Chicago Bears: Jermon Bushrod
A handful of free-agent signings, headlined by outside linebacker Pernell McPhee, wide receiver Eddie Royal and safety Antrel Rolle, leaves the Chicago Bears with $15,226,038 worth of salary-cap space, according to the most recent figures released by the NFLPA.
The Bears’ figure will decrease slightly when the league officially processes the one-year contract signed by veteran long-snapper Thomas Gafford on Wednesday, but as of Thursday morning, Chicago ranked No. 12 in available cap space.
The average amount of salary-cap space per team is $14,179,008, per the NFLPA.
Gafford’s addition still gives the Bears an NFL-low 58 players under contract.
McPhee’s 2015 salary-cap charge of $6.675 million is the sixth-highest on the roster, behind Jay Cutler ($16.5 million), Jared Allen ($12.5 million), Matt Forte ($9.2 million), Jermon Bushrod ($8.050 million) and Lamarr Houston ($6.999 million).
The club’s two other free-agent splashes, Royal and Rolle, will count $5.5 million and $5 million against the cap in the upcoming season.
Guard Vladimir Ducasse is scheduled to eat up a modest $665,000 worth of cap space.
NFL teams are often forced to carry a substantial amount of dead salary-cap money because of the rampant release of veteran players or high-priced free agent busts, but the only noteworthy dead money currently on the Bears’ books is courtesy of former wide receiver Brandon Marshall. Even though the Bears successfully dealt Marshall and a seventh-round draft choice to the New York Jets in exchange for a fifth-round pick, the Bears are still required to carry $5.625 million worth of dead money, the remaining balance of the $7.5 million signing bonus Marshall received in conjunction with the new contract he received on May 22, 2014.
Fans are clamoring for the organization to make wholesale changes, not limited to head coach Marc Trestman, general manager Phil Emery, and even team president Ted Phillips. Several, if not all, of the club’s coordinators appear to be in serious jeopardy of getting launched at season’s end, but ownership has given no indications on how it plans to deal with the mess.
Because of the front office’s silence on the topic of job security, veteran players such as offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod will be forced to answer difficult questions until the regular season wraps up on Dec. 28.
“I ain’t got anything to do with that,” Bushrod said. “The guys we got in here are great guys and we’re going to find ways to go back to work. We all have to individually find a way to do something better. We have to. Coming out here and being in these situations, especially the last three weeks, is tough.”
If the Bears lose their final two games to Detroit and Minnesota, the team would finish 5-11 for the first time since Lovie Smith’s maiden voyage as Bears head coach in 2004.
Mills went backwards on the injury report the entire week; downgraded to limited participation in practice on Thursday (Mills had full participation on Wednesday) before sitting out Friday's session altogether.
“It’s a problem [Mills’ foot injury] right now and we’ll have to see how it is over the course of the next couple of days,” Bears head coach Marc Trestman said. “We’ll have to see where Jordan is. If he can’t go, then Michael [Ola] will be in his place [at right tackle].
Ola started three games at left guard and two games at left tackle earlier in the season when Matt Slauson and Jermon Bushrod were injured.
Meantime, linebackers Jon Bostic (back) and Lance Briggs (ribs) are both listed as doubtful for Week 8. Trestman said Briggs is still dealing with soreness but is making progress towards an eventual return.
In more encouraging news, rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller is probable for Sunday after suffering a broken right hand and right hip pointer injury last weekend in the loss to the Miami Dolphins. Fuller has worn a protective brace on his hand the past two days at practice, but it’s unknown if he plans to wear anything on his hand versus New England, according to Trestman.
Safety Chris Conte (shoulder), defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (non-injury related) and tight end Martellus Bennett are also probable.
Safety Danny McCray has been ruled with a knee injury.
Left tackle Jermon Bushrod (ankle/knee) is likely to return to action on Sunday after being upgraded to full participation in practice, while right tackle Jordan Mills (right) did limited work following a rest day on Wednesday.
“Today was like the first time we’ve all practiced together since Week 1,” Mills said. “I wasn’t there in OTAs (foot surgery) and parts of camp. Then it was Kyle Long when he had his illness. Then unfortunately Roberto Garza and Matt Slauson got hurt in the same game (Buffalo) with the same injury. Then Bushrod [suffered his injury at practice before Carolina game]. But all these dudes [we have as reserves] played so well it was like nobody ever left.”
