of playing this game.

"He'll be fine. He's going to be a real good player, he's just got to fight his way through it."

Martz noted that the season is still a month away.

"He's certainly the right guy to be there, in our mind, and we're very pleased with him," Martz said. "He's just got to continue to get better."

Martz indicated that the offensive line is set. Here's what it looks like right now: Chris Williams at left tackle, Roberto Garza at left guard, Olin Kreutz at center, Lance Louis at right guard and Omiyale at right tackle.

Other notable highlights from Martz:

* On how much his starting offense will play: "It's a little unusual because we do have a new system. We'll play it by ear. I would imagine that we may do a little bit more than one series."

* On what he's looking forward to seeing: "I'd like to see the backup quarterbacks. I'm anxious to see how both of them play, under pressure."

* On the offensive line: "I can't tell you enough how much work has gone into that group and what a good job Mike has done with them."

* On Williams going against Julius Peppers: "He's had an impressive camp. Julius has made him a better player, no question about that. Up until, we could go over and help him chip Julius, but we try to leave those tackles alone, as much as possible, and they've embraced that and it's going to make them better."

Could Bears trade a tight end before the season?

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During the offseason, teams always add as many quality players as possible then figure the war of attrition will clarify numbers at key spots.

It's evident that the Bears have quality depth at a couple of positions, but I can't help but wonder if they can somehow pick up a draft pick for a tight end.

Early in the offseason, Greg Olsen was constantly rumored to be on the trade block. Whether the Bears or other teams initiated the discussions or not, Olsen remains a Bear, and any doubt about his fit in Mike Martz's offense have been dismissed. I don't see any scenario in which the Bears trade Olsen. He's 25 years old, and he's shined throughout this training camp. While Desmond Clark continues to make plays, in his 12th NFL season, Olsen is the tight end who has the potential to really stretch defense's.

Blocker Brandon Manumaleuna is safe because of the $6 million in guarantees the Bears gave him in free agency.

That would leave Clark, Richard Angulo and Kellen Davis as players who could be expendable. Clark is 33, but he could be appealing to a team who needs a quick fix. The Dallas Cowboys, for instance, have some serious concerns at the tight end position behind Jason Witten. Martellus Bennett, a second-round pick in 2008, has missed at least nine practices, and veteran John Phillips will miss the entire season because of a torn knee ligament.

And Davis could be appealing because he's 24, stands 6 foot 7 and caught three touchdowns last season. Angulo, meanwhile, has bounced around the league for several years and most likely would remain a Bear and fill in if someone were traded.

But the Bears probably won't be quick to make any deals. Tight end is a physical position, and they only have the luxury of one player. An injury to someone -- anyone -- could change everything.

Just some food for thought.

I answer your Chicago Bears questions

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As promised, albeit a couple of days later than expected, I tackle a few of your questions. I did it from my dorm room at Olivet Nazarene University, and I obviously took no time to tidy up my room, as you can see my fridge and hand mixer behind me. Anyway, without further ado, here it is:


Chicago Bears Day 10 Summary: Two-minute mess

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After a strong start to practice, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler staggered to the end.

In 11 on 11, Cutler was picked off twice in four plays, once by cornerback Zack Bowman and once by safety Chris Harris. Then, during the two-minute drill, Cutler was just two of six, and the offense settled for a 43-yard field goal.

And with backup Caleb Hanie taking the night off, rookie Dan LeFevour didn't fare a whole lot better, although he didn't get much help from his receivers. LeFevour was four of seven but threw a nice pass into the right side of the end zone. But former Northwestern receiver Zeke Markshausen, who had a full step on a defender, flat dropped the ball.

Here are some other observations and notes from the evening practice:

* Cutler was three-for-six in a red zone drill, with two touchdowns to Rashied Davis and one to running back Matt Forte. In a later drill, starting from the defense's 25-yard line, Cutler was six-for-six with a touchdown pass to Devin Aromashodu.

* Tight end Kellen Davis made the catch of the night, leaping into the air to bring down a high pass from Cutler toward the right sideline.

* Devin Hester fielded some punts.

* Johnny Knox, Greg Olsen and Hanie were given the night off. But tight end Brandon Manumaleuna is day to day with a knee injury... again.

Hester set to return for tonight's practice

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Bears receiver Devin Hester missed the last four practices with what coach Lovie Smith described as "groin-area soreness."

Hester did some running Tuesday morning and said he's ready for the evening practice at Olivet Nazarene University.

"It felt good," Hester said. "I wanted to see where my conditioning was. Hopefully, I'll be ready."

