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Karen Pettry just wanted to say thank you. To the Bears players who offered their support. To the anonymous fans who made donations. To everyone.

"I can't say thank you enough," Pettry said Saturday night during a fundraiser at John Barleycorn in Wrigleyville for her family in honor of her husband Chris.

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.

The trade for defensive end Gaines Adams on Friday turned into a loss for tight end Michael Gaines today.

The veteran tight end is the player the Bears released in order to create a roster spot for their new pass rusher. It's not a shocking move, although the Bears could have also picked from some rookies who do not figure to see action this season. Gaines was one of the final players to make the 53-man roster as a fourth tight end. He didn't have a role on special teams like Kellen Davis, the third tight end, and opportunities for him to play as an H-back type didn't really materialize. Gaines, who was signed on May 12 was inactive for two games and appeared as a sub only in the Seattle game.

This leaves the Bears with three tight ends, which is what most teams typically carry. Gaines' base salary was $650,000, so the remaining amount on it will cover about half of what Adams is earning this season, the pro-rated amount of $900,000. Gaines received a $250,000 signing bonus and a $100,000 roster bonus. His base salary was $650,000 and as a vested veteran he is eligible to put in for termination pay and receive the entire amount, which would be 11 remaining weeks of pay.

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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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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It's been a while since we went through the mailbag so we'll knock out more than four questions this morning in Four Down Territory as we take a little break from the position-by-position previews that have been running in our 30-day countdown to Bourbonnais. Here we go.

Q: What about a contract extension for Danieal Manning? He's slated to have an uncanny season at kick returner which means, of course, that the Bears will need the extra money to give him an extension and convert him to wide receiver.

Mike, Parts Unknown

A: Looks like we have a jokester here. Is that Manning switch right after Brian Urlacher is moved to free safety and Chris Zorich is re-signed to play middle linebacker? It's a good question when it comes to Manning. Not sure what he is going to have to do to have an "uncanny" season. Manning would have made the Pro Bowl last season if he had replaced Devin Hester as the kickoff returner about a month prior to the move that was made in Week 11. He averaged 29.7 yards per return, the club's highest total in nearly 35 years, and became only the fifth player in franchise history to top 1,000 yards for a season. Now, consider first that Manning didn't see all of the gimmicks (bloops, squibs, sky kicks, you name it) that Hester did when he was the primary kickoff returner. Opponents will likely pay more attention to Manning this coming season but special teams coordinator Dave Toub is quick to adjust and his schemes have proven the test of time. Defensively, Manning was on the field one-third of the time in 2008, getting 370 snaps out of the 1,111 total. He seemed to make progress as a nickel back, particularly in the second half of the season. Manning was in that role during the spring until a hamstring injury, one of many suffered on the roster, sidelined him and Corey Graham took his place for the last two weeks of OTA's. It looks like Manning will remain in that role entering training camp but if Nathan Vasher nails down the right cornerback job and Craig Steltz winds up being the free safety, the coaching staff might give Graham more of a look at nickel, where he played one game last season. Is there a possibility the club re-signs Manning, who is entering the final year of his contract? Sure. He probably should have been on the list of players we made. But a kickoff returner who does or does not double as a nickel corner isn't going to get a huge contract.


Q: You didn't mention Lance Louis in your preview of the fullbacks. Is there a reason why? Didn't the Bears say he could play tight end as well as fullback when they selected him?

Oscar T., Chicago

A: There is a somewhat popular notion that Lance Louis will reprise the role of William Perry and do some heavy duty work in the backfield. We don't see it happening. We don't see Louis playing any tight end, either. The Bears don't have a spot at tight end for him with Desmond Clark, Greg Olsen, Kellen Davis and Michael Gaines. They don't need a project at the position because they already have one in Davis. Louis, who was issued No. 60, which is an ineligible number, is going to have a hard time making the roster as a seventh-round pick. He'd have an even more difficult time making the 45-man gameday roster, and it's unlikely he'd be active for a possible gimmick play involving him lining up at an eligible position.


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We'll get in one more positional breakdown before we switch gears from this analysis for a few days and get into some other material we hope you find interesting, including Four Down Territory on Friday. Up this morning are the fullbacks.

Projected starter: Jason McKie, 5-11, 247, 8th year, Temple

Others

Jason Davis, 5-10, 242, 2nd year, Illinois
Will Ta'ufo'ou, 5-11, 247, Rookie, Cal

Projected depth chart

McKie

2009 salary cap numbers

Jason Davis $390,200
Jason McKie $995,000
Will Ta'ufo'ou $311,666

Number of fullbacks on 2008 roster at start of the season: 1

Projected number of fullbacks on 2009 roster at start of the season: 1

The skinny: The Bears got a pretty good look at another player in Davis when a quad muscle injury knocked McKie out after 11 games. McKie has been a pretty durable performer appearing in 15 or more games in three of the last five seasons. A torn pectoral muscle kept him out for half of the year in 2005. He's a dependable player who has become a bit of a threat in the red zone, rushing for two touchdowns last season and catching another pass for a score to give him seven touchdowns over the last three seasons. Davis proved to be a nice find when he joined the practice squad at the start of the season and the Bears were lucky to get him back after the brief mid-season stint he had in Oakland. He's got the talent to play in the league but is in a numbers crunch after tight end Michael Gaines was signed. The Bears talked with Gaines about using him as an H-back on occasion and lining him up in the backfield and that kind of versatility could put the squeeze on Davis and lead the Bears to keep just one fullback on the 53-man roster as they did at the start of last season. Gaines could get them through a game in an emergency if something happened to McKie. Of course, second year tight end Kellen Davis also figures into the equation. If the Bears only keep three tight ends, it increases the chance that an extra running back or fullback make the roster. Kellen Davis has draft status, though, and Jason Davis does not. Given the addition of Jay Cutler at quarterback and the trend last season with offensive coordinator Ron Turner and the fullback position, we're also inclined to believe that only one fullback will make the roster. The Bears relied less on the fullback in 2008, with playing time dropping to 34.88 percent of the plays down from 41.15 percent in 2007. The drop was due in large part to the expansion of double tight end formations. Ta'ufo'ou was an interesting guy going into the draft but his stock dipped and he would up being signed as an undrafted free agent. He might not be the listed height of 5-11 and faces a real uphill battle to crack the roster.

