Chicago Bears: Kelvin Hayden
Sources confirmed the Bears waived quarterback David Fales and released veteran cornerback Kelvin Hayden and veteran fullback Tony Fiammetta.
The Bears announced following Friday’s practice that Fales (shoulder) and Fiammetta (hamstring) had been officially ruled out for Week 2.
Hayden was a healthy inactive in Chicago's 23-20 overtime loss to the Buffalo Bills in the season opener.
The expectation is the Bears will look to fill some of the open roster spots off the practice squad. With Brandon Marshall (ankle) and Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) questionable, and Josh Morgan (groin) doubtful, the Bears could choose to promote one, or more, of their current practice squad wide receivers: Josh Bellamy, Greg Herd, Chris Williams and Rashad Ross. Practice squad center/guard Taylor Boggs is a candidate to help with depth on the offensive line after starters Roberto Garza (high-ankle sprain) and Matt Slauson (high-ankle sprain) were both declared out for the 49ers game.
Too little, too late: Eben Britton could be considered somewhat of a surprise cut. Britton played 13 games last season and started in four games, but pulled a hamstring early in camp which limited his availability throughout the preseason. Britton played in only the preseason finale at Cleveland because of the injury, and didn’t perform particularly well when called upon. Receiver Chris Williams entered training camp as one of the favorites to win the job as Chicago’s primary return man. But like Britton, Williams missed too much time because of a hamstring injury suffered Aug. 8 while catching a 73-yard touchdown pass against the Philadelphia Eagles. Britton and Williams should catch on with other teams as both are capable of playing in the NFL. But hamstring injuries limited their opportunities to show what they could do for the Bears, and the team couldn’t give either the benefit of the doubt in making Sunday’s decisions.
Whacked again: Defensive end Austen Lane wrote this great account of what it’s like to get cut last year for The MMQB. At the time, Lane was getting ready to try again with the Kansas City Chiefs, where he’d eventually be cut again. Lane ended up appearing in two games with the Detroit Lions last season, only to be waived 22 days after the club signed him. The Bears signed Lane on Feb. 27, but the veteran failed to nab a roster spot in what seemed to be a logjam at the defensive end position despite performing solidly.
What’s next: With cuts now out of the way, the Bears will establish a 10-man practice squad by the end of the weekend before turning their attention to the season opener against the Buffalo Bills.
Team moves: WR Josh Bellamy, C Taylor Boggs, DT Brandon Dunn, LB Jerry Franklin, OG Ryan Groy, LB DeDe Lattimore, CB Al Louis-Jean, WR Dale Moss, DT Lee Pegues, DT Tracy Robertson, S Marcus Trice, WR Chris Williams, CB C.J. Wilson, OT Eben Britton, CB Kelvin Hayden, DE Austen Lane, S M.D. Jennings.
- While the Bears actively monitor the waiver wire and scan the list of available free-agent wide receivers in the aftermath of Marquess Wilson’s fractured clavicle, Tuesday’s practice allowed the team to try out several different receiver combinations. Minus Wilson and veteran Brandon Marshall (coaches' decision), the Bears trotted out a three-wide receiver set to begin 11-on-11 drills that featured Alshon Jeffery, Eric Weems and Chris Williams. Weems, a former Pro Bowl return man in Atlanta, figures to be a lock to make the team based on his familiarity with the offense and immense value on special teams, but the remaining roster spots are wide open. According to quarterback Jay Cutler: “Eric Weems has had a great camp, but so have a number of other guys. Right now it’s too early to peg anybody. We’ll just see how it plays out.” Cutler later added the Bears expect Wilson back on the field in 2014 after he underwent surgery on Tuesday morning. But with no timetable set for Wilson’s return, the Bears do need to find a reliable option in the slot to bridge the gap over the first couple weeks of the regular season, at the bare minimum.
- Cornerback Isaiah Frey suffered a right hamstring injury at practice and had to be carted back to the locker room. The Bears’ 2013 starting nickelback, Frey is facing an uphill battle to make the team with veterans Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings, Kelvin Hayden and Sherrick McManis, plus rookie first-round draft choice Kyle Fuller ahead of Frey on the depth chart. Frey told reporters he plans to vigorously attack the required rehabilitation program, but stressed the importance of resisting the urge to return too soon from a pulled hamstring injury, since those types of injuries tend to linger.
