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Monday, June 10, 2013
W2W4: Veteran minicamp starts Tuesday

By Michael C. Wright

The Chicago Bears wrap up offseason work starting Tuesday with a three-day veteran minicamp at Halas Hall.

The team doesn’t convene again until July 25 at training camp.

Let’s take a look at a few things to keep an eye on during this three-day minicamp.

Who will participate: Given that this minicamp is mandatory, players without excused absences are subject to fines from the team. So look for the entire roster to show up minus rookie first-round pick Kyle Long, who won’t be able to attend. A possible starter at guard, Long won’t be eligible to attend due to an NFL rule that prohibits draft picks and college free agents from participating in offseason work until after final exams at their respective schools.


Oregon’s final exams don’t come to conclusion until June 14, which means Long can’t participate.

The Bears anticipated Long’s situation and put plans in place to compensate.

“With technology today, he won’t physically be here but he’ll be here,” said offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer. “We’ll be able to get over Skype or use some sort of method to make sure I can meet with him and keep him up to date with what we’re putting in. There’s a lot of things we can do. He won’t be here physically but there’s a lot of things he can do mentally.”

Considering the NFL’s rules for contact in the offseason, Long and the rest of the offensive linemen can’t kick preparation for 2013 into high gear until training camp anyway. That’s somewhat of a hurdle given all the new personnel up front because the staff needs to make decisions regarding positional battles while also giving the group enough time together to gain chemistry.

“When you’re in shorts, you can’t really do what linemen do: block and be physical,” Kromer said. “What you can do is execute your assignment and your techniques.”

Tony Fiammetta
Fullback Tony Fiammetta is joining the Bears' backfield, according to his agent.
Tryout players: Teams typically bring free agents to participate in minicamps on a tryout basis, and this week’s veteran minicamp won’t be any different. The Bears were working out the final details Monday to bring in one or two veterans for tryouts during minicamp. With the Bears trading 2011 first-round pick Gabe Carimi, look for them to bring in an offensive lineman for a look. Fullback is another area the team is evaluating after making the decision to release Evan Rodriguez. Throughout the offseason the Bears have worked out several fullbacks, and they signed Tony Fiammetta on Monday, according to his agent. So right now, Fiammetta is penciled in as the starter. There’s also a strong possibility the team could invite another fullback during the three-day minicamp for an extended tryout.

Why?

As much as the Bears liked the upside and athleticism of Rodriguez, there were questions as to whether the team could count on him to behave responsibly off the field. Rodriguez had been arrested twice already this offseason (charges from the first arrest were dropped), and is subject to league discipline after the latest incident which involved driving under the influence. Before the Fiammetta signing, Rodriguez was listed as the only fullback on the roster. So the Bears know they need to add at the position for a couple of reasons. Obviously, depth is No. 1. As the lone fullback on the roster at one time, Rodriguez basically had the starting job handed to him before the club made the decision to release him.

Rodriguez’s absence now means there could be a training camp battle at the position.

Brandon Marshall's recovery from hip surgery: From this vantage point, he’s recovered. Doctors cleared Marshall for the last organized team activity open to the media recently, and the receiver looked as if he never underwent surgery. The burst in and out of routes is there, and Marshall doesn’t appear to have lost any speed. Marshall participated during some individual periods during the last OTA, but sat out of team work.

While Marshall plans to ramp up his repetitions at minicamp, don’t expect him to take on a full workload.

“Yes, I’ll be doing more. But will I do every single play? I don’t think so,” Marshall said. “It’s just being smart. (At veteran minicamp), I’ll probably be in every single period, but not as many plays as I would usually be in. Come camp, I’m going to be out there flying around.”

The new offense: Growth of the new offense didn’t receive much publicity during the June 4 OTA, and that’s likely because there wasn’t much to see. While it’s typical for the defense -- which is full of veteran Pro Bowlers running a system it’s operated for several years -- to be way ahead of the offense at this point in the offseason, it must be noted that too many balls hit the ground or were picked off during the last session open to the public. It’s clear Jay Cutler and the other quarterbacks haven’t completely grasped the new offense. But that’s expected with this team learning its fourth system in five years.

What will be important to see during this minicamp is improvement on the offense in each of the three days.

There’s still plenty of time for Marc Trestman and the offensive staff to implement the system, but the team also knows the regular season will creep up quickly.

Players worth watching: Tight ends Kyle Adams and Fendi Onobun. Receivers Joe Anderson, Marshall, Dale Moss, Terrence Toliver, Marquess Wilson. Cornerback Isaiah Frey. Linebackers James Anderson, D.J. Williams, Jon Bostic, Khaseem Greene. Defensive ends Cornelius Washington and Shea McClellin.