Chicago Bears: Isaiah Frey

Mills, Britton to make preseason debuts?

August, 26, 2014
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears held five players out of their final full practice before Thursday’s preseason finale in Cleveland: safety Ryan Mundy, offensive lineman Brian de la Puente, wide receiver Marquess Wilson, fullback Tony Fiammetta and safety Chris Conte.

Cornerback Isaiah Frey also missed the workout due to a sore hamstring, but Frey and guard James Brown were later waived to trim the Bears’ active roster down to 75 active players before the 3 p.m. CT deadline.

Generally speaking, the first-team plays very little, if at all, in the fourth preseason game.

However, an argument can be made that certain veterans would benefit from some playing time versus the Browns. Among that group is Jordan Mills. A foot injury forced the starting right tackle to miss the first three preseason games. Mills did return to practice on a full-go basis on Monday and probably would relish the opportunity to knock off some of the rust before the regular-season opener against Buffalo.

“That’s a good question,” Bears head coach Marc Trestman said regarding Mills’ availability. “He did practice today. I haven’t talked to the trainers about that situation. We really haven’t made any decisions on those types of situations. We’re still working on who is going to play and who is not. But Jordan did practice today, which was a good thing.”

Veteran offensive lineman Eben Britton also practiced on Tuesday and should make his preseason debut in Cleveland, although his roster spot is far from assured. Britton's hamstring injury early in camp opened the door for Michael Ola and Dennis Roland to impress the coaching staff and potentially earn a spot on the final 53-man roster.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears safety Chris Conte missed practice Monday as he goes through the NFL's return-to-play concussion protocol, while Jared Allen (shoulder), Eben Britton (hamstring), Kyle Fuller (ankle) and Isaiah Frey (hamstring) returned to workouts inside the Walter Payton Center as the team preps for the exhibition finale at Cleveland.

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Conte suffered a concussion during the second half of the club's loss Friday at Seattle. It was his first live action since missing the entire offseason and much of training camp after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery.

Bears coach Marc Trestman declined to give a timeframe for Conte's return, citing the fluidity of the NFL's concussion protocol.

Asked about the severity of Conte's concussion, Trestman said, "I can't answer that. I can't. It's a day-to-day thing. He's going through the protocol. I saw him after the game, and he was in a good place. But obviously he's going through the protocol right now, so I don't have an answer to that question."

Conte's latest setback brings about another question as to whether he's done enough to earn a spot on the team's 53-man roster given his limited exposure in the evaluation process. The Bears opened up training camp with an open competition for both starting safety spots, and Conte -- given his experience -- seemed to be one of the favorites to win a job.

Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker liked what he saw from Conte against the Seahawks.

"I thought Chris played fast. He was aggressive. He made a nice play in the end zone. He was excited to be out there," Tucker said. "There was no hesitation with Chris in his reads and his progressions, and I thought that was positive. With the amount of evaluation time available, we felt like that was enough time to make a clean evaluation on him, and we don't feel differently."

Against the Seahawks, Conte was credited with one assisted tackle and a pass breakup when he laid a vicious hit on Luke Willson in the end zone to prevent what would have been a touchdown.

Although Britton, Fuller, and Frey returned to practice Monday along with receiver Chris Williams, Trestman was unsure of their availability for the exhibition finale, and called Fuller and Frey day-to-day. Right tackle Jordan Mills (foot) also took part in Monday's practice, but hasn't yet played in a preseason outing. Brian de la Puente (knee) was also held out of Monday's workout.

Conte, meanwhile, started training camp on the physically unable to perform list, and didn't take part in his first practice until Aug. 10.

Conte finished third in tackles last season (95), and tied for second with three interceptions. Conte struggled tremendously through the 2013 season, highlighted by him playing the wrong coverage on a late fourth quarter Randall Cobb touchdown in the team's Week 17 loss to the Green Bay Packers which knocked the Bears out of the playoffs.

Conte said the 2013 season led to "a lot of soul searching" in the offseason.

"It was a good time for me to get better in a lot of different areas," Conte said during training camp. "Hopefully I'm a better person and a better football player. I learned to keep people close to me that I care about and to always know the people that support me are the only people that really matter. I'm not even thinking about last season. I'm thinking about this year. I don't even know what happened last season."

