Chicago Bears: Matt Blanchard
“I really appreciate all the kind words from the #Bears fans but I'm headed home today,” Palmer wrote. “Crazy biz but appreciative.”
Palmer had a strong first-half performance Thursday against Cleveland when he completed 11-of-17 passes for 111 yards and one touchdown, for a passer rating of 102.8. Chicago receivers also dropped at least three throws that would have otherwise resulted in completions.
Bears head coach Marc Trestman praised Palmer following the game. The Bears signed both Palmer and fellow quarterback Trent Edwards after second-year QB Matt Blanchard fractured his left hand in the club’s second preseason game. The Bears and Blanchard later reached an injury settlement.
“It says a lot about his preparation,” Trestman said. “He came in here; he dug in; he has learned a lot of the offense and spent a lot of time, on his own, trying to assimilate all of it. I’m happy for him that he came out and played very efficiently for us.”
It’s possible the Bears could turn to Palmer later in the regular season if the team suffers an injury to either starting quarterback Jay Cutler or No. 2 Josh McCown.
Edwards replaced Palmer in the second half and went 10-of-17 for 135 yards and tossed an interception that went through the hands of tight end Fendi Onobun and returned for a touchdown by the Cleveland defense.
The Bears could be leaning toward keeping just two quarterbacks on the Week 1 active roster and signing a quarterback to its practice squad.
In other news, the Bears also informed wide receivers Brittan Golden, Josh Lenz, safety Tom Nelson, former third-round pick safety Brandon Hardin and offensive guard/center Edwin Williams of their release Friday.
NFL teams have until 5 p.m. CT on Saturday to trim the roster to 53, but the Bears are expected to make the majority of their roster moves on Friday.
A second-year veteran, Blanchard fractured a knuckle on his left hand during the team’s win over the San Diego Chargers. Prior to the injury, it appeared likely the Bears would try to keep Blanchard on the 53-man roster or waive him in final cuts with the expectation of adding him to the practice squad.
The problem is there’s no way a team can release an injured player without reaching a settlement.
“I’m just disappointed he was injured. I really liked his progress. I think we resonated that through the times we’ve talked here,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “I think everybody has an idea how we felt about Matt while he was here.”
Blanchard’s settlement makes him ineligible to return to the Bears until after Week 10. After the timeframe for the settlement expires, Blanchard can sign with another team. So it’s likely the quarterback would sign with another club after the length of the settlement -- which is commensurate with the time a player is expected to be out due to the injury -- has expired because he can’t rejoin the Bears until 2 1/2 months into the season.
In making the decision, Trestman said he hasn’t “even thought about” the timeframe for Blanchard’s recovery, adding that “we’ll just see how it goes as we move forward.”
When the team hit the practice field for the portion of Monday’s workout that the media is allowed to view, Blanchard wasn’t out on the field with the rest of his teammates. With the team going into the final exhibition game Thursday not expecting to play any of its starters, it’s likely the team would have played Blanchard for a significant amount of repetitions.
Instead, the Bears will divvy up the snaps to recently-signed quarterbacks Jordan Palmer and Trent Edwards, with the former set to start.
“They’re both really smart guys and knowledgeable. They’ve practiced well,” Trestman said. “I expect that they’re gonna do well.”
Blanchard spent the majority of the 2012 season on the practice squad.
After spending the day reading all the emails and tweets, I decided on Bear Essentials as the name of this feature. Why? Because it’s so simple, and I sort of dig the brevity of the acronym BE. While I know Bear Essentials might sound like a shampoo, lotion or other cosmetic, hey, we're all about cleanliness and grooming. So thanks everyone for all the great suggestions. Let's also give props to the Packers fan that sent an email wanting the feature to be called Bear Droppings. That was kind of funny.
Anyway, let’s get to it.
-- Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune examines the possibility of the Bears parting ways with quarterback Matt Blanchard by the NFL’s 3 p.m. deadline to cut the roster down to 75 players. With the current roster sitting at 76, it’s a definite possibility given that the broken knuckle on Blanchard’s left hand is expected to keep him out approximately a month. So the Bears might look to clear the quarterback’s spot by giving him an injury settlement.
If Blanchard takes an injury settlement, he won’t be able to come back to the team until after Week 10, which Biggs points out could also create the possibility of the quarterback signing with another team after he regains health and the time frame (which is commensurate to the time he’s expected to miss) for the settlement has passed.
