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The Bears will fill an opening on their practice squad today with tight end Kevin Brock, his agent Dennis Boyev said.

Brock, a Rutgers product, signed as an undrafted free agent with the Carolina Panthers, was claimed off waivers by the New York Jets in August and spent six weeks on the practice squad of the Pittsburgh Steelers earlier this season.

He was a part-time starter for the Scarlet Knights last season and made 23 receptions for 241 yards in the final nine games last season. The 6-5, 255-pounder began his college career as a wide receiver.

Tight end Desmond Clark is expected to miss his third game of the season as he will be sidelined Sunday with a neck issue.

That means more playing time for Kellen Davis, and it's not a good sign for the already struggling 30th-ranked rushing offense. Clark missed two games earlier this season with fractured ribs.

Coach Lovie Smith said that Clark and safety Kevin Payne (back) will be listed as doubtful for the game. Neither practiced today or this week. Doubtful, in Bears' terms, means out.

Center Olin Kreutz remained sidelined at practice for the second consecutive day today.

The veteran missed Monday's 75-minute practice, and it wasn't a veteran's day off if he's still sideline today. He completed the game last Thursday at San Francisco, but may have suffered some type of rib injury. We'll see if more details are available after practice and when the injury report is released.

Kreutz has a long history of durability and has missed just one game since the start of the 2001 season, a 2002 matchup at St. Louis after he had his appendix removed. The guess here is he's ready to play Sunday night.

It is yet to be known what, if anything, Hunter Hillenmeyer will do in practice this morning, but when the Bears were stretching in preparation for the short workout in the Walter Payton Center, the linebacker was in his gear and ready to go.

That doesn't mean he'll necessarily be on the field and participate in drills, but he could and we'll find out soon enough what the case is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BOURBONNAIS, Ill.--Did the NFL do in Twitter?

I don't know, but my efforts to tweet from the dorm room have been stifled by struggling technology. Perhaps the site will be up and chirping by the time this post is done.

Reports coming out of San Diego now are that Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers could begin talking about a new contract for him soon. Rivers is believed to have been waiting for Eli Manning to strike. Although Manning has a Super Bowl title to his credit, and that's what it is all about, Rivers' statistics over the course of their careers are far superior. Don't think for a second there is any reason other than that for his delay in getting to the bargaining table.

Wanted to Twitter a piece I did for the National Football Post this morning on Jay Cutler and what at some point will be his own negotiation for a contract extension. The Bears have never written the big-money deal for a quarterback before. Since general manager Jerry Angelo took over in 2001, no team has allocated less money to the position. Who did he have to pay? The team has someone to pay now but putting a gauge on that pay day right now is very difficult. When the team goes to a player, they are adamant that the integrity of the current contract be maintained. In other words, the player will get his money but the team isn't going to rip up the current contract and start all over.

The Bears have a history of approaching players during season to see if they can strike a deal and get ahead when it comes to the salary cap. If a deal is done by midseason, money can be applied to the current year's cap. With the Bears sitting on more than $20 million in cap room, doing a Cutler deal now would allow them to put a nice chunk in 2009. Assuming the CBA gets worked out--that looks like the assumption the Giants went under in doing Manning's deal--it's a smart move.

But it's no guarantee that the team and Cutler get to the bargaining table. If they don't, it's possible the Bears could target tight end Greg Olsen for an extension as I wrote here for the NFP. Olsen is entering the third year of his five-year contract and is clearly part of the long term future. Early restructures turn into win-wins. The player gets guaranteed money sooner than he would, and the team gets value moving forward.

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Continuing with our position-by-position breakdowns as we close in on being a week away from the first practice of the summer at Olivet Nazarene University, we focus on the tight ends.

