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When Lovie Smith talked about taking a look at everything when he evaluated this past season, the offseason schedule was included.

Smith has turned around the Bears' offseason and minicamp is coming, just around the corner. The team announced that veteran minicamp will be held from March 17-19. That means it begins five weeks from today. Typically, it has been held in June, near the end of the offseason program.

Four more tryout players from the rookie minicamp weekend have been signed to deals.

The Bears have added Boston College guard Ryan Poles, who projected as a mid-round draft pick before he tore an Achilles tendon against Notre Dame in the middle of last season. The team had told him he’d be inked to a deal provided his injury checked out OK and he performed well.

Besides the Cedric Benson circus Sunday at Halas Hall, rookie minicamp ended rather uneventfully. It was a good opportunity for players to get acclimated to how practices are run. Players can return to work in the offseason program once their schools have held graduation ceremonies, which will clear all but one draft pick for a return for the beginning of OTA’s on May 19.

Oregon State linebacker Joey LaRocque (it’s pronounced La-Rock in case you were wondering) cannot return for the offseason program until the end because his school is on the quarter system and commencement ceremonies are not until June 15. LaRocque was one of five seventh-round picks. It’s worth noting undrafted free-agent quarterbacks Caleb Hanie and Nick Hill will be able to return before the start of OTA’s also.

The Bears wrapped up Day 2 of the rookie minicamp in what Lovie Smith described as some Bear weather.

Maybe. It was drizzling and hardly inspiring football conditions. The program will wrap up Sunday and the hope is the players who return in the middle of the month in preparation for the full-squad minicamp an retain what they’ve learned. As much as practicing, it’s about learning how to practice. The drills. The pace. All of it.

Defensive tackle David Faaeteete, who played at Oregon with current Bears' DT Matt Toeaina, was released.

Faaeteete participated in two workouts after being signed to a contract as an undrafted earlier this week.

The rookie minicamp concludes Sunday.

It was interesting to learn Friday that one of the contributing factors to Terrence Metcalf’s benching late last season was a broken hand the guard suffered.

Obviously, Metcalf wasn’t around at rookie minicamp to make this revelation a la Muhsin Muhammad at the fan convention in 2006 when he explained away some late-season drops in 2005 by making it known he’d been playing with a broken hand.

Metcalf, who has 25 career starts, didn’t reference his injury when he was benched but that doesn’t mean he faces any less of an uphill battle this year. The third-round pick from 2002 is at a crossroads with the Bears looking to revamp the line. He’s got to assert himself to claim the starting job at left guard. In the past, he’s been useful to have around as a backup because he’s a veteran who understands the playbook. The team wants to get younger up front and if he can’t pin down the job, there’s no guarantee he sticks as a backup with a salary-cap figure of just more than $1.56 million.

Does Matt Forte know something about the highly drafted back before him that didn’t go so well?

``The quickest way to get on the field is to learn your pass protections,’’ he said Friday at the conclusion of the first rookie minicamp practice. ``If you can block and protect the quarterback, then you can run your routes and catch the ball. It's really the fastest way to get on the field.’

Pass protection, or a lack of it, is exactly what kept Cedric Benson off the field at times in 2005 and 2006. Then, when he blew an assignment in Oakland last season, quarterback Brian Griese was injured. For those who don’t have their Quarterback Turnstile Chart handy, that led to QB Switch No. 32 since Week 6 of the 1999 season.

If there’s been one person who has stood out in rookie minicamps over the last several seasons, it’s Matt Forte.

He looked the part Friday afternoon in the Walter Payton Center as the Bears assembled with 50 players on the field. Yes, 50. All 12 draft picks, 10 undrafted free agents and 28 players in town on a tryout basis were on the field. The big numbers allows the coaching staff to come as close as possible to simulating a real practice with players that have never set foot on an NFL field.

The running back from Tulane, drafted in the second round, stood out immediately.

Twenty-eight players are listed on the roster of tryout invitees for the rookie minicamp. With four punters on the list, you get the idea special teams coordinator Dave Toub wants to get a look at what is out there. He's already got veteran Brad Maynard and Glenn Pakulak on the roster.

The tryout list:

Zacrey Atterberry, P, Lindenwood
Willie Cooper, S, Miami
Ashton Gronewold, WR, Missouri-Rolla
Marc Hull, LB, San Diego State
Drew Kelson, S, Texas
Robert Killebrew, LB, Txas
Robert Lane, TE, Ole Miss
Nick Larkin, DE, Boston College
Andrew Larson, P, Cal
Matt Lawrence, RB, UMass
Gerard Lee, DE, Oregon State
Antonio Lewis, DB, West Virginia
Chris Markey, RB, UCLA
Mike Martinez, G, New Mexico State
Darren Mustin, LB, Alabama
Damon Nickson, S, Middle Tennessee State
Chris Parker, DB, Texas Tech
Ryan Poles, G, Boston College
Geoff Price, P, Notre Dame
Matt Purvis, LS, Iowa State
Tim Reyer, P, Kansas State
Josiah Sears, FB, Indiana
Adam Shada, DB, Iowa
Marcus Stone, TE, NC State
Joey Thomas, TE, Texas A&M
James Townsend, WR, Rutgers
Mike Ware, DT, Illinois
Nick Watkins, LB, Clemson

Notre Dame punter Geoff Price will participate in the rookie minicamp that begins a little later on today at Halas Hall.

He will be in on a tryout basis.

Check back later on when we file some updates from Lake Forest. There ought to be more tryout names to share by then.

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