- Starting right tackle Jordan Mills hurt his foot at the tail end of Tuesday’s practice. Mills stayed and watched the final drill before walking off the field under his own power. Mills suffered a foot injury during pregame warm-ups in last year’s regular-season finale versus the Green Bay Packers that required offseason surgery. The Bears did not reveal the severity of the injury, but Mills seemed to be in good spirits when he arrived at lunch later in the afternoon.
- Adrian Wilson and Ryan Mundy again took first-team reps at safety.
- Jennings (quadriceps) and guard Eben Britton (hamstring) were held out of practice, but linebacker Lance Briggs fully participated after a knee injury kept him off the field for final portion of Monday’s session. Defensive end Jared Allen was excused from another practice due to personal reasons, while running back Shaun Draughn went through an entire practice following a couple of personal days away from the team.
- The Bears' next scheduled practice is Wednesday at 9 a.m. CT.
- Expectations are sky high for a Bears offense that ranked No. 2 in the NFL last year in points scored (27.8 per game) and No. 5 in passing yards (267.6 per game), but the opening four days of practice have produced a mixed bag of results from a unit that is expected to return all 11 starters. Monday’s performance was no different. At certain points of the session, quarterback Jay Cutler ran the offensive scheme to perfection, firing completions to wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Marquess Wilson and tight end Martellus Bennett that went for huge gains. On the flip side, Cutler badly underthrew Marshall on a deep route into double coverage that should’ve been intercepted by Bears defenders who were stationed in the area. Veteran cornerback Kelvin Hayden later picked off a deflected Cutler pass in full-team 11-on-11, Hayden’s third interception since the start of camp. There were also batted-down balls at the line of scrimmage and botched snaps from the center to the quarterback that resulted in Cutler describing the offense as “good and bad.” Cutler continued: “That is to be expected taking the time off in July. We’re getting better and better. There’s been some sloppy stuff out there. We’ve got to clean it up. I think the guys are doing a really good job of just recognizing the plays and getting lined up and knowing the concepts and knowing the checks and everything. So if we just clean up some of the little things as we go, we’ll be all right.”
- The Bears desperately need their top three draft choices to step in and make immediate contributions on defense. First-round pick cornerback Kyle Fuller looks the part and continues to receive extensive reps on the first team in base and nickel with Tim Jennings temporarily sidelined due to a sore groin. Third-round choice Will Sutton got thrown into the fire on Monday at three-technique defensive tackle as the coaching staff decided to give Jeremiah Ratliff a veteran’s day off. Sutton appeared to hold up OK versus the heightened competition. Rookie nose tackle Ego Ferguson flashes the ability to get up-field in one-on-one individual pass-rush drills, but Ferguson has ended up on the ground on at least three separate occasions since the pads came on. Ferguson needs to find the perfect combination of speed and balance to ensure he doesn’t take himself out of the play when games begin for real next month.
- Fans chanted “Mega-Punt” whenever first-year punter Pat O'Donnell connected with the football on Sunday. Not to be outdone, punter Tress Way won the matchup between the two aspiring kickers on Monday. As a sixth-round draft choice, O'Donnell is considered the favorite to win the job, but Way has proved to those in the organization that he is an NFL-caliber punter. Even if Way is eventually released, he can still make it in the league. Former Bears “camp legs” have found gainful employment in the league: Spencer Lanning (Cleveland Browns) and Ryan Quigley (New York Jets).
- Most of the wideouts competing for the final roster spots have done little to distinguish themselves. The two exceptions are Eric Weems and Chris Williams. Not only are Weems and Williams natural fits in the return game, they have managed to catch the football in camp. The other reserve receivers have been plagued by drops.
- Pro Bowl right guard Kyle Long (viral infection) visited doctors on Monday, but the team cannot say if Long will be back on the field when it returns to work on Wednesday. With Long out, the Bears have worked various combinations at guard, with Eben Britton, Michael Ola and Brian de la Puente all seeing time with the starters.
- Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (sore foot), receiver Terrence Toliver (toe), safety Chris Conte (PUP) and safety Craig Steltz (PUP) were all spectators on Monday.
- The Bears are off on Tuesday. The next practice is scheduled for Wednesday at 9 a.m. CT.
