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Charles Tillman, who left Sunday's blowout in Minnesota with a concussion, is back on the snowy practice field this afternoon, four days after suffering the head injury.

That means Tillman passed with flying colors the stricter guidelines handed down by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Wednesday. It was the second lopsided loss that Tillman has pulled himself out of this season. He left the Arizona game with a shoulder injury, and there were at least two games that he didn't finish in 2008. But he usually returns to play the next week.

As expected, defensive end Alex Brown returned from his calf injury, and is also practicing. He has played in a team-high 122 consecutive games. Defensive tackle Tommie Harris (knee) is also a full go.

ATLANTA--Time will tell, but it could prove to be one of the most productive scouting trips of general manager Jerry Angelo's career.

He was headed to Tampa last week to scout the South Florida-Cincinnati game, and after some initial discussions with Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik, who was groomed for a time under Angelo, they agreed to meet face-to-face. That is how the trade on Friday for defensive end Gaines Adams got done with the Bears shipping out their second-round draft pick in 2010 for the No. 4 pick in the 2007 draft.

Angelo understands that Adams, who will not be active for tonight's game against the Falcons, is being labeled a bust in Tampa. They said the same thing about Cedric Benson, who he drafted fourth overall in 2005.

"I have seen situations like that,'' he said. "You get a few position coaches and a scheme change, the fourth pick in the draft, big fish bowl not living up to expectations. Hey, I have been part of it. We've seen it. We feel very strongly about our scheme, we feel very strongly about our coaches, we feel very strongly about the way we evaluate players. We did all of our due diligence and we felt like we're going to make this happen. There are risks to a draft pick, there is risk to this. I'm just hoping he is coming in here wanting to be a great player. If he is, I feel like we have all the tools to facilitate him coming to fruition.''

Angelo understands it probably didn't make the guys already in the Bears defensive line room happy. Adams will join a rotation that right now is Alex Brown-Adewale Ogunleye-Mark Anderson. It's not that he's unhappy with any of those players, and, yes, Ogunleye and Anderson could both return next season.

"I'm sure I didn't make any friends over this with the defensive line,'' Angelo said. "But I like them all. I just feel like you can't have enough of them. Unlike the offensive line, you play a lot of defensive linemen. We have a rotation. It's a pretty good rotation. He is hopefully another player that is going to add to the mix. It starts with the front, you know that, both on the offensive and defensive lines. I just felt like the value of what he does was too great not to take advantage of this opportunity.

"I'm not anticipating us doing anything with anybody other than what they are already doing. We just got another guy to be in the mix. It's a second-round draft pick. Does he have to be special? He doesn't have to be special. He has to be a good rank-and-file player we can win with. His position, and I can't minimize this, has tremendous value in our scheme. That had a lot of weight in our decision. These guys aren't easy to find and when you get an opportunity to potentially get one, you act on it."

Three games into the era of Lovie Smith as defensive coordinator, I took a look at the tendencies the team has had using the blitz thus far. ESPN.com put out some interesting numbers earlier in the week showing that the Bears were blitzing more than 47 percent of the time, second-most in the league.

Smith didn't want to talk about tendencies, but said he goes into the game each week with a plan in mind and then adjusts as the game unfolds. If you'll recall, he put the blame on himself for one blitz at Seattle last week. The Seahawks were facing third-and-19 from the Bears' 39-yard line, and Smith called the blitz. Seneca Wallace dumped a little screen pass into the flat to Julius Jones and he broke an arm tackle try by cornerback Charles Tillman along the sideline to scoot all the way to the end zone. The Bears rushed six on the play--linemen Adewale Ogunleye, Tommie Harris and Israel Idonije, linebackers Lance Briggs and Hunter Hillenmeyer and free safety Kevin Payne. Right end Mark Anderson dropped into coverage. There was minimal pressure but plenty of open space for Jones. With long odds for the Seahawks to pick up 19 yards, Smith probably wishes he would have been more conservative.

It's a zone pressure similar to what was diagrammed here at the National Football Post by Matt Bowen, who played safety in the league under Smith in St. Louis. One of the first blitzes Smith installed when he got to St. Louis was "Storm." Bowen does a great job of taking you through the X's and O's and explaining how and why the play works. He details the responsibilities in coverage.

