- Jeff Dickerson, ESPN Staff Writer
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- If Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has a say, wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher would earn another spot on the team's 53-man roster for the second consecutive year. But since personnel decisions tend to be made by the people upstairs, Sanzebacher must continue to fight off veteran Rashied Davis for the sixth receiver spot, if in fact the Bears decide to keep that many bodies at the position.
Sanzenbacher made the club last summer as an undrafted rookie free agent and wound up catching 27 balls for 276 yards and three touchdowns. However, after the Bears upgraded at wideout in the offseason with Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Eric Weems, Sanzenbacher wasn't promised a job heading into the training camp. His odds of making the team appeared to increase with Devin Thomas' sudden retirement early in camp, but the Bears went on the sign Davis, a proven commodity on special teams who spent six years in Chicago before playing for the Detroit Lions last season.
"I feel comfortable," Sanzenbacher said. "It's not something that if you stress about it's going to help the situation. You need to stay focused on what your job is and go out and execute in the games and put your best foot forward. Sitting there, up at night stressing about it is not going to help. Staying focused on everything, trying to do your job, trying to excel at practice and standing out. That's what is going to help you."
The Bears have given Sanzenbacher a long look on special teams so far in the preseason, and the reviews up to this point, have been for the most part positive. It also doesn't hurt to have the Cutler seal of approval on offense which Sanzenbacher has found a way to earn over the past year and change.
"It's always nice to have the quarterback have trust in you," Sanzenbacher said. "That's the main thing you try to do when you come into a locker room is earn the trust and respect of your teammates. I think that's in my eyes first foremost, even above the coaches. I think if you can earn the respect of the locker room it's saying much more than the respect of the guys in the film room."
Although some might consider carrying seven wide receivers a luxury, Bears head coach Lovie Smith did not rule out the possibility on Sunday. In that event, Sanzenbacher and Davis could make the team, or perhaps long-shot undrafted rookie free agent Joe Anderson who made a nice move on a touchdown reception last Friday night versus the New York Giants. Anderson would seem to have a better shot to stick on the practice squad, but all the bubble receivers are expected to get plenty of playing time in the preseason finale Thursday at Cleveland.
"It's about opportunities," Smith said. "You have to step up when you get that chance., We've seen a lot of players step up. A guy like Joe Anderson. Most of you guys don't know where he's from (Texarkana, Texas) or where he played college ball (Texas Southern), but he got an opportunity and made a couple of big plays. I like the receiving group. Whether we keep five, six or seven, I feel pretty good about."