Limited by the injury the last two weeks of organized team activities (OTAs), Palmer had full participation in the Bears' first of three mandatory minicamp workouts held on Tuesday, but he seemed to struggle with his accuracy at times, although Palmer reported no issues with his shoulder when he spoke with reporters after the practice.
"I felt great," Palmer said. "It was good to be back in the mix. I thought we had a pretty good practice today. [There wasn't] too much [rust]. It's still football. We're still wearing shorts and T-shirts, but it was good to be back out there with the guys."
Clausen signed a one-year deal with the Bears on June 7.
"I watched Jimmy when he was at Notre Dame," Cutler said. "Liked him. He was in a tough situation out there in Carolina. Offensive line was pretty rough; he was getting hit a lot. The system turned over on him. He throws the ball well. I didn't have any input on bringing him here, though. Once he did get here, though, he was in the quarterback room over the weekend three straight days grinding way, trying to figure out this offense. He was peppering me and David Fales, [quarterbacks coach] Matt Cavanaugh, all questions. So he's been working hard. I think he likes the opportunity he has here. He's a little bit humbled going through the experience of being on the streets and getting picked up again. He's got a good attitude. Training camp and preseason, we'll see how it works out."
Clausen's first task is sticking on the roster long enough to report to training camp with the club on July 24. But the odds of that happening seem promising. However, with five quarterbacks currently under contract, the Bears are likely to jettison at least one reserve quarterback in the coming weeks.
"I don't know if that's ever happened [going to camp with five quarterbacks], not in the times I've coached the position," Bears head coach Marc Trestman said. "These next two days are certainly critical; we've got to continue to analyze the situation. It would be hard to, we need legs at camp, but we'll see. We'll make that decision, and we don't even have to make that decision this week, we'll make it before the start of training camp. I think we've got five viable guys. You take Jay out of it and we've got four guys that are really competing hard and all have the requisite skill set to play in the National Football League, we've just got to continue to watch it and see how it unfolds."
Here are other observations from the Bears' opening minicamp practice:
• The Bears rested starting right tackle Jordan Mills (foot) after the second-year offensive lineman returned from offseason surgery in May to participate in OTAs. Mills called his absence "precautionary," but wasn't sure if he'd practice on Wednesday or Thursday before the team breaks for the summer.
"It's just a little precaution, nothing major," Mills said. "I'm 100 percent. I was kind of mad I couldn't go out there and practice today with them but the trainers know best. They just wanted to rest my foot a little bit.
• Safety Chris Conte, linebacker Khaseem Greene and defensive tackle Will Sutton were all excused for "family reasons" according to Trestman. Matt Slauson (shoulder) was present but continued to sit out. Safety Craig Steltz took part in certain individual drills as he recovers from an offseason leg issue.
• Veteran Kelvin Hayden was the Bears' fourth cornerback when the team went to its dime package on defense.
• Trestman called D.J. Williams "the lead dog" at middle linebacker, but 2013 second-round pick Jon Bostic took reps with the first team at linebacker in the nickel package, and could definitely still challenge for the open outside linebacker spot if Williams manages to stay healthy and solidifies the middle in the club's base defense.
• Safety Ryan Mundy dropped an easy pick when a Cutler pass sailed off its mark close to the right hash.
• Linebackers Jerry Franklin and Christian Jones saw action with the No. 2 group. Jones, an undrafted rookie free agent out of Florida State, has opened some eyes in the offseason program.
• With Mills out, Michael Ola spent time at right tackle with the starters. Brian de la Puente continued to take reps at left guard.
• Converted running back Jordan Lynch ran a wheel route out of the backfield and caught a diving touchdown pass from Johnson late in the session.
• Rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller broke up a pair of passes in team drills.
• Brandon Marshall burned Tim Jennings for a long touchdown reception. On the play, the Bears had speedster Chris Williams lined up in the slot.
• The Bears invited numerous NFL player agents to Halas Hall on Tuesday to watch practice inside the Walter Payton Center. Agents are frequently spotted catching up with their clients at training camp, but rarely are large groups of agents permitted to observe a workout held at the team's facility.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Kelvin Hayden spun around to point at the 40-yard line nearest the north end zone inside the Walter Payton Center.
This is the spot Hayden remembers emotion overcoming him the first time he could run anywhere even close to full speed.