Below are other highlights of what Hester told reporters just before lunch time:

Getting to know... Chester Taylor

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Reader Gabe Strenk wanted to hear from former Minnesota Vikings running back Chester Taylor.

Strenk submitted some solid questions, and I include a few follow ups along the way.

Here's the entire interview.

GS: How has the transition from being a Minnesota Viking to being a Bear worked out so far?
CT: It's been pretty good. It's the same thing, like when I left Baltimore to come to Minnesota. It's just a new experience, with new teammates. There are great guys to play with.

GS: What are some of the notable differences between the Viking's offensive schemes and the Bears?
CT: It's real different, because you're using the running back a lot more out of the backfield, as far as lining up in the slots or running routes. It's a lot of different shifts and formations.

SJ: Does it better suit what you do?
CT: I believe so, because I love catching the ball. I just want to use all the skills that I have, so I can go out on the field and do my best.

GS: What do you think of Mike Martz's coaching style?
CT: I believe he's real determined, and he wants perfection, and he wants things done right. We try to go out here everyday and make the plays right and try not to make the same mistakes twice.

SJ: Is he a tough coach to play for?
CT: No, he's not a tough coach. I mean, he's a coach who wants to win and loves doing things right. We try to go out here and execute like we know we can, so we can do things right.

SJ: Is he the smartest coordinator you've ever played for?
CT: Uh, yes.

GS: How do you anticipate playing a lot more games in freezing temperatures?
CT: I played in college. Toledo is not too far from here, so I'm pretty good in playing in cold weather. I don't have a problem with it.

There have been a lot of questions about the preparedness of Bears backup quarterback Caleb Hanie.

But Hanie looked comfortable on Monday, when starter Jay Cutler took a scheduled day off.

"Jay's thrown the ball quite a bit but on days like today, you really want to see some of the other players," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "Caleb Hanie got some work with the 1's and we get to look at Dan LeFevour for a little extended time, which is always good."

Often, when a young quarterback with little experience is pressed into action, they rely on dump passes. But Hanie didn't hesitate to test the secondary, spreading the ball around quite well.

He showed touch on a swing pass to running back Kahlil Bell. He showed zip on a high sideline pass to Devin Aromashodu. And he showed trust in the scheme, leading Johnny Knox with a ball in the middle of the field, with rookie safety Major Wright inching forward.

"There's a few plays I want to have back," Hanie said. "Threw some balls down the field. We're still hooking up with the receivers. Still trying to get the timing. But I felt I did pretty well today."

Other notes and highlights from today:

* Rashied Davis is listed as the backup to Johnny Knox, and he bolstered that position on Monday. He made two nice catches back-to-back, adjusting to one that was thrown behind him and making one despite tight coverage by a defender. Meanwhile, Earl Bennett was sidelined.

* Greg Mathews made the catch of the day, sprinting and fully stretching out for a deep middle pass from Dan LeFevour. He initially controlled it with one hand then secured it with the other.

* Henry Melton continues to get a lot of reps as a defensive tackle, and he showed his explosive speed on one rush against Chris Williams and Roberto Garza in a two-on-two pass protection drill.

* Julius Peppers made one of the most athletic defensive plays, batting down a short swing pass from Hanie to a running back.

* Rookie Major Wright looked solid today, but he did drop one sure pick.

Chicago Bears sign DT Mick Williams

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The Bears have signed defensive tackle Mick Williams, who originally was signed out of Pittsburgh as an undrafted free agent by the New York Jets.

Williams, of course, played under former Bears head coach Dave Wannstedt. He was productive in college, although he was considered an undersized defensive tackle.

Here's a scouting report of him by CBS Sports.

http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/draft/players/1243196

He was a key to arguably the best defensive line in the Big East, notching five sacks and 17 tackles for loss. He was Big East's Co-Defensive Player of the Year.

The Bears waived/ injured defensive tackle Averell Spicer.

Undrafted rookie receiver stands out

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I get lots of questions from readers about Freddie Barnes. But the undrafted rookie receiver who has consistently made the most plays is Greg Mathews, who played at Michigan.

Mathews has made some highlight catches, and he's been a regular target of backup quarterback Caleb Hanine.

Here are a few questions I recently asked Greg, since I didn't know much about him.

SJ: What has this experience been like so far?
GM: This is an honor, just to get to be a rookie and stand in the huddle with veterans. I just try to take advantage of every opportunity I get, so they can evaluate me and show my talents.

SJ: What's it been like to get reps with the second-string offense?
GM: I just rotate in there, when the veterans get a little winded. I make sure I know the plays. I don't want the coaches to worry, then I can just play.