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Back to offense as we make our way through the positions on our way to training camp. Let's look at what the Bears have at running back. Fullback will follow later in the week.

Projected starter: Matt Forte, 6-2, 218 pounds, 2nd year, Tulane

Others

Kevin Jones, 6-0, 225, 6th year, Virginia Tech
Adrian Peterson, 5-10, 212, 7th year, Georgia Southern
Garrett Wolfe, 5-7, 185, 3rd year, Northern Illinois

Projected depth chart

Forte, Jones, Wolfe, Peterson

2009 salary cap numbers

Matt Forte $773,533
Kevin Jones $1,750,000
Adrian Peterson $770,000
Garrett Wolfe $620,825

Number of running backs on 2008 roster at start of the season:
4

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

The skinny: The Bears return the same bunch from 2008 with the hope that it will be even more productive. Forte had the most impressive rookie season in franchise history and now that Jones is 1 1/2 years removed from his ACL reconstruction, the belief is he will become a substantial contributor on offense. Jones also knows the offense now and the Bears outbid Buffalo for his services, the first of two players the Bears beat the Bills to this offseason. They later plucked linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa off the street despite overtures from Buffalo. Forte led all NFL running backs in receptions last season and while that's impressive, it's not exactly the sign of a healthy offense. Our bet is the Bears hope Forte doesn't lead the team in receptions again this season. He needs to improve his yards per carry of 3.9, and with a re-tooled offensive line and a new quarterback in Jay Cutler, there's ample reason to believe that can and will happen. He was fourth in the league with 316 carries last season and he simply dominated the playing time at the position. Forte was on the field for nearly 84 percent of the offensive snaps last season, a remarkable figure. The Bears have said they want to spread the action out more this season, and there's no doubt Jones is hoping they do just that. Forte needs to improve in short-yardage situations. He's an upright runner and that makes him an easier target. That takes care of the top two. There will be an interesting competition for the No. 3 job and it will not be settled by their play in the backfield alone. Wolfe and Peterson are both mainstays on special teams and Wolfe led the team with 21 tackles last season despite playing in only 13 games. Durability is going to be a concern with him at his size and Peterson wasn't as good as he has been in the past. Making this a numbers crunch is the presence of tight end Michael Gaines. If Gaines and second-year tight end Kellen Davis both make the roster, the squeeze figures to happen right here. Offensive coordinator Ron Turner has yet to find a role for Wolfe on offense even though the team has stated it would like to do just that. Peterson is what he is, a guy who can come off the bench and pick up what is blocked for him. Keep an eye on how they're being used in training camp and preseason. Four tight ends would likely spell only three running backs and then the Bears would likely find a back for the practice squad.

The upside: The upside would be Forte repeats with another 1,200-yard season and Jones tops 500 yards as a guy who gets close to one-third of the playing time.

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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.

The Bears have signed Michael Gaines to a one-year contract, and he is in position to challenge immediately to be the third tight end on the roster.

The veteran made a visit to Halas Hall on Monday and didn't leave until he had a contract in hand. Gaines is considered a strong blocker and he'll compete with Kellen Davis, the fifth-round pick from last season, for a job.

He's not going to waste any time.

"I'll be back in there at Halas Hall tomorrow morning,'' Gaines said on his way back to his home in Detroit. "Honestly, I can't believe it happened. It's just a privilege to be joining an organization with so much history."

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We are one-third of the way into May and I don't know if I can recall a year when there has been this much football news hopping at this time of the year. There are some intriguing roster options out there. Let's get right to the mailbag and see if we can sort some issues out.

Q: was released Friday and I know the Bears and Lovie Smith wouldn't mind a productive veteran to round out their linebacker group. Is there any chance Chicago would go for him? Lovie is familiar with him from his days in St. Louis and he led the Rams in tackles last year. Does he play Hunter Hillenmeyer's or is it Nick Roach's spot? Or are the Bears trying to figure out if they're still a draft-driven team?

Sean Q, Arcata, Calif.

A: I don't think there is any question Tinoisamoa will be of interest to the Bears. As Smith likes to say, they're always exploring ways to make themselves a better football team. Given Tinoisamoa's track record with not just Smith but with defensive coordinator Bob Babich as well, he is someone that will surely come up in conversation at Halas Hall. It was somewhat of a surprise move that the Rams let him go last week after he led the team in tackles for four of six seasons but new coach Steve Spagnuolo is seeking bigger linebackers for his system. As Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch pointed out, Tinoisamoa is listed at 6-1, 240 pounds, but he played at closer to 220 pounds last season. That didn't stop him from leading the team with 135 tackles. Tinoisamoa, who turns 28 in July, became the first rookie in franchise history to lead the team in tackles in 2003, Smith's final season in St. Louis when Babich was with him as linebackers coach. He made 121 tackles and added three interceptions and two sacks. He did so playing strong-side linebacker.

Michael Gaines, the tight end who was cut loose last week by the Detroit Lions, will visit the Bears on Monday, according to a league source.

Gaines was released after Detroit drafted Oklahoma State's Brandon Pettigrew in the first round and then took Maryland's Dan Gronkowski in round seven. He visited the New York Jets on Wednesday and left without receiving a contract offer.

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Kellen Davis category.

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