"You come to a point where [you realize] football isn't forever and you've been playing this game for a long time since you were a kid. You want to hold on as long as you can," Hayden said. "This injury, I felt that it didn't get the best of me. Just thinking about the time I'm not able to move my leg for six weeks, to now I'm back running. You know, hard work really does pay off."
Hayden's emotional day came approximately three months after suffering what the team, at the time, called a torn hamstring, which occurred Aug. 3 during a Saturday night practice at Soldier Field. The day the team officially announced Hayden's injury (Aug. 7), Bears coach Marc Trestman called it "a severe hamstring," and revealed the cornerback's recovery time frame would be in the neighborhood of six to eight months for a player who was 30 at the time of the setback in his ninth NFL season.
Having had hamstring injuries multiple times throughout his NFL career, Hayden didn't think this one felt any worse than others. In fact, it didn't hurt nearly as bad. But three days after suffering what he figured was only a slight strain, Hayden was having difficulty just standing up.
Then, an MRI revealed the worst. He'd torn two of the three tendons in his left hamstring completely off the bone, which meant surgery for avulsions to reattach the tendons.
Former Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris suffered a similar injury in 2006.
"It's completely out of my mind. I don't even think about it anymore," Hayden said. "The moment I think about a lot is my first day actually running again. You hear so many things about the injury or whatever; guys don't come back 100 percent or guys do come back even better. I just didn't know where I was going to fall into place. So my first day out here running, it was just kind of like, ‘Man, I've come a long way.' I put in the work and to see the aftereffect of the work you put in, it was an emotional moment."
Hayden claims to feel quicker now, which for his sake is a definite positive given the competition already at the cornerback position. Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings man the top two spots, while rookie first-round pick Kyle Fuller owns the third spot technically. Although he'll move outside to the No. 2 spot in sub packages while Jennings moves to the nickel corner position.
When Hayden originally suffered the hamstring injury last August, he was penciled in as the starter at nickel. Now Hayden appears to be the fourth corner on the depth chart. Although he's worked some at nickel, Hayden has played primarily outside during organized team activities. Despite the current situation, Hayden says he's just thankful for the Bears bringing him back for a 10th NFL season.
"I just want to go out there and just make plays, as many as I can, and just fly around and enjoy it. I look at every day as a blessing from the injury that I've come from," he said. "I'm pretty sure I was counted out. I'm just remarkably happy that I'm out here still playing."
Surprisingly, Hayden was already back to running full speed prior to the end of the 2013 season. But the Bears had placed Hayden on injured reserve last Aug. 11 without a designation to return. They didn't expect him to recover so quickly.
"They saw my progress as far as before the season ended, I was running full speed," Hayden said. "So maybe they thought maybe I still had something left. It's one of those things I'm thankful for what they did. I actually feel quicker. You're sitting around six or seven months not doing much to go[ing] out here and attack[ing] the day as it's your last. You're just going out there and you're trying to get faster, trying to get quicker, trying to get stronger. The challenge, I loved it."
Hayden said his main goal upon suffering the injury was "not to do what was expected," which meant he'd fight to recover faster than everybody expected. To do it, Hayden hired a nutritionist. He figured, "Maybe if I change the way I eat, change what I put in my body, maybe that will help me to heal faster." Hayden's nutritionist constantly gave him meal plans. When Hayden couldn't move around due to his leg being immobilized for six weeks, "I had someone come cook and put the meals together for me," he said.
Going into last season, it appeared Hayden had positioned himself to take on larger role after a 2012 campaign in which he played all 16 games, starting in two, and contributing 40 tackles, an interception, three pass breakups and four fumble recoveries. Now Hayden finds himself just fighting for a roster spot, which is fine by him, given all he's endured just to get to this point.
"I heard so much about this injury, and guys were saying once you kind of tear it off the bone, they usually don't come back full speed. But I was like, 'Hey, you just can't tell me anything,'" Hayden said. "I came in here every morning ready to go to work, even putting in extra work. It's one of those deals where, 'OK, you got hurt. You got knocked down. You gonna stay down or get up?' I took the challenge of getting up."
Teammates quickly intervened to end the fight, but not before Bennett slammed his own helmet to the ground in frustration.