For Blanchard to have stuck around as long as he has, the coaching staff and personnel department definitely sees something worth developing. Given Blanchard’s likely recovery timeframe, he could possibly be healthy enough to return by Week 3. And I’m not convinced the team has seen enough from new signees Jordan Palmer, who will start Thursday night, and Trent Edwards to give up so soon on Blanchard.
Going back to my former life covering a different NFL team, I remember a head coach telling me that once a player took an injury settlement, “he could never play for me again.” Hopefully this isn’t the case with Blanchard and the Bears. We’ll see soon enough though.
-- Adam Jahns of the Sun-Times takes a look at Marc Trestman’s staff of head coaches in waiting.
-- Tom Musick of Shaw Media relieves the baseball past of Bears rookie Kyle Long. Man, it’s hard to imagine a dude as big as Long hurling a fastball at you.
-- Rick Morrissey has an interesting take on former Bear Brian Urlacher’s new career in the media. For the record, Urlacher was pretty decent to me during our interactions. In fact, during one our first conversations, he sat down with me for about 20 minutes for an interview for a story on his return from a pretty significant wrist injury suffered in 2009. Then, we spent the other 20 minutes or so getting to know one another, and this was right in the midst of training camp in 2010. Urlacher seemed thoughtful, funny and engaging, not to mention genuinely interested in the conversation (which wasn’t about football) at hand.
Once Urlacher would get in front of a large group of reporters, though, everything would change. I don’t think Urlacher truly disliked all of the media. He seemed to like some more than others, sure. I just don’t think he was ever comfortable speaking in those big news conference settings.
That’s true of lots of players around the NFL.
Melton and Bennett attended the session inside the Walter Payton Center during the portion of practice open to the media, but it appears neither has been cleared to return to activity. Considering the starters aren’t likely to play much, if any, during the preseason finale against Cleveland on Thursday, there’s no rush for Melton and Bennett to return to the field.
“Henry is into (the) running (phase of the concussion protocol). Earl is day-to-day. I know (Bennett) was with some of the medical people this morning, I haven’t checked," Trestman said. "Henry ran today. He’s going to run tomorrow and Wednesday and pick up that running significantly. That’s where he is at this point."
The Bears have already begun preparations for the regular-season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 8, and the week leading into that outing would seem to be the target date for Melton and Bennett to rejoin the team for workouts.
As the club’s franchise player, Melton has already solidified his status as a starter. Bennett, meanwhile, is competing with Joe Anderson, Eric Weems, Terrence Toliver and rookie Marquess Wilson for one of the receiver spots behind Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Bennett hasn’t practiced with the team since suffering the concussion on Aug. 3 at Soldier Field after a hard hit from safety Chris Conte.
Melton suffered his concussion in the first game of the preseason at Carolina.
In other injury news, the team held out quarterback Matt Blanchard (hand), linebacker D.J. Williams (calf), offensive tackle Jonathan Scott (knee), defensive tackle (Corvey Irvin) (ankle), cornerback Zack Bowman (hamstring) and linebacker J.T. Thomas (hamstring).
The projected starter at middle linebacker, Williams hasn't yet played in a preseason game, but he's into the running phase of his rehabilitation.
"If you saw him at the (Oakland) game, he was out working at the game," Trestman said. "He's day-to-day, but we'll see where it goes. We're optimistic he's gonna be close (to fully healthy by opening day). It's still day-to-day, but there is progress."
With Williams out of action, rookie second-round pick Jonathan Bostic has filled in at middle linebacker and put together some solid performances throughout the preseason. Still, Trestman wasn't ready to declare Bostic the starter in the middle.
"I am not going to use that term "starting middle linebacker,"" Trestman said. "He has started in the last couple games, and I think he has continued to grow and get better, and (has) shown he can be a very good player in this league. I think he's getting better. He is fitting in. If he happens to be the guy who is that guy Game 1 or Game 2, or whatever it is, I think he can grow into the position and be a more than sufficient middle linebacker in this league."
In other news, fullback Harvey Unga (ribs), defensive end Cheta Ozougwu (hamstring), and long snapper Patrick Mannelly returned to the practice field Monday after missing last week’s game at Oakland.