Bears-Seahawks injury report

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

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

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

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

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

Bears

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

Seattle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BOURBONNAIS, Ill.--Plenty of action from Fridays' first day of practice that we didn't get to in the print/online edition or in the blog previously. Let's take a look at some quotes from the day.

Lovie Smith on cornerback Zack Bowman, who made a couple plays in practice including securing a bobbled interception.

"Zack had a good offseason. I know he made a couple plays out there today, but that's what we've seen from him every time we've given him an opportunity,'' Smith said. "He's got a long ways to go. Again, all the things that happened so far, none of it's been in pads. We're anxious to see the guys in that next step. But with the opportunity Zack's had, he's made the most of it."

Our spin: Bowman has already become Corey Graham from a year ago. Graham capitalized on a good offseason and then produced when Charles Tillman missed time in training camp. The more Bowman impresses, the tougher it will become for Graham to get a look. At some point you would figure secondary coach Jon Hoke will want to get a look at him though.

Alex Brown on the first workout with new defensive line coach Rod Marinelli.

"It's tough,'' Brown said. "Sheesh. It was everything we thought it would be though. It was more upbeat than OTA's but we knew it would be that way, but we knew that coming in. It's nothing we didn't expect but what you can't really plan for is being off for a month and a week and coming back for football. You can work at it as much as you want, but it ain't the same. It was good out here. You're going to be tired on the first day."

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BOURBONNAIS, Ill.--There was plenty of football and non-football issues to tackle as players reported throughout the day.

You get the sense everyone involved cannot wait to get started Friday afternoon. This is the only weekend the team will be practicing at Olivet Nazarene University as the Bears have Family Day at Soldier Field on Aug. 8, play at Buffalo on Aug. 15 and will break camp before the next weekend.

This is what defensive end Alex Brown said when I asked him at the end of OTA's how he felt the Bears had improved in comparison to other teams around the league:

"I don't know what everybody else has but I tell you what, I like the team we have now,'' Brown said. "I'll tell you that. We're going to be pretty good. We've got to come play and teams change from year to year and people tend to look at what happened the previous year and say, `OK, the strength of your schedule isn't very good or it is.' The teams we have coming in, they're going to be good teams. We're going to have to come ready to play, but we're going to have a good chance to win all of them.

"Everybody knows when everything kind of started changing but you come out and you see guys playing together and see how hard guys are working and over the past 10 weeks just to see how much we've grown, not just as a D-line or a defense but as a team, you see it. We've got to dodge the injury bug. If we can do that and if we can get Tommie [Harris] back healthy, we'll be damn hard to beat, I'll tell you that.''

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We come to our second to final position-by-position breakdown as we close in on packing our bags and heading to Bourbonnais, Ill., and the campus of Olivet Nazarene University. This morning we target special teams.

Projected starters: K Robbie Gould, 6-0, 185, 5th season, Penn State; P Brad Maynard, 6-1, 188, 13th season, Ball State; LS Pat Mannelly, 6-5, 265, 12th season, Duke; KR Danieal Manning, 5-11, 202, 4th season, Abilene Christian; PR Devin Hester, 5-11, 190, 4th season, Miami.

2009 salary cap numbers

Robbie Gould $2,905,200
Devin Hester $6,885,833
Pat Mannelly $962,200
Danieal Manning $885,200
Brad Maynard $1,392,280

Number of specialists on the roster at the start of the 2008 season: 3

Projected number of specialists on 2009 roster at start of the season: 3

The skinny: The Bears didn't get the kind of electric scores they grew accustomed to from Hester, but they still scored on special teams in 2008. Manning ran back a kickoff for a touchdown, Brandon Lloyd and Garrett Wolfe both scored on blocked punts and Zack Bowman scored on a muffed punt. Alex Brown also blocked a 38-yard field goal try by Green Bay's Mason Crosby in the Week 16 meeting with 18 seconds remaining in regulation. The Bears went on to win in overtime. So, it's not like Dave Toub's unit was without major contributions. No one can pinpoint exactly why Hester lost his edge in the return game. He averaged 21.9 yards on kickoffs where he saw about every gimmick imaginable and was worse on punts, averaging only 6.2 yards. There are a handful of theories, all of them probably valid in part. The biggest reason is pretty simple--Hester got a lot more work on offense and that took away from his return game. The stats certainly support that thinking. Hester was on the field for 631 offensive snaps last season vs. 226 in 2007. He had 121 special teams snaps in 2008 vs. 182 in 2007. Another key factor to consider is the turnover the Bears had on special teams. Playing without Pro Bowl special teamer Brendon Ayanbadejo for the first time, Hester's return units lacked the mojo they had enjoyed previously. Ayanbadejo wasn't just a tremendous player, he was a leader and knew when the group needed an infusion of energy.