Chris Conte ready for preseason debut

August, 20, 2014
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Nearly five months since undergoing shoulder surgery, Chicago Bears free safety Chris Conte will make his preseason debut Friday night against the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.

“I feel good. I’m excited to go out there and play,” Conte said Wednesday. “I can’t wait to get back out there on the field and play football.”

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Conte, along with fellow safety Craig Steltz, were activated off the physically unable to perform list on Aug. 10, but both sat out against Jacksonville. Safety remains unsettled, although Ryan Mundy and Danny McCray have started in each of the two previous preseason games. Veteran Adrian Wilson is another candidate in the mix, but no final decision can be reached at safety until the Bears determine if Conte can bounce back from a difficult 2013.

Conte has been a mainstay in the Bears’ secondary the last three seasons, recording 230 tackles, six interceptions and one forced fumble in 40 career starts.

“Chris had a good week of practice,” Bears head coach Marc Trestman said. “He's running around. He's involved in terms of what we're doing. So we'll see. He's going to play. It looks certainly that he's going to play. And we haven't decided how much yet. But he'll be out there and he'll be competing and he's back in it to try to show us what he can do and we're excited to have him back.”

Barring a setback, Steltz is also expected to play on Friday, along with wide receiver/kick returner Chris Williams, who seems to be recovered from a hamstring injury that he suffered in the preseason opener.

The Bears held five players out of Wednesday’s practice: cornerback Kyle Fuller (ankle), guard Eben Britton (hamstring), center/guard Brian de la Puente (knee), cornerback Isaiah Frey (hamstring) and Mundy (excused).
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears kicked off a simulated regular-season game week Monday in preparation for Friday’s exhibition matchup against the Seattle Seahawks with a few players sitting out of practice due to injuries.

The Bears held out guards Brian de la Puente (MCL sprain) and Eben Britton (hamstring), cornerbacks Isaiah Frey (hamstring) and Kyle Fuller (ankle), right tackle Jordan Mills (foot) and linebacker Lance Briggs (knee bruise).

Bears coach Marc Trestman called Fuller, Mills and Briggs day-to-day. But Mills hasn’t yet played in a preseason outing, and there’s growing concern that his regular-season availability could be in jeopardy.

The team has taken a conservative approach in bringing along Mills, who in January underwent surgery on a fractured metatarsal in his left foot. Mills wasn’t wearing a walking boot on Monday at Halas Hall, but throughout camp the second-year tackle wore one sporadically.

“Day-to-day, that’s it,” Trestman said of Mills. “It’s really day-to-day. I can’t give you anything more than that. We’re hopeful it’s soon [he returns], but that’s all I’ve heard at this point and time and that’s the way we’ve looked at it: just day-to-day.”

Asked if Mills’ regular-season availability could be in jeopardy, Trestman said, “I’m hopeful that it’s not. I’m not trying to get you to insinuate anything. I’m just hopeful it’s not.”

In other Bears injury news, receiver Chris Williams returned to practice for the first time since injuring a hamstring while catching a 73-yard touchdown in the preseason opener. Tight end Dante Rosario also returned to practice after missing the team’s 20-19 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday due to calf soreness.
CHICAGO -- Chicago Bears tight end Martellus Bennett remains on the club's suspended list and is not expected to be present at Soldier Field for Friday's preseason opener against the Philadelphia Eagles, the club announced 90 minutes prior to kickoff.

Bears general manager Phil Emery told the media Tuesday that Bennett had been suspended for conduct detrimental to the team and fined an undisclosed amount for starting an altercation in Monday's practice with rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller.

The Bears have offered no timetable on Bennett's potential return, calling it a day-to-day situation. The Bears' next scheduled practice is at 3 p.m. Sunday at Olivet Nazarene University.

The following Bears' players have also been ruled out against the Eagles: safety Craig Steltz (PUP), cornerback Tim Jennings (quad), cornerback Isaiah Frey (hamstring), safety Chris Conte (PUP), offensive guard Eben Britton (hamstring), right tackle Jordan Mills (foot), right guard Kyle Long (ankle) and defensive end Jared Allen.