Linebacker Lance Briggs (ribs) and safety Chris Conte (shoulder) were the only ones to sit out Thursday’s indoor session, but head coach Marc Trestman refused to officially rule out either player, yet.
Trestman said the Bears have rotated safeties Ryan Mundy, Brock Vereen and Danny McCray this week at practice, but Mundy and Vereen lined up together in Atlanta after Conte left the game, the fourth game he’s been unable to finish in 2014. Conte did cardiovascular work on Thursday.
Linebackers Jon Bostic (back) and D.J. Williams (neck), and safety Ahmad Dixon (hamstring) had limited participation.
Cornerback Sherrick McManis (quadriceps/knee) and linebacker Shea McClellin (hand) practiced without restrictions and are expected to be available to face Miami.
In other injury news, linebacker Lance Briggs (ribs) didn’t participate in Wednesday’s practice, along with safety Chris Conte (shoulder), running back Matt Forte (coach’s decision), right tackle Jordan Mills (foot), defensive tackle Stephen Paea (coach’s decision) and linebacker D.J. Williams (neck).
The Bears held out Briggs and Williams from the club’s win last week over the Atlanta Falcons, and Bears coach Marc Trestman doesn’t anticipate Briggs will practice Thursday.
Mills, meanwhile, is hobbled with by the same left foot that forced him the miss the entire preseason after undergoing surgery in the offseason to repair a fractured metatarsal. In the win over the Falcons, Mills was flagged for three pre-snap penalties, and struggled in pass protection.
“We gave him some time off today,” Trestman said. “He was at practice, did some limited things. But we kept him out. We’ll see where he is tomorrow.”
Bushrod and Bostic participated in a limited capacity. Bushrod has missed the last two games after suffering ankle and knee injuries during practice leading into the club’s Oct. 5 matchup against the Carolina Panthers. Bostic missed the club’s last outing at Atlanta as the Bears’ entire starting linebacking corps was forced to miss due to injuries.
Other limited participants included safety Ahmad Dixon and cornerback Sherrick McManis.
Second-year receiver Marquess Wilson (fractured clavicle) is eligible to return to practice this week after being placed on short-term injured reserve on Sept. 2, but he didn’t participate in Wednesday’s workout at Halas Hall. Trestman said the Bears plan to bring along the No. 3 receiver slowly. Wilson will be eligible to return in Week 10 when the Bears face the Green Bay Packers.
“There’s a whole plan involved to when he can start to work, when we want him to start work,” Trestman said. “That will all take place, really get started in the next two to three weeks in terms of his protocol so to speak [for getting] back into the swing of things. He’s obviously getting a lot of work with the trainers and working out with [strength and conditioning coordinator] Mike [Clark] and so forth. But it’s all part of the timing issue of when he can come back as much as anything.”
"I am optimistic [about Bushrod]," Trestman said. "He’ll work out today, and he probably has already, and he’ll work out tomorrow. We’re hopeful we can get him back in the mix. We’ll see where he is on Wednesday at practice."
26-year old NFL rookie Michael Ola has filled in at left tackle and done a commendable job protecting quarterback Jay Cutler's blind side the past two weeks, but Ola is to return to the bench when Bushrod is medically cleared.
Bushrod, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, signed a lucrative five-year contract with the Bears in the 2013 offseason, bringing stability and leadership to a left tackle position that had been unsettled since John Tait retired in 2008.
In anticipation of Bushrod’s absence, the Bears shuffled in multiple players along the offensive line at practice Thursday in an attempt to find the best combination up front. Bushrod will miss his first game since 2009. He had started in 68 consecutive games.
“I don’t know how many it is in a row, but it’s coming to an end this week,” Bushrod said. “We’re gonna see how I feel in the next few days. [The injury is] nothing crazy. It’s just some things I have to deal with one day at a time. I miss it. I’ve been away from practice for two days. It’s hard to see the guys out there grinding.”