Still, special teams remained solid and wound up finishing eighth in the composite rankings compiled by Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News after back-to-back No. 1 finishes. Manning would have been the NFC's Pro Bowl return man if he would have been promoted before the Nov. 16 game at Green Bay. He led the league in kickoff returns at 29.7 yards, and his success may lead opponents to approach him differently this time around. The coverage teams were solid but not as good as they have been in the past.

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Going over the Bears' 80-man roster right now, one position of need really jumps out at you. We're not covering any new ground when we write that they are banking on considerable production from multiple unproven players at wide receiver in 2009. Donald Driver beat us to the punch on that already.

Earl Bennett is a projected starter with zero NFL catches. Rookies Juaquin Iglesias and Johnny Knox are being counted on and the Bears are hoping they don't require a "redshirt year'' that some in the organization say Bennett had. Then you have starter Devin Hester and veteran slot receiver Rashied Davis. Brandon Rideau could also figure in the mix and he has virtually no NFL experience.

But if Lovie Smith could make one personnel move right now, import one player to his roster, would it be a receiver? Maybe. But think back to five years ago when Smith was first on the scene. The Bears went to training camp at Olivet Nazarene University and before they got out of there Smith made up his mind, he needed a pass rusher to make his defense go. We've heard Smith say it every year as the draft approaches, he can never have enough players who can get to the quarterback.

Well, the price for an elite pass rusher just went up. A lot. All of a sudden you've got multiple pass rushers (Dwight Freeney's $72 million contract is standing up just fine) making more money than some top passers, a trend that is sure to change and maybe before the Bears get around to doing a deal for Jay Cutler. Consider the joy among edge rushers this week:

*** Terrell Suggs beat the deadline that comes with the franchise tag to sign a longterm contract in Baltimore. He bagged $63 million over six seasons, the same money Matt Cassel got in Kansas City this week. According to reports, Suggs will receive $38 million guaranteed and his total bonus money in the first two years of the deal is $33.1 million, just shy of the $34 million in bonus money Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning had in his contract.

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Missing: The Bears' pass rush.

If found, please bring to the Weber Center on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University by midnight July 30, you know, so the defense can have its identity back in time for training camp.

The disappearance of the Bears' pass rush, particularly from its front four, was an issue that could not be solved last season when the team registered 28 sacks, the lowest total in five seasons under Lovie Smith. Since expanding to the 16-game schedule in 1978, the Bears have had less than 28 sacks just once, in 2003.

The lack of a pass rush has been conveniently placed at the feet of defensive tackle Tommie Harris by some and that's entirely unfair. No, Harris didn't make it to the Pro Bowl last season but to finger him as the reason for the rush being stuck in rush hour wouldn't be accurate.

Football Outsiders provides an interesting graphic in their Football Outsiders Almanac, and on the surface at least it places the blame elsewhere. Consider this information from Football Outsiders on the distribution of sacks for the Bears over the last three seasons:

Year Pass Attempts DE sacks DT sacks LB/DB sacks Total QB hits per pass

2006 581 25.5 10.5 4 40 14.8 percent

2007 541 18.5 9.5 12 40 13.6 percent

2008 622 12 10.5 4.5 28* 12.4 percent

* On their official statistics the Bears had one sack awarded to "group."

Harris made five sacks last season, tying him for second on the defense, one behind Alex Brown. Harris made a career-high eight sacks in 2007 and had five in 2006. His sack totals--and the numbers produced by the defensive tackles--have remained consistent over the three-year period.

The difference between 28 sacks in 2008 and 40 sacks in 2006? How about Mark Anderson? The defensive end made one sack last season. He had 12 in 2006. Those 11 missing sacks would have given the Bears 39 last season.

"Besides the presence of Mark Anderson at the bottom?'' Football Outsiders managing editor Bill Barnwell said when asked what struck him in his evaluation of the Bears' defensive line. "That jumps out to me. Otherwise, probably Alex Brown's pass-rushing numbers. Not just the sacks, but we also track hits and hurries."

