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The Bears have made it official with a series of moves today to reach the 53-man roster limit before proceeding to the start of the 2009 season. The players will get back to work with practice Monday at Halas Hall. Here are the moves reported on the team's Web site:

CB Charles Tillman was promoted from the physically unable to perform list to the active roster

RB Kevin Jones was placed on inured reserve with a torn ligament in his left ankle

DE Henry Melton was placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury

S Dahna Deleston was placed on injured reserve with a hamstring injury

Melton's ankle injury was not believed to be serious and it could be a way to stash the fourth-round pick from Texas on the squad for a year. The problem is he cannot practice while on IR so the only work he can do is in the classroom and weight room. This marks the third time in four years the Bears have placed at least one draft pick on IR prior to the opening of the season. It could be concerns about depth on the interior of the line cost him a spot as the Bears kept tackle Matt Toeaina, who right now figures to be third in the rotation at nose tackle.

Here are the official cuts:

QB Brett Basanez
FB Jason Davis
FB Will Ta'ufo,ou
WR Eric Peterman
WR Brandon Rideau
G Johan Asiata
OT Cody Balogh
G Dan Buenning
C Donovan Raiola
DE Ervin Baldwin
DE Joe Clermond
LB Marcus Freeman
LB Kevin Malast
LB Darrell McClover
LB Mike Rivera
CB Rudy Burgess
CB Rod Hood
CB Marcus Hamilton
CB Woodny Turenne

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BOURBONNAIS, Ill.--Joey LaRocque made it through his physical fine on Thursday but he will not make it to the practice field this afternoon.

The Bears released the linebacker this morning according to a source close to the player, a move that will enhance his chances to catch on elsewhere with the Bears having a crowded scene at the position.

A seventh-round pick from Oregon State in 2008, LaRocque was promoted from the practice squad to the 53-man roster in Week 3 last season and played in 14 games on special teams. He made nine tackles and was a core member of the unit. A lower back injury prevented him from participating in the offseason program, but he was cleared after arriving at camp and said he felt good.

The Bears have nine linebackers on the training camp roster now starting with projected starters Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs and Pisa Tinoisamoa. Behind them are Hunter Hillenmeyer, Jamar Williams, Nick Roach, fifth-round pick Marcus Freeman and undrafted free agents Kevin Malast and Mike Rivera. The team will likely keep six or seven linebackers on the 53-man roster, and having appeared in 14 games, LaRocque is no longer practice squad eligible per NFL rules that mandate players cannot have appeared in more than nine regular-season games.

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We turn to the linebackers as we get back to our position-by-position previews and breakdowns.

Projected starters: MLB Brian Urlacher, 6-4, 258, 10th season, New Mexico; WLB Lance Briggs, 6-1, 242, 7th season, Arizona; SLB Pisa Tinoisamoa, 6-1, 230, 7th season, Hawaii.

Others

Marcus Freeman, 6-1, 239, Rookie, Ohio State
Hunter Hillenmeyer, 6-4, 238, 7th season, Vanderbilt
Joey LaRocque, 6-2, 228, 2nd season, Oregon State
Kevin Malast, 6-2, 233, Rookie, Rutgers
Mike Rivera, 6-2, 245, Rookie, Kansas
Nick Roach, 6-1, 234, 3rd season, Northwestern
Jamar Williams, 6-0, 237, 4th season, Arizona State

Projected depth chart

MLB: Urlacher, Hillenmeyer
WLB: Briggs, Williams, Freeman
SLB: Tinoisamoa, Roach

2009 salary cap numbers

Lance Briggs $6,766,666
Marcus Freeman $355,425
Hunter Hillenmeyer $1,550,000
Joey LaRocque $390,200
Kevin Malast $311,666
Mike Rivera $311,666
Nick Roach $465,200
Pisa Tinoisamoa $1,501,560
Brian Urlacher $10,185,511
Jamar Williams $643,950

Number of linebackers on the roster at the start of the 2008 season: 6

Projected number of linebackers on 2009 roster at start of the season: 6 or 7

The skinny: The Bears went into the 2008 season able to trumpet the fact that their starting linebacking corps was entering its fifth consecutive year in tact. Not many teams can talk about having that kind of stability in the middle of their defense, and the Bears can't anymore. Hillenmeyer was replaced by Roach on the strong side during the middle of last season and while nothing has been awarded at this point, all signs point to the newcomer Tinoisamoa winning that job in training camp. That puts Roach out of a starting position and perhaps in line for a major role on special teams, and Hillenmeyer in a spot where he'll have to fight and claw to make the roster. But the strong-side backer has always been the sidekick for the Bears. The strong-side linebacker was on the field 63 percent of the time for the Bears last season (down from 69.2 percent in 2007). The stars are at the other spots where Briggs was selected to the Pro Bowl for the fourth consecutive year. In franchise history only Mike Singletary (10), Dick Butkus (8) and Bill George (8) have been chosen to more consecutive all-star games from the position. Briggs led the defense in tackles for the second time in his career and had a personal best three interceptions. He plays with great range and is a big reason why the Bears ranked third in the league in pass defense vs. tight ends according to Football Outsiders.

After a series of phone calls across the league we have put together a list, no doubt partial, of the free agents the Bears have agreed to terms with on contracts. The club holds a three-day rookie minicap starting Friday and they like to have it run as close to a normal camp setting as possible, so that means lots of players on the field. With only nine draft picks, expect for dozens more to show up at Halas Hall. Some come on a tryout basis, some are priority free agents and some get nothing to sign.

Here are the eight names we have tracked down this far:

Eric Peterman, WR, Northwestern. Peterman had a terrific pro day back in March and ran himself into an opportunity with a 40-yard dash time under 4.5 seconds. He'll look to punch his ticket by proving he can make a difference on special teams.

Mike Rivera, LB, Kansas. Rivera didn't perform as well during his senior year at Kansas as he did in previous seasons but he had a good showing at his pro day when Bears scout Teddy Monago was in attendance. At 6-2, 245 pounds, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.63 seconds and his 38 1/2 inch vertical jump was eye opening. Rivera had interest from other teams but chose the Bears for the opportunity. Perhaps he could get in the mix on the strong side if he really excels.

Dahna Deleston, SS, UConn. Deleston isn't going to solve any issues at free safety but agent Ed Wasielewski said he has the ability to make an impact on special teams quickly.

Will Taufoou, FB, Cal. The Bears landed one of the better fullbacks that was in this draft. Taufoou had interest from more than half of the teams in the league, including some with money offers, but chose the Bears because he liked the opportunity on the roster. Check out this video of him catching a pass out of the backfield.

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Linebacker is not a pressing need for the Bears in this draft but that doesn't mean they are not doing their due diligence when it comes to investigating some options.

Add Kansas' Mike Rivera to the list of players the team has brought into Halas Hall for a pre-draft visit. Rivera came in for a closer look last week and was given a physical. He is the third linebacker we've found who came in for a visit joining Murray State's Nathan Williams and Notre Dame's Maurice Crum Jr. The Bears also put San Diego State's Russell Allen through a private workout.

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