The Bears also announced defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff will miss his third consecutive game stemming from a concussion suffered during Week 2 at San Francisco, and linebacker Shea McClellin (hand) and safety Ahmad Dixon (hamstring) are also out for Sunday’s game.
Bushrod’s injury forced the Bears to move around players at multiple positions along the offensive line at practice Thursday as a contingency plan. Working in Chicago’s favor is the fact that center Roberto Garza and left guard Matt Slauson returned to practice Wednesday after missing the last three games with high ankle sprains.
Slauson is officially listed as questionable , and if he plays, Bears coach Marc Trestman said the team will start Michael Ola at Bushrod’s left tackle spot. Ola has started the past three games at left guard in place of Slauson. But the team anticipates Slauson returning to the lineup against the Panthers.
“That’s a common thought and belief, that you want the quarterback’s back side to be protected, and as we’ve gone into it, the move is right now is Mike will be over there if Matt is playing,” Trestman said. “Mike got a lot of work over there, anyway, to be where we could certainly have him starting there and have him play the guard position as well. The hope is that Matt will be playing and Mike will be at left tackle.”
In other injury news, defensive end Jared Allen (pneumonia), linebacker Lance Briggs (knee), safety Chris Conte (shoulder), receiver Brandon Marshall (ankle), and linebacker D.J. Williams (neck) are officially listed as probable. Garza (ankle) and cornerback Sherrick McManis (quadriceps) are doubtful.
Chicago typically dresses just seven offensive linemen for games, which means the club cross-trains the players at multiple positions up front in case of injury. During the preseason, Ola bounced along the offensive line, playing both tackle and guard in spurts.
A rookie, Ola admitted to feeling a little pressure about taking on the responsibility of protecting Jay Cutler’s blind side Sunday against the Panthers. Ola didn’t start taking snaps at left tackle until Wednesday’s workout.
“I definitely don’t want to be that guy who gets Jay hit at all, or I’ll be back to flipping burgers or something,” Ola said.
"We all know that Jermon is a heck of a player and he's been a guy we've counted on the entire time he's been here," Trestman said. "Very unfortunate incident. Hopefully, it's not going to take too long. We'll see. The last month of the season we've been without [starting center] Roberto [Garza]. We've been without [left guard] Matt [Slauson], and we'll see where things are with Bush[rod]. Certainly it's an unfortunate incident. You certainly don't want to get anybody hurt, and then it happens accidentally in practice. That makes all of us uncomfortable. But we've got to move forward, and we will."
Describing Bushrod's injury, Trestman said "he went to the ground and came up with the situation that he's in today. But it was accidental. It wasn't anything that happened as a result of anything other than just he went to the ground."
The injury forced the Bears to move around players at multiple positions along the offensive line at practice as somewhat of a contingency plan in case Bushrod can't play against the Panthers. Working in Chicago's favor is the fact Garza and Slauson returned to practice on Wednesday after missing the last three games with high ankle sprains.
If Bushrod can't play, the Bears could look at Michael Ola, who has filled in at left guard for Slauson the last three games, as a potential replacement along with veteran Eben Britton. Britton has started in 23 games at right tackle, seven at left guard and four as a sixth eligible lineman in six seasons in the NFL.
"We hope he can be back, and we'll see," Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said of Bushrod. "Right now all we can do right now is plan for the worst, move guys around and see what the best combination is because with Roberto and Slauson, it depends on how they're feeling, too. I know you're just talking left tackle, but it really does matter whether they play or not on who's going to play beside them. So we've really subbed more than we're used to. We normally play with five guys. Today, we moved a lot of guys, and a lot of guys got reps to get ready."
Given that Chicago typically dresses just seven offensive linemen, Kromer and Trestman stressed the importance of cross training all the potential contributors up front at multiple positions, which gives the club confidence about Bushrod's potential replacement if needed Sunday at Carolina.
Quarterback Jay Cutler certainly has developed a comfort level with Bushrod protecting his blind side.
"He quietly does his job each and every week," Cutler said. "Most teams you go against have a defensive end or somebody who specializes to get to the passer, and Bush[rod] over there just takes care of guys. You don't have to worry about it. You know the left side is locked up; let's worry about what's inside."