Bears head coach Marc Trestman excused Allen from practice all week for family reasons, but the pass-rusher is present at Soldier Field. Allen is expected to return to the practice field after the Bears' off-day Saturday.

Bears Camp Report: Day 10

August, 5, 2014
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BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Chicago Bears training camp:
  • 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.

Reviewing the Bears' drafts: 2012

April, 17, 2014
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Here's Part 4 of our series reviewing the past five drafts of the Chicago Bears.

For the first time since 2002, the Bears had a new set of eyes overseeing the draft process. The Bears fired longtime general manager Jerry Angelo at the end of the 2011 regular season and replaced him with respected scout and college talent evaluator Phil Emery.

First-round pick: Shea McClellin, DE, Boise State

Number of picks: 6

How they did: Three members of the 2012 draft class had important roles for the Bears last season: McClellin, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (second round) and nickel back Isaiah Frey (sixth round). Safety Brandon Hardin, selected in the third round out of Oregon State, spent his rookie year on injured reserve and suffered another injury in the final preseason game last summer that again landed him on IR. The Bears quietly released Hardin several weeks later. Fourth-round pick tight end Evan Rodriguez contributed to the offense in 2012 but was released the next offseason after multiple brushes with the law. Greg McCoy, a cornerback/return man out of TCU whom the Bears took in the seventh round, failed to make the club out of training camp in his first season.

Pivotal pick: The Bears were in need of fresh legs at defensive end to complement Julius Peppers, who at that time still played at a Pro Bowl level, and veteran Israel Idonije. Emery bypassed what some considered safer pass rushing options at No. 19 overall (Chandler Jones and Whitney Mercilus) and selected McClellin, who impressed the Bears with his combination of speed and athleticism. Two years later, McClellin is projected to compete for a starting job at strong side linebacker in 2014. McClellin was certainly disruptive at times rushing the passer from the edge, but the name of the game at defensive end is sacks. McClellin had only a combined 6.5 sacks in two years, with three of the quarterback takedowns occurring in his memorable effort against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on Nov. 4 when McClellin knocked Aaron Rodgers out of the game with a fractured collarbone. McClellin went on to win NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.

Best pick: Jeffery, by a mile. Undeterred by the rampant questions surrounding Jeffery's weight and attitude in his final year at South Carolina, the Bears moved up in the second round to snatch the former All-American wide receiver. Jeffery rewarded the Bears' faith by being named to the Pro Bowl in just his second season after catching 89 passes for 1,421 yards and seven touchdowns. The 6-foot-3 wideout holds the top two spots in franchise history for receiving yards in a game with 218 yards against the New Orleans Saints on Oct. 6, and 249 yards against the Minnesota Vikings on Dec. 1.

Worst pick: Hardin. A former and often injured collegiate cornerback, Hardin failed to make the transition to safety. Although Hardin had impressive size (6-foot-3, 217 pounds), he didn't seem to bend his hips much and appeared to play too high. Even if he stayed healthy, it would have been difficult to make an argument for the Bears to keep Hardin on the 53-man roster based on pure performance and football skills alone. The Bears are still searching for help at safety, in part, because the Hardin pick failed to pan out.

Bears position outlook: Cornerback

January, 30, 2014
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Free agents: Charles Tillman, Zack Bowman, Sherrick McManis and Kelvin Hayden.

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.

Devin Hester: I can cover anybody

November, 22, 2013
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Return specialist Devin Hester grinned Friday when approached by reporters to explain the cameo appearance he made at practice this week with the club’s defensive backs.

“If I go line up at quarterback and take a couple of snaps, you are all going to say we are running the option or running the Wildcat,” Hester said. “That’s your job.”

Hester
Hester, a former collegiate and NFL cornerback and nickelback, participated with members of the secondary in individual drills open to the media twice this week (Wednesday and Friday), and even spent roughly 10 minutes after Wednesday’s session working one-on-one with Bears’ defensive backs coach Jon Hoke.

“I did it to have fun,” Hester said. “Being a special-teamer now, I really don’t get as many reps as the normal guys do in practice since I’m a specialist now with the returns. That’s pretty much all I do now. To keep myself busy, I jump in every now and again to play around.