SJ: Why did you go undrafted?
GM: Well, I think I had a poor senior season, and I didn't run the 40 well. I ran a 4.5. As a big receiver, you got to be able to run with the little guys. I look at not getting drafted as a blessing, so I have a chip on my shoulder to come out here and work hard and show the coaches they should have drafted me.

SJ: Do you feel the Bears are giving you a chance?
GM: They're giving me opportunities. I may not get many reps, but I just try to go hard, and stand out. I'm on a lot of special teams.

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler said Sunday night that Mike Martz's offense fits the team's personnel, and he also favors the aggressive approach.

"I think it definitely fits the personnel we have," Cutler told Fox 32. "The ball's getting pushed down the field, which I like.

"There's a lot of openings. We're taking advantage of matchups."

Cutler said the offense is "a lot different" than the one last year under Ron Turner.

"It's a little bit more spread out," he said. "A lot more motion, and shifting and moving around.

"It's going well. We're picking it up pretty well."


Here are other highlights:

* On Greg Olsen: "Greg had another big night tonight. I don't think (Martz has) ever really had a guy like Greg, and Dez (Clark). I think Greg's having one of the best camps of anyone offensively."

* On Devin Hester: "He's a little banged up right now. But, I think he had a great first week. It was unbelievable, what he was doing out there. He's got a little bit of a chip on his shoulder."

* On Matt Forte: "Matt's a tough kid. He's not going to say anything, but he was banged up last year. He got his knee fixed. I think he's back to his rookie shape."

* On his respect for coach Lovie Smith: "Just being around Lovie. Being around him for a year. He's going to take care of the players, every chance he gets. He's not going to throw anyone under the bus. You can see how much it means to him, which reflects on us."

* On concern about his offensive line: "It's a question mark for us. Absolutely. But, we got a lot of faith in Mike Tice, and Olin (Kreutz) and those guys. We're shuffling those guys up. Chris Williams is going to have a heck of a year for us.They got to get some time together. It's a new group out there. It could take a few preseason games. It's not going to happen overnight."

* On him appearing more relaxed: "Last year was a tough year. A lot of picks. A lot of blame throughout this whole organization. It was tough. But you got to go back to things that made you successful."

* On Brett Favre: "I find it hard to believe he wouldn't come back. With the situation they have up there, with the offensive talent... and he knows that. I would be very shocked and surprised if No. 4 doesn't come back."

Chicago Bears Day 9 Summary: Iglesias returns

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I blew up my Twitter account (skjensen) with accounts of Greg Olsen's strong night. But, I thought I'd focus more on a few other things that stood out about Sunday night.

First, Juaquin Iglesias returned after missing the last week of practice because of a quad injury. Iglesias, a third-round pick last year, hasn't shown much to justify his high draft position. But he finally flashed his speed and some hands Sunday night.

But he knows he's got a lot more to prove.

"It feels good," Iglesias said of his performance. "I love to play football. It hurts to be on the sideline."

Iglesias said his leg was fine.

Since the top three receiver spots are set (Devin Hester, Johnny Knox and Devin Aromashodu), Iglesias is fighting for a spot at No. 4 or 5, against veterans like Earl Bennett and Rashied Davis. In addition, while he was out, rookies like Greg Mathews and Eric Peterman made some head-turning plays. The Bears also signed former Northwestern receiver Zeke Markshausen on Sunday and released quarterback Mike Teel.

Iglesias told me he recently approach special teams coordinator Dave Toub.

"I told him I'll do whatever he wants," Iglesias said. "I'm trying to do everything."

Second, I focused on the defensive and offensive line drills. Here are some of my observations:

* Roberto Garza may need some time to acclimate himself to left guard again. He was pushed back on consecutive plays by Matt Toeaina. But, on one play against Julius Peppers and Marcus Harrison, Garza and Chris Williams stood their ground. On the next play, though, Peppers got past Williams on the outside.

* Rookies J'Marcus Webb and Levi Horn held their own against Henry Melton and Jarron Gilbert on consecutive plays.

* Kevin Shaffer and Johan Asiata did a solid job against Gilbert and Anthony Adams.

* Frank Omiyale and Lance Louis held up against Israel Idonije and Melton. But, they didn't fare so well -- at least on one play -- against Idonije and Tommie Harris.

* Undrafted rookie Barry Turner definitely has some speed and turns the corner quick.

Devin Hester sits again

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Bears receiver Devin Hester is not practicing again tonight. He dressed on Friday night but only did a couple of warm up drills.

Hester told me earlier that he was not injured. Previously, Bears coach Lovie Smith said he was sore.