In statistics detailed in Football Outsiders Almanac, Brown was credited with 11 hits and 11 hurries. Combined with six sacks, that means he affected the quarterback 28 times, three more than the next closest Bear, Adewale Ogunleye (5 sacks, 4 hits, 16 hurries). Brown's 11 hits tied for 17th in the league. Anderson had one sack, four hits and six hurries. Harris had five hits and seven hurries.

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We flip back to the defense today in our position-by-position previews and take a look at the defensive tackles on the roster. Four Down Territory is coming Friday when we take a break from position previews so get your questions in. Here we go.

Projected starters: Tommie Harris, 6-3, 295, 6th year, Oklahoma; Anthony Adams, 6-0, 310, 7th year, Penn State

Others

Dusty Dvoracek, 6-3, 303, 4th year, Oklahoma
Jarron Gilbert, 6-5, 285, R, San Jose State
Marcus Harrison, 6-3, 312, 2nd year, Arkansas
Israel Idonije, 6-6, 270, 6th year, Manitoba
Matt Toeaina, 6-2, 308, 2nd year, Oregon

Projected depth chart

UT: Harris, Idonije, Gilbert
NT: Adams, Harrison

2009 salary cap numbers

Anthony Adams $1,087,500
Dusty Dvoracek $723,825
Jarron Gilbert $641,500
Tommie Harris $9,090,000
Marcus Harrison $553,851
Israel Idonije $3,488,533
Matt Toeaina $465,200

Number of defensive tackles on 2008 roster at start of the season: 5/6 (6 if you counted Idonije as a tackle)

Projected number of defensive ends on 2009 roster at start of the season: 5

The skinny: This is the position that will draw a lot of attention heading into the season. The Bears believe in building from the line back and that philosophy was evident when the team used its first draft pick on Gilbert back in April. It was not the greatest need, in fact it was far from it, but the organization is committed to collecting quality linemen. Now all Gilbert has to do is be known for more than jumping out of a pool, but more on him later on. Harris is the motor that drives the front seven and he was brought along with care during the offseason. It made sense. Nothing Harris could have done on the final day of minicamp in March or during some of the OTA's in May and June was going to translate on the field in September when it counts. He has a balky left knee and the team is playing it smart. It's all about getting quality snaps out of Harris when it matters. He was on the field for 623 plays last season spread across 14 games. That's a good number for him this season over 16 games. If the Bears get a solid rotation going they will not have to lean on Harris as much and perhaps will be able to preserve him for the stretch run. That figure of 623 was easily tops for interior lineman. The wild card guy here in the bunch is Harrison. He showed sparks during his rookie season when he had five QB hits, two sacks, two passes defended and three tackles for loss, but he also disappeared on occasion. Harrison has a knee issue that lingers with him. Remember, he had an ACL reconstruction entering his final year of school. He's bulked up or ballooned up depending on how you look at it, and that's probably for more action at nose tackle although he'll probably see time at both spots. If he can step forward--some had a first-round grade on him but the knee issue and the drug bust dropped him to the third round--the Bears will be very much improved. But don't forget Adams. He's been the most consistent performer on the interior for two seasons. Lost behind Dvoracek for the first half of the season, he emerged and you had to scratch your head wondering what took him so long to get on the field. He's stout vs. the run and he adds more of an interior pass rush than Dvoracek, who wore down as the season went along. Dvoracek has finished the season on injured reserve each of his three seasons and he's all the way back from a biceps injury. He could be hard pressed to make the roster. The Bears kept nine linemen going into the 2008 season and Alex Brown, Adewale Ogunleye, Mark Anderson, Henry Melton, Idonije, Adams, Gilbert, Harris and Harrison figure to have roster spots the way we break it down. Injuries could happen and we could be wrong. Both have happened before and both will happen again. There's not a person we've encountered who doesn't really like Dvoracek but he will have to have a big camp and preseason most likely. Gilbert is an interesting guy because he's a little light and who knows if he eventually winds up outside, maybe at left end. But he'll get to learn from Harris and that's a good place to start, especially if Harrison is going to be worked more at nose. Idonije will probably play all four spots on the line before the season is over. Picking a spot for him is tough because he's so versatile. Toeaina is in a tough position just like Dvoracek. Some people really like him as a run stuffer but there will only be so many spots under new line coach Rod Marinelli, the man charged with getting the most out of this unit. Notice we're not diving into the whole subject of whether or not Marinelli can be a savior.

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