"That's football. We just go back to the next play and keep working. It's nothing personal. Marty is a good guy. He's a good friend of mine. I'm going to go in there with him after this. Everything is all good.”
Bennett later tweeted: "I go hard every [expletive] day. No doubt about that. Not a single ounce of [expletive] in me.”
Here are several other observations from Tuesday's voluntary session:
Former New Orleans Saints center Brian De La Puente split reps with Eben Britton at left guard with starter Matt Slauson sidelined due to a shoulder injury.
Middle linebacker D.J. Williams worked out in front of the media for the first time in the offseason. Williams was absent from last Tuesday's open OTA, but did participate in practices later in the week that were closed to the media.
Charles Tillman's absence on Tuesday opened the door for veteran cornerback Kelvin Hayden to receive a look on the first team at cornerback in the base defense and in the nickel package. Hayden missed the entire 2013 regular season after tearing his hamstring in training camp. Rookie first-round pick Kyle Fuller still worked with the starters in nickel when Tim Jennings bumped inside to cover the slot.
Hall of Famer Mike Ditka watched Tuesday's workout from the sidelines in Lake Forest. Ditka addressed the team last year following a practice at Halas Hall, and had his number retired by the Bears during halftime of the team's Monday night Dec. 9 game versus the Dallas Cowboys at Soldier Field.
Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery flashed his strong hands when he went up and snagged a red-zone pass over Jennings.
Safeties Ryan Mundy and Brock Vereen had blanket coverage on Brandon Marshall on a deep Jay Cutler ball down the middle of the field. The pass fell incomplete.
Rookie David Fales and second-year quarterback Jerrod Johnson received extra reps in team drills as No. 2 QB Jordan Palmer took a backseat to allow the young quarterbacks to get extended looks.
"We do want to bring back Henry and we'll work through that process," Emery said at the NFL combine. "He's made progress. He's made positive progress."
After undergoing surgery and sitting out the final three months of the regular season, Melton has apparently dedicated himself to strengthening his injured left knee over the past couple of months.
"He's in every day early," Bears head coach Marc Trestman said. "He's got to drive in from downtown. If you see him, you'll see that he has been training and he has been working. He's very focused. You'll see he dropped some weight. He looks very good physically right now. Obviously he's in there working the knee, but he's been on time, he's working hard with [Bears head athletic trainer] Chris [Hanks].
"As I said, I spoke with him yesterday for 30-45 minutes and he's committed to getting himself back and he's got work to do to get there, but he's in a very good place right now and we all understand the situation and we'll see where it goes."
The Bears' ability to retain Melton is expected to boil down to money. Considered one of the top defensive tackles scheduled to reach free agency, there is no way of knowing how much other teams are prepared to offer Melton when the new league year begins on March 11.
The Bears find themselves in the same situation with the other unrestricted free agents the organization wants to return, namely quarterback Josh McCown, cornerback Charles Tillman and center Roberto Garza.
While the Bears cannot officially re-sign McCown until the beginning of free agency, the team does hold exclusive negotiating rights with the veteran quarterback and can agree in principle to a new deal. McCown posted the third-highest quarterback rating (109.0) when he completed 149 of 224 passing attempts for 1,829 yards, 13 touchdowns and one interception in eight appearances (five starts).
"I talk to Josh pretty much weekly, or bi-weekly, I've talked to him two or three times anyways and I've texted with him. He's in the loop into what's going on. I've just called him on a personal level just to catch up with him and see how he sees the league and what's going on," Trestman said. "We just like to talk football. He knows exactly where he stands with us. I think that he's going to take his time, see where things are at, when he's ready to say ‘I want to come back,' I know Phil's going to do everything he can and we're going to do everything can to make sure he is."
Tillman, the 2013 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award winner and two-time Pro Bowl cornerback, has publicly stated on multiple occasions that his decision to return to Chicago for a 12th season will be determined by the kinds of contract offers he receives.
Meantime, Garza, a 13-year NFL veteran center/guard, will likely have to accept a one-year, veteran-minimum contract with a relatively low signing bonus to stay with the Bears. However, Garza is a respected team captain and the leader of the team's revamped offensive line that started all 16 games together.