Mark Anderson is also not practicing tonight. Not sure why. But this gives Israel Idonije a chance to shine since they're fighting for the starting defensive end spot opposite Julius Peppers. It will also give young players like Henry Melton a chance to make some plays.

Other notable players not working tonight include Danieal Manning, Earl Bennett and Josh Bullocks.

Brandon Manumaleuna expected back

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Tight end Brandon Manumaleuna, who had offseason surgery on his right knee, didn't practice Friday at Soldier Field because of an injury to that same knee. But, Manumaleuna expressed optimism in being able to return to practice tonight at Olivet Nazarene University.

Manumaleuna had a long brace or support on his right leg, which covered from his upper thigh to the top of his ankle.

Asked if he's frustrated by his latest injury, Manumaleuna said, "It is because you don't want to miss any time."

Manumaleuna was signed on the first day of free agency, along with defensive end Julius Peppers and running back Chester Taylor. Manumaleuna, who received a five-year, $15 million contract that included $6 million in guarantees, played for new offensive coordinator Mike Martz in St. Louis. Manumaleuna is known for his blocking prowess.

But, since it's not full contact, it's hard for me to tell if he's had a good training camp or not.

Chicago Bears Day 8 Summary: Soldier Field practice

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Remember all that talk about Mike Martz not using tight ends?

Well, ask any of the 26,000 fans at Soldier Field Friday night if Greg Olsen and company were a prominent part of the offense during the open practice.

While Kellen Davis and Brandon Manumaleuna were sidelined, Olsen and Desmond Clark made several highlight catches, most of them at least 15 yards down the field.

Getting to Know... Olin Kreutz

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I'm excited to debut our new blog feature, Getting to Know....

Jim Cazel wanted me to interview longtime Bears center Olin Kreutz, who was happy to oblige Thursday after lunch. Jim didn't say, but I'm assuming he's from Hawaii, since he started his email to me with, "Aloha."

Below are Jim's questions, along with a few follow ups and extras from me. My questions will say SJ.

Without further ado...

Chicago Bears Day 7 Summary: Two-Minute Drill

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It was one of the more enjoyable practices Thursday, one made even more interesting by winds that had to push 20-plus miles per hour.

Jay Cutler and the other quarterbacks had some issues during warm-ups, as their balls sailed high above their intended targets.

But Cutler caught fire during his first two-minute drill. Starting around his own 30, Cutler quickly moved his team down the field, connecting on five consecutive passes. Three of them were to Johnny Knox and one each to Devin Aromashodu and Rashied Davis, who was filling in for Devin Hester (soreness).

Isaac Bruce at Chicago Bears practice

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Rams Bruce Football.jpg

Former St. Louis Rams receiver Isaac Bruce was on the field Thursday for the Bears practice, and he was impressed with what he saw.

Asked about similarities of the Bears offense to the Rams, when they were one of the league's top units, Bruce said, "I don't see much missing.

"I see guys out here who can make plays. [They've] got a quarterback who can wing it. You know, I always like that. You've got guys on the outside who can make plays, who are fast, and can run routes without breaking down. When you've got guys like that in this offense, it's always good."

Bruce, who worked with Devin Hester for most of July, is with the Bears for the remainder of training camp as part of the NFL's Minority Coaching Fellowship. Bears coach Lovie Smith said Bruce can be an asset to his young receivers, who are learning Mike Martz's offense.

"We're just going to let him try to teach the guys how to be a receiver in our offense, and tell them some of the tricks of the trade," Smith said.

Bruce said he'll stress to the players that they need to be confident with their knowledge so they can be comfortable on the field.

Asked what it takes to speed up the process, he said, "Be willing to learn.

"I think anytime you've got a training camp where you have about six weeks to prepare, that's plenty of time to learn any offense."

Bruce was a four-time Pro Bowl selection with 91 career touchdowns.

NFL officials visit Chicago Bears

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A crew of NFL officials just visited with reporters here at Olivet Nazarene University. We watched a video that, once again, emphasized player safety and sportsmanship. I like some of the new additions and emphases, including the ones that further discourage dangerous hits -- on offense or defense -- to defenseless players.

But I was intrigued by a rule designed to protect referees, particularly the ones in the middle of the field, on the defensive side of the ball. They will now be repositioned on the offensive side of the ball because of a few incidents in which refs have gotten smashed by players.

Chicago Bears Day 7 Docket: Upon Further Review

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Hope everyone is having a good morning. I'm still taking questions for the video Q&A, which will post tomorrow. That's probably a good thing, since there's no practice or access until 7 p.m. (at Soldier Field). Shoot me questions at sjensen@suntimes.com

Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli will speak to reporters today (it's his designated day), then reporters will meet with NFL officials to go over new rules for the 2010 season.

