Punter Adam Podlesh is still a question mark for the regular-season opener against the Indianapolis Colts in just under two weeks, as the hip flexor on his non-punting leg is still a rehab work in progress.
"No one has ruled that out yet, it's still a possibility,'' Podlesh said on Tuesday of a Week 1 start. "We're going to be smart about how we can get myself back on the field.''
By smart Podlesh meant that he can do more than just punt the ball for the Bears and run off the field.
"The way [special teams coordinator] Dave Toub has talked about how we want guys that are going to cover, get down field, regardless of your position when you're out there, you're going to be giving your all, and if I'm not in a position where I can do that, I don't think they're going to put me in that position,'' Podlesh explained.
A bigger concern for Podlesh, as well as the rest of the players around the league? Will the replacement referees be ready for Week 1?
Podlesh is the Bears' player representative to the union, and has been a sounding board for all the concerns coming from the locker room.
"I voiced it before, you can talk to a lot of players that are concerned about it, obviously,'' Podlesh admitted. "The pace of play with this game, which will change from the preseason to the regular season, is a concern with new referees. Usually these referee crews don't replace more than one member of their crew each year, and essentially you now have everybody that's new. That change of pace of play is going to be a concern. Let's see if they can keep up, and foremost, they protect the player, keep them safe, which is something that the players and the NFL have been doing a whole lot to maintain. And to continue to progress in keeping the players safe. That's a strong point of concern with the replacement referees. Not to say that they won't be able to do it, it's just a concern because it's a question mark on if they will be able to handle that change of pace of play.''
Asked if there were specific concerns that kept coming up, Podlesh said there were numerous concerns, but all of them got back to the exact same place: Player safety.
"It depends on the player you talk to,'' he said. "But on the whole, in the back of our minds is a bit of a concern because like I said before, these referees have never refereed in a regular-season NFL game. That's a bit of a concern.''