Projected starter: Desmond Clark, 6-3, 249, 11th season, Wake Forest OR Greg Olsen, 6-5, 255, 3rd season, Miami

Others

Kellen Davis 6-7, 262, 2nd season, Michigan State
Michael Gaines 6-2, 267, 6th season, Central Florida
Fontel Mines 6-4, 244, 1st season, Virginia

Projected depth chart

Clark or Olsen, Gaines, Davis

2009 salary cap numbers

Desmond Clark $2,173,946
Kellen Davis $432,188
Michael Gaines $1,162,600
Fontel Mines $315,200
Greg Olsen $1,501,450

Number of tight ends on the roster at the start of the 2008 season: 3

Projected number of tight ends on 2009 roster at start of the season: 3 or 4

The skinny: Olsen has been Jay Cutler's unofficial sightseeing partner in his introduction to Chicago and he might just become his best friend on the field. The former first-round draft pick was second behind only running back Matt Forte on the team in receptions and led the club with five touchdown catches, scoring three of them in the final four weeks of the year when he had 20 of his 54 catches. That kind of production down the stretch--five grabs a game--is closer to what the Bears have in mind for this season. His 54 catches in 2008 ranked 10th among tight ends in the league and to join the elite at the position he'll need to add 20. He's also going to have to improve on his yards per catch. Of the 10 tight ends with more grabs than Olsen, eight had a greater YPC than his of 10.6. The only players below Olsen were Washington's Chris Cooley (83 catches, 10.2 YPC) and Tennessee's Bo Scaife (58 catches, 9.7 YPC). If you recall, Scaife caught 10 passes vs. the Bears on Nov. 9.

But Olsen is hardly the only part of the show. Clark made 16 starts last season while Olsen had seven, all coming when the offense opened in a double tight end formation. Clark is a superior run blocker and that fact alone may keep him in the starting lineup. He remains a productive outlet receiver but isn't going to stretch the defense and create the kind of matchup problems that Olsen presents vs. linebackers and defensive backs. That is what becomes interesting, how do teams choose to cover Olsen? We broke down playing time at the position earlier in the offseason and even though Clark was the full-time starter it didn't make anything more than a marginal difference. He was on the field 78.16 percent of the time compared to 76.68 for Olsen.

The biggest moves the Bears made on defense, or at least the ones getting the most attention, were the changes on the coaching staff. Rod Marinelli's addition as the defensive line coach will create some storylines during training camp, and I think a lot of people are interested to watch the drill work he does with his players on the side. Lovie Smith's role as play caller will come more into focus when the season begins.

But we bounced the two biggest personnel changes on defense off Bill Barnwell when we spoke to the managing editor of Football Outsiders about the upcoming season. Their mean projection gives the Bears a 49 percent chance to have 11 or more victories, and that was the highest figure for any NFC club. It can all be found in the Football Outsiders Almanac, which will be available on Amazon.com in a few weeks and can be ordered in PDF format from their Web site.

First, we asked Barnwell about the addition of linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa, who is projected to be the starter on the strong side after signing a one-year contract. St. Louis cut the veteran loose after the Rams failed in their bid to trade him. He became the first rookie in Rams' franchise history to lead the defense in tackles when he played the position for Smith and Bob Babich in 2003.

"It really depends on Tinoisamoa and how he fits into their scheme and how quickly he catches up on things,'' Barnwell said. "I understand he's had experience in the system in the past. He was playing for the Rams. The Rams didn't have a great defense last season. You look at his run numbers and they were atrocious. He made a lot of tackles but they were seven or eight yards from the line of scrimmage, they were coming well down the field. The defense wasn't good and his numbers were not very good. You have to put the scheme in context. It's not like baseball where if a guy is going to hit 40 home runs in one city he's going to hit 40 home runs in another city. He could be better this season.''

What Football Outsiders does is study each play and they look at a statistic they call the "stop rate" and average yards for running plays when the linebacker was credited with making the tackle. It's not a perfect system but they have other stats, one of which is called "defeats," defined as the total number of plays they stop the offense from gaining first down on third or fourth down, or make a play behind the line of scrimmage or create a turnover.

Tinoisamoa, who played weak side in St. Louis last season, was credited with 48 stops, 32 fewer than Lance Briggs. Tinoisamoa ranked 93rd out of 99 total linebackers vs. the run. But as Barnwell pointed out, these statistics are drawing from small sample sizes and they can change from year to year. Switch teams and defenses and it is not going to be the same. Tinoisamoa will have more talent around him this season and it's reasonable to expect he'll be a different player. Of course, the Bears thought Adam Archuleta was coming to a more talented defense when he left Washington for the Bears. That didn't work out so well for Archuleta or the Bears.

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Desmond Clark category.

Derek Pegues is the previous category.

Devin Aromashodu is the next category.

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