LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The great debate in the summer of 2010 centered around whether the Bears could keep seven linebackers and squeeze special teams ace Tim Shaw on the final 53-man roster. The great debate this year is whether the Bears have enough bodies at linebacker, period.
Only five linebackers currently sit on the active roster, and one is undrafted rookie free agent Dom DeCicco who understandably went through some growing pains in the preseason. Rookie sixth round pick J.T. Thomas was placed on injured reserve after an underwhelming training camp.
"We're a little trim right now, but I think we have the guys we need at the moment," Bears starting strong side linebacker Nick Roach. "As long as I'm one of the guys, I really can't be concerned with anything else. We'll be fine."
Maybe, but if the Bears suffer any type of injury at linebacker, the only backup with experience is Brian Iwuh. That seems like an awfully risky roll of the dice by the Bears when you consider Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, still outstanding Pro Bowl players, are both on the wrong side of 30.
"Iwuh has played a lot of games, he did well when he had to fill in last year for Lance and during the preseason," Roach said. "We can both play multiple positions, so for the time being, I think we'll be alright."
Bears general manager Jerry Angelo, however, admitted during a conversation with ESPNChicago.com's Michael Wright that the club continues to scan the waiver wire and practice squads around the league in search of linebacker help.
"It's a concern," Angelo said. "We have contingency plans, and will continue to look. That's what we have to do. We have to always think the worst, not live it, and prepare for the worst. We do that at all positions. But right now we're a little light at linebacker. Do we have contingency plans? Yes. But there are some positions that you can't safeguard everybody. It's a supply and demand business. They've got to be the right player. You don't just go out and sign a guy to sign a guy."
The wild card in the whole equation continues to be veteran Pisa Tinoisamoa, who is still working his way back from offseason knee surgery. Given his lengthy history with head coach Lovie Smith and linebackers coach Bob Babich, the Bears continue to be the most logical fit for Tinoisamoa. When he was active, the versatile linebacker had an excellent season for the Bears last year, and finished seventh on the team with 51 tackles in only 12 games.
Wisely, Tinoisamoa is believed to be waiting until his problematic knee is completely healed before he steps back onto the field. That extra caution could delay his return for another couple of weeks, but when healthy, Tinoisamoa ia an immediate upgrade for any NFL team looking to add a linebacker. If the medical information checks out, the Bears should be at the front of that line.