In other Bears injury news, safety Ahmad Dixon (hamstring) was held out of practice along with linebacker Shea McClellin (hand), whom Trestman already declared out for Sunday's matchup. Defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (concussion) was also a non-participant during Thursday's workout as he continues to go through the necessary steps and testing of the NFL's concussion protocol.
Defensive end Jared Allen (illness), Garza and Slauson were limited, along with cornerback Sherrick McManis (quadriceps). Linebackers Lance Briggs (knee) and D.J. Williams (neck) fully participated Wednesday along with receiver Brandon Marshall (ankle) and safety Chris Conte (shoulder).
Headlining the group is wide receiver Brandon Marshall (ankle), who's been battling a sore ankle since Week 1 that's limited his production the two weeks to three combined catches versus the Jets and Packers.
"It was good to get him [Marshall] back out there at full speed," Bears head coach Marc Trestman said.
Meantime, defensive end Jared Allen (pneumonia), defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (concussion), center Roberto Garza (ankle) and left guard Matt Slauson (ankle) were limited on Wednesday, a positive development since all four players were inactive in Week 4.
Allen said he is confident about his chances of suiting up this weekend against the Panthers. However, the defensive end did acknowledge he lost about 15 pounds during his illness, and checked-in on Wednesday morning at 241 pounds, approximately 13 pounds below his normal playing weight of 254.
The statuses of Garza, Slauson and Ratliff remain unknown for Week 5, but Trestman confirmed that Garza and Slauson will return to the starting lineup whenever they are medically cleared.
"That's the way we are going," Trestman said.
Left tackle Jermon Bushrod (knee) and cornerback Sherrick McManis (quadriceps) were also listed as having limited participation.
Safety Chris Conte (shoulder) had full participation.
Four players sat out Wednesday: linebackers Lance Briggs (knee), Shea McClellin (hand) and D.J. Williams (neck), and safety Ahmad Dixon (hamstring).
- Safety Adrian Wilson seems to be gaining a level of comfort in Chicago’s scheme, which in turn has resulted in the veteran playing somewhat faster. But don’t be fooled by Wilson’s seemingly average workout pace as some within the organization believe he’s “practicing like a veteran,” meaning he’s expending as little energy as possible just to make it through camp and into the preseason games. For Wilson, the exhibition games are where he’ll make his mark, and that’s when people within the organization expect the safety to go full bore. Considering he’s currently in a backup role, expect Wilson to receive significant snaps late into the games against mostly backups, and he’ll need to play well -- nearly dominate -- before the staff feels comfortable enough to put him into the mix for one of the starting jobs. The coaching staff hopes Wilson pans out because if he does, it gives the Bears an intimidating force on the back end they haven’t had in several years.
- The Bears pumped in the music as usual for the individual portions of practice, but when the team simulated some live situations, staffers piped in crowd noise through the public address system. The extra noise didn’t seem to affect execution on either side of the ball.
- Strangely, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, and Matt Forte seemed to drop more passes in one day Thursday than they had throughout all of training camp. Jeffery and Forte each dropped two passes with the former making up for it by hauling in a long ball late in practice between two defenders. Chris Williams, a candidate to become the club’s primary punt returner and a backup receiver, muffed a punt and also dropped a pass.
- Despite Marshall's drop, he made perhaps the catch of the day in a goal-line drill. With Demontre Hurst draped all over him, Marshall made a spinning one-handed grab for a touchdown. Marshall receives points for difficulty on this one as he caught the touchdown with his left hand.
- Just before the start of practice, the Bears announced they signed offensive lineman Graham Pocic to a one-year contract and waived receiver Terrence Tolliver with an injury settlement. Pocic signed with the St. Louis Rams in 2013 as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Illinois.
- Non-participants at practice Thursday included safeties Craig Steltz (groin) and Chris Conte (shoulder) along with guards Kyle Long and Eben Britton (hamstring). Long has been cleared to return to practice, but won’t be back in pads until the club’s night workout Saturday at Soldier Field. Britton wasn’t on the field with teammates as he spent all of the practice rehabilitating inside with athletic trainers.
- Jermon Bushrod, Stephen Paea, Austen Lane, and Jordan Mills were the stars of one-on-one drills featuring offensive linemen against defensive linemen. Paea made the most impressive move of the day, using a swim move to blow past Roberto Garza in just one step.