Does anyone have any rules-related questions? I'll try to ask a few today for you.

The Bears defense had some notable moments during practice Wednesday night.

But fans in attendance were thrilled to see the Bears offense consistently making plays in the red zone.

It a problem last season, as the team ranked 27th in the NFL in red zone offense, converting less than half of their opportunities into touchdowns. But it was encouraging on Wednesday, as Jay Cutler and Caleb Hanie made some nice decisions -- and better throws -- to their receivers.

Cutler's best pass was one to the right corner of the end zone. He flicked the ball before Devin Aromashodu broke toward the corner, and the receiver barely reached up and snatched it down for a touchdown.

Either Aromashodu was going to make the catch or nobody was.

"This year, we need to score down in the red zone," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "It has been encouraging.

"You got to get touchdowns down there."

Meanwhile, the injury list is piling up for the Bears. Smith said Unga's hamstring injury will take more time than originally expected. Mike Teel (hamstring), Charles Tillman (ankle) and Barry Turner didn't practice Wednesday, joining Chris Harris (back), Major Wright (groin) and Juaquin Iglesias (quad).

Linebacker Brian Iwuh watched the practice with a brace on his right knee. His injury is not significant.

Olin Kreutz was given the night off.

Your Chicago Bears questions, please...

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All right, everyone.

I'm bunkered at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, where I've skipped dinner three of the last four nights. But, I want to make some time to answer your questions.

Submit them, and I will answer a few and post them on Friday. But here's a twist: I'm going to post it as a video.

Anyone want to hold my iPhone when I do this? My head is too big for me to just hold it in front of me, like a normal person.

As I often ask you, please submit the questions directly to me (sjensen@suntimes.com), not as a comment on this blog post.

UPDATE: Keep the questions coming. You guys are sending some good ones.

Chicago Bears add DL Maurice Evans

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The Bears have added defensive lineman Maurice Evans, an undrafted free agent in 2009 out of Penn State.

The club has not announced a corresponding move yet.

Evans has spent some time with the New York Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but he has not appeared in a game. He is 6 foot 2 and weighs about 270 pounds.

Evans is from Brooklyn, N.Y., and he is known for being a non-stop player, excelling with the Nittany Lions.

UPDATE: The Bears announced Evans was signed to a two-year contract and that punter Richmond McGee was released.

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler addressed reporters. No major news or nuggets, but here's some things he talked about:

On the offense: "Seven-step drop is the big difference. Three- and five- are just totally different from a seven and most of the stuff we're doing is a little bit deeper, pushing the ball down a little farther. It's quite a big change for everybody."

On if they are overloaded with info: "I don't think so. I think the OTA's were a lot tougher, information-wise and volume-wise. The guy did a great job in July of going over things and keeping up with things. If you come in here and don't know what you're doing or you haven't looked at it for a while, it's going to be a lot. But the receivers have looked very well."


On if it was fair to say he was frustrated Tuesday, when he hurled a ball out of bounds, at a tent: "Not fair at all. I think it was hot out there and we're trying to make every play perfect; that's our goal offensively. Whenever we don't, I get frustrated, the older guys get frustrated, Olin gets mad, so it's a good thing, though. If we're just going out there and going through the motions, we're doing things wrong."

On his comfort level: "It takes time. Whenever you get this playbook, it's overwhelming. But working with Mike has been great. He's really been able to give us information and process it and do it in a timely manner."

On Martz's coaching style: "You kind of know what you're going to get from Mike. He doesn't hold any punches. Everything he does is for a reason and he puts a lot of pressure on you offensively to not only learn it but to do it the right way, know all the little details and that's how he's always done it. Every once in a while he has a few jokes, a few stories, so it hasn't been a bad thing being with him a lot right now."

On if this is his most important training camp: "I don't know. I think every camp's important at this point. Every team believes it has the team to go to the Super Bowl and it's a matter of just going out there and doing it. [But] it's a matter of who's playing the best ball in December. I think offensively we want to get off to a good start. Last year I think we got into kind of a trap of putting too much pressure on us in those first couple games and guys were trying to do too much. In this offense if you just go out and do your job and what's asked of you, you'll be fine."

On if he his relationship with his previous offensive coordinator Ron Turner was different: "Relationships are different with everybody. You never know how it's going to work out, the dynamics of it. Sometimes you get along really well; sometimes it takes some time. I think me and Mike have clicked very quickly in our relationship. We have the same goals and the same thought processes on and off the field."

On the receivers: ""I think the receivers have looked great.That's been a big question mark for [the media] for a long time. But those guy's have had a great camp."