“We all hang out off the field, so whenever I come over there and play around with those guys, it gives them a little more energy and a little more excitement to go out there and work hard. When they see me in their group, it sparks them up a little bit. You have to make practice fun. You just can’t go through the same routine every day. When you joke around and have some fun, it goes by quick.”

While Hester seemed to enjoy the attention, he got serious for a moment when asked if he could cover Tavon Austin, the Rams' speedy rookie wide receiver, if the situation called for it.

“I can cover anybody,” Hester said before cracking a smile. “Just put a safety over the top, and I can shut anybody down. I need a safety over the top; I’m a Cover 2 man.”

Hester is likely an emergency option for the Bears if they suffer more injuries in the secondary Sunday. Cornerback Charles Tillman (triceps) has already been ruled out, while safety Craig Steltz is questionable with a concussion and starting nickelback Isaiah Frey is dealing with a fractured right hand that will require him to wear a cast during the game. The Bears also have reserve cornerbacks Sherrick McManis and Derrick Martin on the depth chart, and could theoretically elevate another defensive back from the practice squad before Sunday since the active roster stands at 52 (the max is 53).

Nickel back Frey (hand) limited in return

November, 21, 2013
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Sporting a cast on his fractured right hand, Chicago Bears nickelback Isaiah Frey returned to practice in a limited fashion on Thursday, while defensive end Shea McClellin (hamstring) participated fully for a second straight day. Both players are expected to be on the field Sunday when the Bears battle the St. Louis Rams.

“Shea practiced full today so we feel good about that,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “[We feel good about] getting some people back. Isaiah worked noncontact [drills] today and was limited.”

Right tackle Jordan Mills (quadriceps) and long-snapper Patrick Mannelly (calf) also practiced without restrictions.

Safety Craig Steltz (concussion) and defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff were limited. Trestman effectively ruled out Ratliff for the Rams game, but Steltz appears to be making progress after being on the wrong end of a nasty collision while covering a kickoff last week versus the Baltimore Ravens.

Starting defensive tackle Stephen Paea (toe) missed practice for the second consecutive day and is unlikely to play Sunday in St. Louis.

The Bears officially ruled out weakside linebacker Lance Briggs (shoulder) and quarterback Jay Cutler (ankle) earlier in the week, but Cutler seems to be on the mend. The quarterback attended practice again Thursday without a hard cast on his left leg to protect his high-ankle sprain. Cutler simply wore a brace on the ankle and stood on the field for much of the workout that is open to the media.

Trestman was asked if Cutler is permanently out of the hard cast.

“I really don’t have an answer for you,” Trestman said. “It’s really a week-to-week thing. Really, on the cast or the brace he has, it might be a day-to-day thing. But I’m really not any more informed than that. Other than that, I know Jay is going to be week-to-week. I said day-to-day [Wednesday]; I meant week-to-week. … And we’ll see where he is. You see him in practice. You’re getting a good idea of where he’s at. You see him moving around, trying to move around during the individual periods that you’re out there to see and get a good idea of where he’s at. And hopefully he won’t have to have the cast put on.”

Devin Hester does drills at DB

November, 20, 2013
11/20/13
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Chicago Bears return specialist Devin Hester spent a portion of Wednesday’s practice going through individual drills with members of the secondary, and even received one-on-one instruction from defensive backs coach Jon Hoke at the conclusion of the workout.

But does this mean Hester, a former collegiate and NFL cornerback, is a candidate to line up on the defensive side of the ball Sunday in St. Louis?

“He’ll jump into (the drills) from time to time and get a little work in,” Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said. “But there is really no news there. I’m not in the conversation business.”

Hester started games at cornerback and nickel back in college at the University of Miami and was a reserve cornerback for the Bears in 2006. Hester saw limited time on defense but did record 11 tackles and one pass break-up.

“We try to keep Devin as busy as we can throughout the course of practice,” Bears head coach Marc Trestman said. “But you never know. You never know. We certainly want to keep him doing what he’s been doing. But he does have value, certainly, doing other things. And who knows. Nothing’s out of the question. It’s not something we’ve spent a lot of time talking about.”

With Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Tillman on injured reserve and starting nickel back Isaiah Frey dealing with a fractured hand, perhaps Hester is an emergency option in the event the team suffers another injury at cornerback, or if Frey’s hand becomes an issue during the game. Tim Jennings is the logical candidate to bump inside and play the complicated nickel back position if Frey is unable to go. But given Hester’s experience, there is a remote possibly that he could be asked to step in at cornerback and play zone coverage. However, the Bears do currently have two reserve cornerbacks on the active 53-man roster: Sherrick McManis and Derrick Martin.

Frey has fractured hand; McClellin practices

November, 20, 2013
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Chicago Bears nickelback Isaiah Frey fractured his hand in the team's Week 11 win against Baltimore, but he is expected to play Sunday at the St. Louis Rams. Frey did not practice on Wednesday.

“Isaiah’s got a fracture in his hand,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “He’s got it casted up. It looks good. It looks like they’ll be able to cast it up [Sunday]. We’ll know more tomorrow. We’re really optimistic on his end.

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“I’m optimistic that he’ll be playing. I don’t think it’s necessary to go through all the different logistics if that doesn’t happen. But it’s certainly been discussed. But I feel optimistic that he’ll be playing.”

Selected by the Bears in the sixth round of the 2012 draft, Frey emerged as the team’s No. 1 nickelback when veteran Kelvin Hayden suffered a season-ending injury in the preseason. Frey is seventh on the team with 32 tackles, even though he comes off the field when the Bears play their base 4-3 defense.

In other injury hews, defensive end Shea McClellin participated fully on Wednesday and is on track to return to the field Sunday after sitting out the last two games with a pulled hamstring. McClellin hurt the hamstring at practice the week after being named NFC Defensive Player of the Week for his three-sack performance in Green Bay on Nov. 4.

“I feel good,” McClellin said. “I feel 100 percent and ready to get back out there and help the guys out.

“It was pretty disappointing [to miss two games]. But it’s part of the game. Things happen. And you’ve just got to adjust. Sitting out is terrible. It's the worst thing. You just want to be out there with the guys helping out, especially if they're not doing too good. It's hard to watch what they're doing.”

Defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (groin) practiced on a limited basis Wednesday for the first time since he signed with the Bears on Nov. 2. The four-time Pro Bowler has not played in a game since last November, when he suffered a groin injury that eventually required sports-hernia surgery.

However, despite Ratliff’s apparent progress, the veteran defensive lineman will not be physically ready to make his Bears debut this Sunday against St. Louis, according to Trestman.

“Ratliff got some work; he’ll be a week-to-week thing,” Trestman said. “He got some reps in practice. It was good to see him out there moving around. I would not say [his debut] will be this Sunday, and we’ll re-evaluate it next week. To be fair with the situation, I’d say we are still a little bit away [from Ratliff playing].”

Trestman calls defensive tackle Stephen Paea (toe) “very questionable” to face St. Louis. Paea re-injured the toe that forced him to miss two games in early November; he did not practice on Wednesday.

Long-snapper Patrick Mannelly (calf) practiced without restrictions, while right tackle Jordan Mills was limited with a sore quadriceps. Safety Craig Steltz (concussion) was held out of practice but was able to do some conditioning work on the side.

Rapid Reaction: Chicago Bears

October, 10, 2013
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CHICAGO -- A few thoughts on the Chicago Bears' 27-21 victory over the New York Giants on Thursday night at Soldier Field.

What it means: The Bears snapped a two-game skid, putting them in prime position to move to 5-2 at the bye if they handle business on Oct. 20 against the Redskins.

Stock watch: Cornerback Tim Jennings wins the MVP of this game. He put points on the board with a pick-six in the first quarter, and sealed the win with another interception with 1:54 left to play.

Questionable call: Zack Bowman put the Bears in ideal field position when he picked off Eli Manning, who was being pressured by Isaiah Frey on the nickel blitz, and returned the ball 24 yards to the New York 12. Chicago could have taken an early lead less than three minutes into the game, but Bears coach Marc Trestman elected to try to convert a fourth-and-2 from the Giants' 4, with Jay Cutler’s pass falling behind Brandon Marshall, who appeared to have three defenders in the vicinity. Prior to that incompletion, the Bears had converted 80 percent of their fourth-down attempts this season, which represented the best percentage in the NFL. But in that situation -- the team’s first drive of the game -- why not take the three points? Luckily for Chicago, on New York’s ensuing drive, Jennings picked off Manning and returned it 48 yards for a TD to put the Bears up 7-0 after the extra point. The return touchdown marked Jennings’ second of the season.