- The Bears practice again Friday at 9 a.m. CST.
Granted, football is not an individual sport, but players are required to win individual battles in the trenches for the betterment of the team.
Collins spent months rehabbing the left knee before returning to the Bears on a one-year deal in March. Equipped with a bulky knee brace, Collins received medical clearance to participate in the offseason program in May and has been relatively full-go ever since.
"I have a mentality where the moment you get comfortable something bad can go wrong or something unexpected can happen," Collins said. "I do everything I can and focus on what I can control and everything else will work itself out. I just know if I come out here and perform my best every single day then good things will happen."
Collins showcased a variety of moves the handful of times he lined up opposite reserve offensive linemen in the drill, relying on his speed and technique on certain rushes, and brute power to push up the field on others.
"It really felt good to get out there. There was a lot of adrenaline and energy running through me. I'm just glad I was able to come out here and do what I love because I love football. I love football, I love these guys and I love this team. It's a blessing I was able to come out here and compete with my brothers."
Other observations from the drill included: defensive tackle Stephen Paea winning a memorable one-on-one matchup with veteran center Roberto Garza. Defensive end Trevor Scott continued his strong start to camp by beating an offensive tackle off the edge on one rush, then winning another matchup with an inside move. Rookie second-round pick Ego Ferguson ended up on the ground on two separate occasions, but Ferguson did manage to push his way into the backfield on one snap. Left tackle Jermon Bushrod got the best of defensive end Jared Allen the one time they squared off in the session. Right tackle Jordan Mills held his own versus ends Lamarr Houston and Willie Young.
In 2013, quarterback Jay Cutler suffered the fewest sacks of his tenure with the Chicago Bears.
With Busrod and Mills penciled in once again as the starters at tackle for 2014, the hopes is the sack numbers will drop even more.
"We’re gonna be tested," Mills said.
Battle to watch: Credit general manager Phil Emery for stocking the roster with so much depth at offensive tackle from the top of the depth chart to the bottom. It is expected that Eben Britton will seize the top backup role on the right side, but the left side is up for grabs now that Jonathan Scott is no longer with the team. Seventh-round pick Charles Leno Jr. could find himself battling with Joe Long, Michael Ola and perhaps James Brown for that spot. The runner-up in that battle could wind up still making the roster as a backup.
Dark horse: Britton finally feels completely healthy after an injury-plagued start to his career in Jacksonville, and it showed last season when he was given opportunities to play. Britton served as the second tight end in some formations, but also received time on the line in various situations. The club likes Mills, and believes he has a bright future as the starting right tackle. But if Mills is slowed in his recovery from a broken foot during training camp, there is a chance Britton could seriously contend for a starting spot.
Who makes the cut: Bushrod, Britton and Mills, would appear to be locks to make the team. Long and Leno could wind up with the final two spots, but remember that Ola has experience with Trestman as the two worked together with the Montreal Alouettes.
Sutton never went into specific details about the matter but said "everything is good now" when asked if the situation had been resolved.
"I talked it over with the coaches and they let me go," Sutton said. "They said to take as time as I need but I'm here today."
Sutton felt he performed fine on Thursday despite missing the first two days of the club's mandatory minicamp, but the Arizona State product revealed that he plans to return home in the weeks leading up to training camp to ensure that he keeps himself in top physical shape. Sutton gained weight his final year with the Sun Devils that caused his production and draft stock to dip.
He is currently listed at 6-foot, 303 pounds on the Bears' official offseason roster.
"I'm just going to go back to Arizona and train," Sutton said. "It's going to be hot. It's going to be hot.
"My weight isn't a problem. I put on the weight [last year] because I was told to. It's not a problem. It's not that I'm lazy and don't work out."
Speaking of working out, the Bears don't necessarily view the five week gap between the end of minicamp and the start of training camp as a vacation. Bears head coach Marc Trestman delivered that message to his team at their final meeting before the players left the building Thursday afternoon. Apparently, Trestman's speech resonated within the locker room.
"There's no real time to rest," Bears left tackle Jermon Bushrod said. "You might take your weekends off, but for five days a week you need to get ready for training camp. It's not time to take off."