On Greg Olsen: "Greg has had a great camp doing a great job blocking and doing his stuff. I think that's one of the things we were kind of questioning with him. We knew he could catch the ball, knew he could run, but we had to get him in some different facets of the game and be able to keep him in on blocking situations and he's done a great job of that."

On the offensive line: "Offensive line's coming along. That needs time. Offense is going to be a little behind the defense. They're more fly around and react, and offense takes a little more time. We're getting there. I think right now where we are for the first week is pretty good. And we've got some more work to do."

On Martz: "When Mike walks into a room, he's got that aura about him and commands respect, and with the group we have, I don't think there was any question he was going to get it."

Jay Cutler has "Kurt Warner "awareness, Martz says

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In Mike Martz's eyes, Jay Cutler can apparently walk on water.

To hear the new Bears offensive coordinator tell it, Cutler is well on his way to mastering the new offense, which challenges the quarterback to throw to spots more.

"What we do really fits him," Martz said. "He has that Kurt Warner awareness, if you will. He has such a keen sense of where everybody is at. He can see everything and can diagnose it without even thinking about it.

"We keep trying to challenge him with a lot of new things," Martz said. "Try to keep pressing the envelope. Then when we get back into the season, we'll come back and zero in each week."

Martz said they keep throwing new concepts at Cutler, and he's "handled everything remarkably well."

And even if something goes wrong? Well, Cutler can bail them out.

"He has always tried to do it just the way we've asked him to do it. Then, when things do break down, the really great ones have a sense of just finding a guy, and he can do that," Martz said. "He's been pretty remarkable so far. He's everything I had hoped he would be.

"Absolutely."

Is Cutler struggling with anything?

"Not really.

"Not really. His retention and everything is better than I thought it would be. There's just nothing I would say that we have to go back and fix. His footwork took a little bit longer, but he's got that down."

Think Martz likes his quarterback?

Other highlights from Martz:

* On where they are with installation of the offense: "I think we're not behind. I think we've progressed as well as we hope we would. We're not any further than that, and we're not behind, so I think that's very good."

* On the tight ends: "The tight ends have been very, very outstanding in camp. They've been pretty remarkable as a group.''





On Devin Hester: "I think Devin is ahead of the curve. He's had a remarkable camp, by the way. He came back after spring, there were times he struggled a bit in the spring trying to figure things out, but he's been mistake free so far. He's been outstanding in his route technique. So he's better right now than I would expect him to."

* On if he has concerns about the offensive line: "The thing biggest thing is settling on our starting five, and we'll do that fairly soon. We're trying to give as many guys inside an opportunity, to see what they have. We love our two tackles. I don't worry about the offensive line at all. I think we have the best guy coaching (Mike Tice). I really do.

"I can't tell you what a comfortable feeling it is for me. You just know things are going to get done right, and you know the approach, so I'm not worried about it at all.
I know that we're still looking at people, trying to give everybody as much chance as possible to define who they are, with an opportunity to help us.
Within the next two weeks, you'll see things sort out.

"Remember this: when a new offensive line comes together like this, in a new system, they are always behind everybody. They're jus so much information for them. Seven on seven guys can go out against air, in shorts, and get timing and learn and be good.
On the offensive line, you've got to put a helmet and pads on, to get timing against live people to really progress. That's why they'll be just a little bit behind. But that's normal."

* On whether he has enough weapons: "Oh heavens yes. I'm very pleased with our personnel. You look at the tight ends and the backs, and the offensive line will come together."

On if the Chicago weather would affect the offense: "No, not really. Remember, if it's not sure-footed for the receivers, it's the same footing for the DBs, and the quarterbacks. The only thing you have to pay attention to in the NFL, not so much the condition of the field, or cold or hot, or rain, it's wind. Wind has more of a factor than anything else."

On how Hester and Johnny Knox have looked: "They look like we want them to be, at this point. The pressman is always going to be issue in this system, with the releases. Darryl has done a great job with our group, getting off the ball against the press.
The thing that happened to me that I was impressed with. This is the first time it's happened to me, when you put something new in. We picked up with the receivers where we left off in the spring. We didn't have go back and redo something. They just came in and they were going pretty good, technically. I'm talking about the depth of things, precision of routes and adjustments. We just kept going. I'm very impressed with that group."

Chicago Bears Day 6 Docket

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Today is the day many of you have been waiting for: Mike Martz will address reporters.

He didn't talk when the players and coaches reported last Thursday. It will be interesting to hear his thoughts on how the offensive players are handing the new offense. I fully expect him to give a "glass half full" summation, which, frankly, I think is fairly accurate.