Marshall erupts: During the NFL Network’s pregame show, Marshall called himself a “caged lion,” in anticipation of New York’s struggling defense. “I want the ball; I want it a lot,” Marshall said. “You go two or three games getting two or three catches, and you look at the defense we’re going against … they have to pay.” They did, and dearly. Marshall, who had expressed frustration about his lack of receptions earlier in the week, caught nine passes for 87 yards and two TDs.

Speaking of pick-sixes: The Bears are now 24-2 in games since 2005 in which they scored a defensive touchdown, including 10 consecutive wins under those conditions. It seems unfathomable a team could rely so heavily on turnovers to change the tide of games, but the Bears have proven consistent at it. They’ve got it down to a science.

What’s next: Some much-needed rest for the Bears, who held out Charles Tillman and Stephen Paea from this game. They’ll play only one game in the next 24 days: on Oct. 20 when they travel to Washington before the bye.

Mailbag: Is 2012 draft class a bust?

October, 4, 2013
10/04/13
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Here is this week's installment of the Bears mailbag:

1. Jeff, are you worried the Bears' 2012 draft class is a bust? I don't like what I'm seeing. I know it's early, but is there a reason to be concerned? -- Dwight, Blue Island, Ill.

Dickerson: Let's start with the positives: 2012 second-round pick Alshon Jeffery is a quality No. 2 wide receiver who caught five balls for 107 yards and a touchdown last week against the Lions. Sixth-round selection Isaiah Frey not only earned a spot on the 53-man roster, but is currently the starting nickel back with 20 overall tackles. Unfortunately, the rest of the draft class has been underwhelming, Third-rounder Brandon Hardin is on injured reserve for the second straight year, which is a fortunate break for Hardin considering he struggled throughout the preseason. They likely would have cut him if he had been healthy. Fourth-round pick Evan Rodriguez got released because he couldn't stay out of trouble and seventh-rounder Greg McCoy never made the team. The key for this group will be the development of first-round choice Shea McClellin. If McClellin eventually turns into a really good player, the class will be viewed in a positive light. Give it a little more time. But right now, I think it's fair to say that this year's current rookie class is superior to the 2012 crop.


2. I heard you on the radio say the Saints are a different team outside the dome. Are you serious? -- Matthew, New Orleans

Dickerson: That's exactly what I said. Players are able to make different cuts inside on artificial surfaces than outside at Soldier Field. Darren Sproles is shifty with the ball in his hands, but he's even more dangerous on turf. Most teams are a product of their environment. The Saints play eight home games indoors, practice indoors and travel to the Georgia Dome every season to face the Atlanta Falcons. Common sense dictates that New Orleans is tougher when playing in a dome. Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is also known as a better player inside the Metrodome, although he did smoke the Bears at Soldier Field in 2007 for over 200 yards rushing. That's just reality. I feel the Saints will win on Sunday, but it won't be easy, and some of that is due to the fact the game is scheduled to be played in Chicago, and not the Superdome in New Orleans.


3. Why didn't the Bears cut Adam Podlesh on Monday? He was terrible against the Lions. You are the ultimate special teams' apologist, and I look forward to you defending this lousy punter. -- Mike, Park Ridge, Ill.

Dickerson: There's nothing to defend, really. Podlesh had a rough afternoon in Detroit. If he punts like that again on Sunday against the Saints, the Bears could have a new punter on the roster in Week 6. But keep in mind that Podlesh is a vested veteran entitled to termination pay if the Bears release him, and we all know the team does not have an abundance of salary cap space. Perhaps the Bears believe it would be too costly to cut Podlesh, but the bottom line is he needs to punt better. Now, as to your second point, if trying to be balanced when discussing a player makes me an apologist, then so be it. Podlesh has been effective for the majority of his two-plus seasons in Chicago. He set the franchise single-season record in net punting average (40.4) in 2011. Who holds the second-best net average mark in Bears' history? Podlesh, with a 39.4 net average in 2012. Podlesh also dropped 34 punts inside the 20-yard line last season. He had a solid four-year career in Jacksonville and signed a lucrative deal for a punter in free agency. It hasn't been all bad. Podlesh owned up to the fact he kicked poorly in Week 4 when he met with the media on Wednesday. If this continues, the Bears might be inclined to make a move. But I can understand why the organization wants to make it work with Podlesh. He deserves another shot, and he's getting it. Where the story goes from here is entirely up to Podlesh.