Kicker Robbie Gould added: "The time to take vacations is in January."
The Bears are set to report to training camp on July 24 on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois.
• Teams can learn a lot about themselves over the course of an eight-week NFL offseason program.
But can you actually tell if a team will be good in the regular season based on OTAs and minicamp?
"No, you really can't tell," Bears Pro Bowl cornerback Tim Jennings said. "All you can tell is where your team is at. You don't know where you are going to rank, but you know what you have at this moment."
• The Bears clearly like that they have seen from rookie safety Brock Vereen. He took all the first-team reps alongside Ryan Mundy throughout the entire minicamp, but the organization is not ready to anoint Vereen a starter.
• Trestman described undrafted rookie free agent Jordan Lynch as being in the mix for a reserve role in the Bears' offensive backfield.
"We have a logjam from two through five [on the running back depth chart]. Jordan is in that logjam. A lot of that will be balanced out with special teams. I'm looking forward to seeing him in pads with the rest of the younger guys.
"Jordan is doing well."
• Safety Chris Conte was excused for a third straight day due to an illness that the Bears were concerned could be contagious, according to Trestman. However, the bulk of the roster was present on the final day of minicamp, although right tackle Jordan Mills, right guard Kyle Long, cornerback Sherrick McManis and Matt Slauson did not participate.
• Safety Craig Steltz went through individual drills for the third straight day while wide receiver Alshon Jeffery had full participation after he rested on Wednesday.
Mills' offseason foot surgery and subsequent rehabilitation could open the door for re-signed veteran guard/tackle Eben Britton to push for the starting job, but the Bears appear to be well-stocked at the top of their tackle depth chart.
But since a team can never have enough quality offensive tackles, the Bears may consider using a draft pick to increase the competition among backups James Brown and Joe Long. Seven-year veteran Jonathan Scott is still available on the open market after his contract expired with the Bears last month.
It is strange, and rather refreshing, to enter a draft without the offensive line being a major need for the Bears. Based on the current roster, it would be a surprise if the Bears took a tackle before the third day of the draft, unless there is significant concern about Mills' health. But by all accounts Mills' recovery is on schedule.
Five potential targets:
1. Justin Britt, Missouri
2. Matt Patchan, Boston College
3. Seantrel Henderson, Miami
4. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, McGill (Canada)
5. Kevin Pamphile, Purdue
The next five: 6. James Hurst, North Carolina; 7. Cornelius Lucas, Kansas State; 8. Kevin Graf, USC; 9. Garrett Scott, Marshall; 10. Parker Graham, Oklahoma State.
Position grade: B
Position: Left tackle
Contract: Five years, $35,965,000 with $17,715,000 in total guarantees
Years of service with Bears: 2013-present
Recap: The perception is the Bears overpaid for Bushrod. In reality, the seven-year NFL veteran represented a massive upgrade over former starting left tackle, J'Marcus Webb. Bushrod anchored a Bears' offensive line that stayed intact for the entire 2013 season, until rookie right tackle Jordan Mills injured his foot in the first quarter of the team's Week 17 loss to the Green Bay Packers. With Bushrod protecting quarterback Jay Cutler's blind side, the Bears tied for fourth in the NFL with the fewest sacks allowed (30), while the line helped pave the way for tailback Matt Forte to rush for a career-high 1,339 yards. Bushrod is a professional in the locker room. He handles his business with class and is a terrific role model for the younger, impressionable offensive linemen.
Position: Tight end
Contract: Five years, $15 million
Year of service with Bears: 2010
Recap: Manumaleuna, a favorite of ex-offensive coordinator Mike Martz, caught five passes for 43 yards and one touchdown in his lone season with Chicago. He was released the following summer for reporting to training camp overweight, forcing the Bears to carry $1.6 million of dead salary cap money. Manumaleuna had a good run in the NFL with stops in St. Louis and San Diego, but failed to make an impact in Chicago. He missed a team meeting the night before the regular-season opener because he misunderstood the schedule. Manumaleuna was a fine guy in the locker room, but he never got with the program. He never played in another NFL regular-season game after his release from the Bears.