However, Melton and Bennett have still not passed the NFL concussion protocol to return to action, and therefore both continue to be off-limits to the media, per league rules.
While veteran Nate Collins has elevated his game filling in for Melton at defensive tackle, the picture at the No. 3 wide receiver spot is cloudier with Bennett out. Wideouts Joe Anderson, Marquess Wilson, Eric Weems, Terrence Toliver and Devin Aromashodu have all been given an opportunity to run with the first and second teams in recent weeks, but quarterback Jay Cutler said on Tuesday that he has no input on which specific player would fill the void left by Bennett if his absence continues to drag on.
"They don't give me an opinion so we'll see who they throw in there," Cutler said. "We'll see who Marc (Trestman), Phil (Emery) and those guys like. Whoever is out there I trust that they can get the job done."
In other injury news, quarterback Matt Blanchard (hand), fullback Harvey Unga (rib), defensive end Cheta Ozougwu (hamstring), linebacker D.J. Williams (calf), long snapper Patrick Mannelly (rib), offensive tackle Jonathan Scott (knee) and defensive tackle Corvey Irvin (ankle) were all held out of Tuesday's practice.
The news on Blanchard is encouraging. The second-year quarterback is expected to miss about a month, but could still have a role on the team in 2013 in some capacity. Blanchard also remains eligible for the practice squad.
"This is a great opportunity," Jordan Palmer said of being named to split reps with Trent Edwards during the Bears preseason finale against the Browns on Aug. 29. "I'm at the point in my career where I just want to play football."
“The reason, obviously, why we got them both in is we worked them out, we liked them both,” Trestman said. “We’ll get them a chance to play and get on tape. I think they’ll be pretty familiar with the offense once they get out there, and we’ll do the best we can.
“If something would happen to Jordan as the third [QB on the depth chart], we still would have wanted to protect Josh. So that’s the reason why we’ve got two quarterbacks coming in.”
Palmer said on Monday he relishes the chance to showcase himself in the preseason after working in sports marketing as recently as late last week. Palmer appeared in four games for the Cincinnati Bengals from 2008 to 2010 and spent time last season with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Blanchard broke a knuckle in his left hand in the third quarter of the Bears’ 33-28 preseason victory over the San Diego Chargers.
A broken knuckle has the roster status of Bears quarterback Matt Blanchard in jeopardy.
Blanchard could not put a timetable on a return.
“I really don’t know yet,” Blanchard said. "We’re still talking and I still have to see some doctors. I still have to talk to our trainers and figure that stuff out.”
Based on Trestman’s comments throughout training camp, Blanchard had performed well in the preseason and appeared to be a strong candidate to earn a spot on the final 53-man roster as the Bears’ No. 3 quarterback before the injury. Blanchard completed 15 of 18 passes for 194 yards in the Bears' opening preseason game against the Carolina Panthers.
“I feel good about my progress [in the offense],” Blanchard said. “I feel good about moving forward and a lot of the stuff’s out of my hands at this point.
“I just have to help the new quarterbacks coming in to get them ready for Oakland and get them ready for the last preseason game and be the best teammate possible.”
"I'm not sure about the time that he'll be out, but we're sitting here with two quarterbacks going into next week," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. "Certainly that's something that we're gonna have to repair fairly quickly to get a third quarterback on the roster."
Former Oakland Raiders No. 1 overall pick Jamarcus Russell worked out for the Bears in June, and drew positive reviews from those in attendance, who raved about the quarterback's arm strength. The club also worked out Trent Edwards and Jordan Palmer the same day as it attempted to cull together up-to-date evaluations on those players so it could gather a short list of veterans it could call upon in the event of an injury.
"We've got to get another quarterback in here, and I'm sure we'll look to do that as we move forward," Trestman said.
An undrafted free agent in 2012, Blanchard, a native of Lake Zurich, Ill., spent 12 weeks last year on the practice squad. Blanchard had drawn praise from Trestman and offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer for his quick grasp of the offense, decision-making skills and his confidence.
Blanchard completed 16 of 19 in two preseason games for 193 yards and an interception. Against the Panthers in the exhibition opener at Carolina, Blanchard scrambled four times for 26 yards.
"You always want to see points," Trestman said. "That would be No. 1. We want to score."
