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The Bears brought in some competition for special teams by adding a familiar face today.

Linebacker Darrell McClover was signed and he will be able to contribute immediately for Dave Toub's special teams unit after spending the last three seasons with the club.

McClover was the sixth linebacker the team kept on the roster to begin the season last year. He appeared in 10 games but was placed on injured reserve in late November with a pulled hamstring. He produced 14 tackles on special teams and added a blocked punt. McClover made 36 special teams tackles in 28 games for the Bears from 2006 to 2008. He's been out of work since his contract expired after last season.

BOURBONNAIS, Ill.--Fontel Mines will miss the season, a source close to the player said, after an MRI revealed Tuesday that he tore the ACL in his left knee during a drill in practice Monday. Mines was running a route in the flat when he got tangled up with safety Craig Steltz and went to the ground.

``It's part of the game,'' he said. ``I have to live by that everything happens for a reason saying right now. It's tough. It's disappointing.''

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BOURBONNAIS, Ill.--Tommie Harris unraveled the riddle Monday afternoon after sitting out another day of practice at Olivet Nazarene University.

He's all suited up with nothing to do on the sideline because he's coming off knee surgery and has a hamstring injury. Perhaps tired of dealing with inquiries wondering why he has not been on the field for a week, Harris revealed that he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his bothersome left knee in March. The procedure was done in order to see why it has continued to plague him, and the good news is he said they found on scar tissue. Harris originally had arthroscopic surgery on the knee in January 2008, six months before his $40 million, four-year contract extension.

"I had surgery in March so I didn't get a chance to do a lot of stuff that the teammates were doing, so they're far ahead of me so I'm really just starting to catch up,'' Harris said. "I would love to be out there, but I do so much in the weight room and all the training and all the other stuff that you guys don't see. The hardest thing is, knowing how political this business is, and having to wear pads and sit on the sideline acting like I'm going out there and different stuff like that, but it's a bit frustrating but I'm going to hang in there and just see how it plays out.

Now, Harris says he is on the sideline because he suffered a hamstring injury. That is the kind of thing that can happen when a knee isn't right--a player can then be plagued by muscle problems with the hamstring or quad. Lovie Smith had said Saturday that Harris would practice today.

"I have confidence in myself -- a lot, in my knee, my whole body. I've been playing on one leg and everything. I can play this game, I have confidence. It's a mentality, and that's the hardest thing to go out there and to know, to get your mind ready for a practice or different things that you're used to just going out and having fun. I'm just hanging in there.''

Israel Idonije filled in with the first team at the under tackle, and coach Lovie Smith was vague about a timetable for Harris. He made it clear he wants to wait until his former Pro Bowl performer is healthy, and they need him in September more than they need him in August. But with the pattern of rotating hamstring and knee injuries--remember he had hamstring surgery in December 2006--it's fair to wonder if Harris has the time to get his body right before the season.

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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.

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Let's get right to the mail.

Q: My question concerns the Green Bay Packers' implementation of the 3-4 defense. Under Lovie Smith's tenure, the Chicago Bears' record vs. teams that run the 3-4 is 2-6. Here are the results:

2004: Houston Texans (coached by Dom Capers) 24 v. BEARS 5
2005: Cleveland Browns 20 v. BEARS 10; BEARS 17 v. San Francisco 49ers 9; Pittsburgh Steelers 21 v. BEARS 9
2006: BEARS 41 v. San Francisco 49ers 10; New England Patriots 17 v. BEARS 13
2007: San Diego Chargers 14 v. BEARS 3; Dallas Cowboys 34 v. BEARS 10
2008: no opponents

Dom Capers (an associate of 3-4 students Bill Cowher and Dick LeBeau) has taken three separate basement dwelling defensive units and flipped them into formidable forces in his first year on the job. The 3-4 defense can can prove to be exotic, dynamic and perplexing all within the same possession. What are your thoughts on Capers and his history? Any insights on how the Bears prepare themselves for the Packers new defense?

Jim A., Parts Unknown

A: To take your well made point a step further, the Bears are 0-6 vs. teams that implement the 3-4 defense that are not in San Francisco. I think the 49ers were running more of a hybrid 3-4 there at the time, however, because of some personnel shortages. At any rate, Capers' success has been well documented and Dan Pompei recently put together a nice story in the Tribune about it. There is a lot of work that goes into switching a defense and the key is acquiring the personnel. The Packers believe they are off to a good start after landing tackle B.J. Raji and linebacker Clay Matthews in the draft. I don't know what to say about that 2004 game with Houston, though. That meeting came at the end of a disastrous offensive season for the Bears. If you recall, Chad Hutchinson was the quarterback at the time. I think the one thing the Bears have going for themselves in this situation is new quarterback Jay Cutler. He comes from the AFC where the 3-4 has been more prevalent and he's played twice a season against one of the better 3-4 defenses in the league in San Diego.

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The Bears did not get a tight end in the draft but that does not mean they are not looking around for one.

According to Dave Hutchinson of the Newark Star-Ledger, the Bears are showing interest in veteran Michael Gaines. He could be making a visit to Halas Hall soon.

Gaines, a sixth-year pro from Central Florida, was released last week by the Detroit Lions after they spent a first-round draft pick on Oklahoma State's Brandon Pettigrew. Detroit also selected Maryland's Dan Gronkowski.

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