"It's a tough business," Trestman said. "We want Roberto back. He knows we want him back. We believe he should finish his career with the Bears. He does so much in our community. He's such a leader in our locker room. He knows how we feel about him. We just need to let this thing evolve and hopefully it's going to work out best, No. 1 for Roberto, because that's No. 1. And from his standpoint, and it should be, he deserves that respect. And hopefully it will work out for the Bears as well. We certainly want to see him back."
Emery also praised free-agent veteran middle linebacker D.J. Williams who battled injuries for much of last season. Emery sounded as if the door is still open for Williams to return, and if he does, Williams is expected to compete with Shea McClellin, Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene for a starting spot.
"Saw a good football player [in Williams]," Emery said. "Saw a guy that has legitimately very good burst. Saw a player that has good instincts, gets around the ball and plays with a relentless style. We were not displeased with his effort. We were very pleased with where he was going and how he was progressing. Obviously, he had some injuries in camp, he had to get his feet back under him and once he did he started producing at a high level."
Other notable unrestricted free agents for the Bears include: defensive lineman Corey Wootton, defensive tackle Nate Collins, return man Devin Hester, safety Craig Steltz, defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff and cornerbacks Zack Bowman and Kelvin Hayden.
Texas Southern’s official website lists Purdy as having 34 tackles, one interception and four pass breakups for the Tigers in 2012.
The 6-foot, 190 pound cornerback went undrafted in 2013.
Even with a long-term deal in place for Pro Bowler Tim Jennings, the Bears are expected to experience some turnover at the cornerback position with veterans Charles Tillman, Zack Bowman, Sherrick McManis and Kelvin Hayden all scheduled to be unrestricted free agents.
Purdy is the third cornerback the Bears have inked to a reserve/futures deal since the end of the regular season, joining C.J. Wilson and Demontre Hurst on the offseason roster.
The good: Tim Jennings earned a return trip to the Pro Bowl and a new four-year, $22.4 million contract after he led the defense with four interceptions and 12 pass breakups. Before he suffered a season-ending triceps injury, Tillman had three picks and three forced fumbles. Bowman, who replaced Tillman in the starting lineup for the final seven weeks, had two interceptions and a pick-six in a pivotal win over the Cleveland Browns. Second-year nickel back Isaiah Frey made 62 tackles despite playing some of the year with a broken hand. The Bears' pass defense was by far the strength of the unit in 2013. McManis was second on the team with 15 special teams tackles.
The bad: Losing a player of Tillman’s caliber would hurt any team. Bowman did an admirable job stepping in for the two-time Pro Bowler, but Tillman is a turnover machine. His playmaking ability was missed. Hayden, who began training camp as the starting nickel back, went on injured reserve during the preseason.
The money (2014 salary cap figures): Jennings is scheduled to count $7.5 million against the cap next year, per the terms of his new deal. Frey, a 2012 sixth-round draft choice, will eat up only $495,000 worth of space in 2014. It’s unclear what the Bears plan to offer Tillman in free agency, but it will likely be far less than the $8,001,575 he made last season.
Draft priority: The Bears do have a couple of young cornerbacks on their offseason roster (C.J. Wilson and Demontre Hurst), but with Tillman, Bowman, McManis and Hayden all in-line to test the market, general manager Phil Emery would be justified in selecting a cornerback in the draft. Bowman is another versatile veteran who can be re-signed for close to the league minimum.
However, Trestman said a direct conversation between himself and Tucker still needs to take place before he can comment on the status of his coaching staff.
“I don’t want anybody to read into anything what we are doing,” Trestman said. “Everything is on the table. We’re going through a very thoughtful and methodical process here. Other than that, we’ve talked enough at these press conferences that I’m hopeful you won’t [draw conclusions on the staff]. We’re going to look at everything because we have an obligation to do that and what I can do to get this football team better.
"Everything is on the table. Again, we’re just three days into this. All we’ve done is looked at some tape. This is a process that’s going to involve not just myself, but all of our coaches. It’ll be a process where we’ve left everything on the table.”
The Bears finished 2013 ranked No. 30 in total defense and dead last in rushing defense and yards allowed per play. The defense was also tied for 30th in points allowed and ranked 26th in sacks per pass play.
But the group did suffer key injuries to cornerback Charles Tillman, linebacker Lance Briggs, defensive tackles Henry Melton and Nate Collins, middle linebacker D.J. Williams, nickel back Kelvin Hayden and defensive lineman Turk McBride. Veteran defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis also opted to retire on the eve of training camp, further depleting the Bears’ depth on the defensive line.