Quarterback Jay Cutler and the Bears' starting offense played just 10 snaps last week in Carolina, and although the unit failed to put the ball in the end zone, Cutler did finish 6-of-8 passing for 56 yards after tossing an interception on their first offensive snap of the game.
With the starter expected to be on the field for at least one quarter against the Chargers, Cutler is hopeful the Bears will be permitted to show a tad more on offense.
"I hope so," Cutler said. "We're going to get some game-planning this afternoon, but still it's the preseason and we're still figuring out exactly what plays we like and what we're good at so we're not going to be game-planning like your regular week. We'll do a little bit tonight, some tomorrow, then we'll strap it up and play and hopefully some of that stuff pairs up nicely for us. If not, then we'll just have to work around it and figure it out and watch it on tape."
1. The Bears' offense is still a work in progress: Jay Cutler began the Bears' opening preseason game the same way he's kicked off a handful of training camp practices on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University -- by throwing an interception. That early miscue, which Cutler accepted total responsibility for when he met with reporters after the game, set the tone for the night as the Bears' first-team offense didn't accomplish a whole lot in 10 total snaps. Granted, 10 plays is a very small sample size, but I think it's fair to say the offense needs to make significant improvement between now and the regular season opener on Sept. 8. When the games count, there needs to be an emphasis to use Matt Forte on the ground, something the Bears failed to do in nine of the 10 plays Cutler was on the field because the quarterback correctly, according to coach Marc Trestman, changed certain run calls at the line to passes based on the look from the Panthers' defense. That's understandable. But outside of Brandon Marshall, the one constant for the Bears is Forte. He needs to be fed the ball early and often. If the Bears can run the ball effectively, it will open up a world of possibilities for Trestman and Cutler. If they don't run enough, Cutler might not last eight games behind this offensive line.
2. Rookie linebackers looked like they belonged: The game tape from Friday night will likely reveal the mistakes made by rookie linebackers Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene. But the two 2013 draft picks certainly seemed to be in the right place more times than not as the game wore on. Bostic showcased his elite speed when he intercepted a pass and ran it back 51 yards for a touchdown. Then later in the game Bostic strung out a Carolina run play and forced the Panthers tailback to run straight out of bounds and take a loss. Greene might not fit the mold of the ultra-athletic players Bears general manager Phil Emery prefers to draft, but he was an extremely productive player at Rutgers. And if his first NFL game is any indication, Greene is a sound tackler. Greene tied for the team lead with four tackles against the Panthers, and figures to be a core special teams contributor unless more injuries at linebacker force him onto the field this year.
“When we watch film I sit right behind (Jay Cutler) so I can whisper in his ear. It sounds kind of creepy,” Bennett said Friday. “I sit right behind him so I can whisper in his ear and ask him, ‘Hey, is that what you wanted?’ And he’ll just give me a thumb up. I know I probably get on his nerves because I’m always talking to him.”
The staff mounted a camera on the left side of Blanchard's helmet, and the second-year quarterback conducted practices with the club recording the footage, which theoretically would give it an idea of what the signal caller sees during drops, in addition to how he works through progressions.
It's still unclear whether the club plans to outfit Jay Cutler with a helmet camera when the Bears start organized team activities this week, but Trestman sounded doubtful about the proposition.
After spending a chunk of last season on the club's practice squad, the Bears signed Blanchard to a reserve/futures contract on Jan. 7. As it stands, Blanchard is No. 3 on the Bears' quarterback depth chart behind Jay Cutler and Josh McCown and is expected to battle for spot on the team's 53-man roster this summer.
Because Blanchard has yet to officially accrue a year of NFL service, he is eligible to again participate in the rookie minicamp.
Past rookie minicamps have been plagued by subpar play from the quarterback position, which tends to drag the entire exercise to a grinding halt. But for the second consecutive year, Blanchard's strong arm and accuracy kept the drills moving. The other quarterback in attendance is Saint Xavier's Jimmy Coy, whom the Bears brought in for a tryout.
"I like Matt," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. "I think he's got a good base. He throws the ball well and he's very, very smart. He obviously has the aptitude to play the game and he's very good with our system. That's come to him very easily. He throws the ball very well.
"He's in shorts like everybody else is and he doesn't seem out of place to any of us and that's why he's with us."