I thinkit's been a good start for a lot of key players: Jay Cutler, Johnny Knox, Devin Hester, Devin Aromashodu, Matt Forte, Chester Taylor and Caleb Hanie. I haven't seen Greg Olsen as active as I would have maybe expected. And the offensive line, as a whole, has not been consistent.

We'll also have a chance to talk to Jay Cutler in the not too distant future.

I'll post highlights of their comments, so make sure to check back.

Then, later tonight, the Bears will hold a 7 p.m. practice. Should be a fun one.

Don't forget to submit a player you would like me to interview and send a few questions.
See the link below.
http://blogs.suntimes.com/bears/2010/08/need_your_help.html

Day 5 Camp Summary: D gets under Cutler's skin

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Jay Cutler is off limits during practice, wearing a bright orange jersey, just like all the quarterbacks.

But the Bears defense seemed to annoy him on Tuesday.

Let's first establish that Cutler didn't have a bad day. During one stretch, Cutler completed seven passes in a row, including two to Johnny Knox and one to tight end Greg Olsen.

But that was in seven-on-seven drills, which means it doesn't include the defensive line.

When lines were on the field, the offense's unit certainly had some positive moments, giving Cutler time to complete passes. But there were a handful of clear sacks, as well, with defensive tackle Tommie Harris once swatting the ball out of Cutler's hands as he ran by in front of him.

Cutler showed the first sign of frustration, picking the ball up and tossing at Harris' feet about five feet away.

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Later, though, the offensive line had two bad plays in a row in a full squad situation. Julius Peppers blew by Frank Omiyale. Then, the entire defensive line collapsed the pocket, and Mark Anderson appeared in position to get a sack of Cutler.

The quarterback responded by chucking the ball toward the right sideline, at the top of a large, white tent.

Asked if his quarterback was frustrated, Bears coach Lovie Smith said, "I don't know about frustrated.

"We have scholarship players on the other side of the ball too. Jay's a good player. I'm really pleased with what he's done. But it's good competition."

Peppers, meanwhile, downplayed any frustration the quarterback should have.

"I don't know if we frustrated him because he's not getting hit so he can't really feel it," Peppers said. "Yet. He wasn't taking any punishment."

Other notable things from today's practice:

* LB Brian Iwuh injured his knee during practice, and he was carted off.

* LB Hunter Hillenmeyer didn't practice because of a groin injury, Smith said.

* Cutler's best pass was in the middle of the field, to Rashied Davis. It appeared to be a forced pass, since Brian Urlacher and a safety were in the vicinity. But Davis ran right onto the ball, and he brought it in for about 20 yards.

* One of the more comical sights was seeing James Marten (6 foot 8) lined up at left guard. He's three inches taller than the left tackle on that play, Kevin Shaffer.

* Johnny Knox was definitely the most targeted receiver by Jay Cutler on Tuesday. He made several nice plays. But a sure touchdown was to Devin Aromashodu, who was streaking down the left sideline and ran under a deep pass from Cutler.

Bears skeptical or unfazed by Favre "news"

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Count defensive tackle Tommie Harris among those not buying the latest news concerning Brett Favre.

"I don't know what's going on," said Harris, noting he hasn't watched any TV.

Asked about reports that Favre is retiring, Harris said, "Well, the Vikings got to go on.

"Everybody got to move on. We got to worry about getting the Bears right."

But then, when asked if he would miss Favre, Harris had an interesting answer.

"Yeah definitely," he said. "I will miss competing against him. I mean, the guy has played a long time, did a lot of great things for this league. I sil think he'll be back, though. I know him."

Asked why, Harris said, "That's it.

"I know him. If he would have had a bad year last year, I would htikn he would retire. But he won't end on that noe .I don believe so."

Vikings source on Favre: "Nothing is definite"

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The Minneapolis Star-Tribune and Fox Sports are reporting that Brett Favre has been informing teammates and team officials that he's retiring.

A high-ranking Minnesota Vikings official just told me in a text message that "nothing is definite" and that it's still a work in progress.

But, that may be wishful thinking on the team's part, especially since they've invested so much in the Pro Bowl and future Hall of Fame quarterback to return.

Currently, Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels are the veteran quarterbacks on the roster. The Vikings without Favre would definitely change the landscape of the NFC North.

The Vikings are still a very talented team, loaded with Pro Bowl players, but they could go from having arguably the best player in the division at the most important position -- certainly the best credentials -- to the worst starter in the division at the most important position.

The Vikings reached the NFC Championship game last season.

Since this would be Favre's third retirement, it's hard to believe it until he actually issues a statement or grants interviews. But, then again, would that suffice?

Now, I can see where that Vikings official is coming from...