When relatively healthy, the Bears' defense put up respectable numbers over the first three games of the regular season, but their performance sharply regressed as the year wore on.
“I think it’s a real shame that Mel got the raw end of the deal,” Bears cornerback Tim Jennings said.
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler said on ESPN 1000’s “The Jay Cutler Show” on Monday that he believes Tucker will be the team’s defensive coordinator until “he lands a head coaching job” either in the NFL or college ranks.
Trestman said he and Emery work together when shaping the coaching staff, but Emery clarified that Trestman has final say on the matter.
In an interview on Thursday with ESPN 1000's “Waddle and Silvy Show,” Chicago Bears President and CEO Ted Phillips cited safety issues as the reason for the organization's ongoing refusal to switch to an artificial surface.
“I've been with the Bears for 30 years, and this was the first and only time I ever remember having a storm like that blow in during a game where you had to relocate fans,” Phillips said. “To me, that's not a reason to go to FieldTurf. You can't make a knee-jerk decision. You can't do that. It's a health and safety concern. We're still not at the point where we feel that artificial surfaces play as well, or even as close to grass.
“It's hard enough. Look at the kind of injuries we've had this year. I'm not blaming it on any kinds of surfaces, necessarily, but why go to the extra risk of injuries when you see the results of medical surveys that indicate that the risk of lower-leg injuries is significantly higher [on] artificial surfaces.
“Until that time comes when it gets to be a little closer to how grass plays, I wouldn't see us changing.”
Soldier Field was ranked the NFL's third-worst playing surface when the NFLPA released the 2010 NFL Players Playing Surfaces Opinion Survey back in February 2011 -- 1,619 players from all 32 teams participated in the survey.
However, according to the report, 32 of the 39 Bears' players surveyed felt that artificial surfaces are more likely to contribute to injuries than natural grass, and 74.4 percent of the Bears preferred grass to artificial surfaces.
Interestingly, all four lower-leg injuries the Bears have suffered in 2013 have occurred on natural grass: cornerback Kelvin Hayden (Soldier Field Family Night), defensive tackle Nate Collins (Soldier Field), defensive tackle Henry Melton (Heinz Field, Pittsburgh) and defensive lineman Turk McBride (Olivet Nazarene University, Bourbonnais, Ill.).
Trestman cited key injuries on defense when evaluating Tucker's effectiveness. Entering Week 11, the Bears will be minus six projected starters (Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman, D.J. Williams, Henry Melton, Kelvin Hayden and Nate Collins) -- defensive end Shea McClellin is questionable with a pulled hamstring -- when they face the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday at Soldier Field.
"I can tell you, Mel's done an amazing job in my opinion," Trestman said. "He has been consistent with the guys in terms of his passion, the way he's teaching. He's a positive guy. I thought as I talked to the team on Monday, I thought our defense played well enough for us to win under unusual circumstances because of the situation of having so many players out that gave our team a chance to win. I think that starts with Mel, and our staff getting the guys ready, continuing to work with them to try and improve.
"Are we where we want to be? No. We're always trying to get better. But I think he's done an outstanding job in the classroom. On the field he's excellent, and I think he's done a great job of being on the field and managing the team for the last couple of games on the field. It's very impressive to watch."
McClellin initially rushed up field on the play from his end spot before anticipating the throw by Cutler and coming down with a difficult catch. If the sequence had occurred in a real game, McClellin would have scored an easy defensive touchdown.
"I was just doing my job and reading my keys," McClellin said. "The ball was right there so I picked it off. I was just doing my job. I feel faster out there than I did in the spring after I lost eight pounds. I still feel like I get a little heavier, but I'll work on that after camp.
McClellin has been in a groove the last week, routinely winning one-on-one battles with offensive lineman in individual and team drills. The likely plan for the former first-round pick is to move him around the defensive front, lining him up in a two-point or three-point stance depending on the defensive call or the matchup, while sometimes requiring that he cover a tight end or guard the flat on passing downs.
The Bears asked McClellin to do some of that last year as a rookie, but expect to see more of it in 2013. That's because McClellin should receive a significant boost in play-time in the Bears' three-man starting defensive end rotation that also includes Julius Peppers and Corey Wootton.