Need your help on a new blog idea

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In a few days, I'm going to start a new feature, exclusive to this blog. Since I hear from so many of you -- both good and bad feedback -- I want to empower you to be a part of the process.

It's called, "Getting to know (fill in the blank)."

I want you to email me (sjensen@suntimes.com) players you would like me to interview and include a few questions you would like me to ask. I'll round out the interview, with questions of my own. I will then post the transcript and also include a 90-second sound bite, which will only be posted for 24 hours, per NFL rules.

Again, please don't post questions to the blog. Email them directly to me.

Day 4 Camp Summary: Wright injures groin

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It was an action-packed day in Bourbonnais. Very lively practice, with lots of highlights.

The big story coming out, though, was rookie Major Wright suffering a groin injury towards the end. Up until then, Major was one of the stars of the practice, with an interception. He also showcased his speed and range, even getting some snaps as the starting free safety.

Day 3 Camp Summary

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The thermometer read mid-80s, but it felt much hotter than that Sunday.

And still Bears coach Lovie Smith pushed his players who, in pads, practiced for about two hours and 20 minutes.

Veterans Brian Urlacher and Olin Kreutz returned, but three other players joined Chris Harris on the injured list. Receiver Juaquin Iglesias (groin), running back Harvey Unga (hamstring) and defensive tackle Marcus Harrison didn't finish practice. Harrison stripped off his pads and jersey toward the end of practice and cooled off on the sideline.

Here are a few things that stood out:

* There were five false starts by offensive linemen. But offensive line coach Mike Tice told me he isn't reading too much into that because they were working on a hard count and executing new plays at the same time. Frank Omiyale was the main culprit, jumping twice. He was replaced by James Marten after the second.

* Cornerback Tim Jennings made an impression in his first practice (he had been sidelined with a knee injury) by stretching out for a difficult interception of Jay Cutler down the field. Jennings is in the mix for the nickel cornerback spot, along with Corey Graham who also had a pick Sunday.

* With safety Chris Harris (back) sitting out another practice, Craig Steltz took the starting reps alongside Danieal Manning. But, rookie Major Wright also got some snaps with the starters and didn't look wholly out of place.

* Not sure how he did overall. But, Mark Anderson made more splash plays than Israel Idonije in practice today. Anderson had what would have been a sack (he didn't bite on a play-action fake), and he batted down a pass attempt.

* Jay Cutler was in a nice groove with his receivers and tight ends. Devin Hester seemed to be his favorite target today, though. Unlike yesterday, Cutler definitely threw more passes to spots and required the receivers to go get the ball. Devin Aromashodu did that very nicely on a deep pass on the left sideline.

* I've been very impressed with how hard unheralded running back Kahlil Bell runs. He's got a burst, and he bounces off people.

* Don't sleep on tight end Richard Angulo, a long-time project of Mike Tice. Angulo was with Tice in Minnesota and joined him in Jacksonville, when Tice worked with tight ends. Angulo is a big target with soft hands. He's made several impressive catches in this camp, most notably a one-handed on the sideline on Day One.

* Left guard Johan Asiata has been quiet. I can't tell if that's a good thing or a bad thing yet. For instance, Josh Beekman has stood out with a couple of false starts.

* Tice suggested that three offensive line jobs are open: left guard, obviously, but also right guard and right tackle. I'll delve deeper into that later...

Tice offers insight on his unit

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Bears offensive line coach Mike Tice was pleased with the start of his players at this training camp.

But he didn't anoint anyone in the unit, including six-time Pro Bowl selection Olin Kreutz.

Asked if Kreutz could return to Pro Bowl form, Tice said, "I graded the whole season, and I didn't feel he was far below that level."

Tice said Kreutz was No. 1, but he added that the 33-year-old veteran had some things that "over time, he's let lapse, technique wise."

"He's going to work and has worked diligently to clean some of those things up. And if he does that, and he holds up, and I'm smart with him and don't overwork him, yeah, I think he can (return to the Pro Bowl)," Tice said. "I think he has some juice left."

It's interesting that Tice said Kevin Schaffer received the second-highest grade. If that's the case, then Schaffer's job security sure looks good, especially since he's played both guard and tackle.

Here are other highlights from Tice:

* On Chris Williams: "He can be whatever he wants to be. I'd like to see a little bit more tenacity there. But, we can't change people's make up."

On how the winner of the left guard starting spot will be determined: "Consistency at the position. At the end of the play, you're blocking your guy a lot more than you're not. Aggression. Good decisionmaking."

* On Lance Louis: "We haven't put Lance over there (at left guard), because he's, in my opinion, battling for the right guard spot."

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