4. Brandon Marshall spoke in the offseason that he felt the Bears needed more weapons on offense, and that he attributed his hip injury last year to overuse. How is Marshall feeling and is he happy in the offense? -- Christina, Indianapolis

Marshall
Dickerson: Marshall is dealing with a minor foot injury that has caused him to miss a couple days of practice this week, but the issue is not believed to be serious. Despite the Bears surrounding Marshall with better talent on offense, he still leads the team with 27 catches for 348 yards and two touchdowns. On the surface, it seems Marshall should be happy; he's remained the No. 1 option in the passing game, but is also now surrounded by a better supporting cast. But I prefer not to speculate on Marshall's emotions. I do know for a fact that he wants the football, all the time. Regardless of what he said publicly in the offseason, Marshall does not want to be targeted less. He wants to be the focal point of the offense every single week. Through four games, he's on pace to catch 108 passes for 1,392 yards. Almost every wide receiver on the planet would be thrilled with the prospect of putting up those numbers. However, Marshall is a different breed. Maybe he still wants more.


5. Do you think Jay Cutler will be able to stay healthy all season? -- Cain, Green Lake, Wis.

Dickerson: Cutler hasn't played a full 16-game schedule since 2009. He's missed eight games, and half of the 2010 NFC Championship Game, in the last three seasons due to a variety of ailments. But much of that was due to all the hits Cutler took behind a subpar offensive line. He was sacked a combined 118 times from 2010-12. The Bears made several upgrades on the offensive line in the offseason, and the results speak for themselves. Cutler has been knocked down far less in the first four weeks, and that definitely improves his prospects of starting all 16 games. I think there is a good chance he stays healthy all year, or as healthy as any quarterback can stay in the NFL during a grueling 16-game regular season schedule.

Long, Mills and Frey impress vs. Raiders

August, 24, 2013
8/24/13
3:41
PM ET
OAKLAND, Calif. -- In the aftermath of Chicago’s 34-26 win Friday over the Oakland Raiders, surely some players long for one last shot to prove their worth, while others may have earned starting jobs that will likely keep them on the sideline for the preseason finale Aug. 29 against the Cleveland Browns.

“That’s a tough question to answer right now,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “We’ve got some young players playing very well. We know we’ve got roster issues on all three sides of the ball. We’ll go to work on that as we get back to Chicago when we spend time tomorrow night in our personnel meetings.”

Here’s a look at three players who likely earned starting jobs by virtue of their performance against the Raiders, and three more whose jobs or roster spots may now be on the line:

[+] EnlargeKyle Long
AP Photo/Scott BoehmThe Bears' first-round draft pick, Kyle Long has impressed during the preseason and is poised to earn a starting job.
JOBS EARNED
RG Kyle Long. The club’s first-round pick, Long put together another quality start against the Raiders and, along with fellow rookie Jordan Mills, played a few more repetitions than the rest of the first-team offensive line. As expected of a rookie, Long appeared to miss a couple of assignments on plays where he was supposed to block second-level defenders. But his explosiveness, athleticism and tenacity at the point of attack are undeniable, as is the fact he continues to improve the more he plays.

Because the team made Long the No. 20 overall pick in the draft, his ascension to a starter’s role was inevitable. It’s always that way when first-round money is thrown into the equation. It was also aided by a regressing James Brown, who instead of rising to the challenge posed by Long, seemed to fall behind even more in the competition. Perhaps Brown felt the battle had already been virtually decided after his start on Aug. 9 in the preseason opener at Carolina. After that game, the coaching staff said it wanted to take a look at Long, who has started the past two contests.

RT Jordan Mills. Clearly quarterback Jay Cutler feels comfortable with Mills and Long as his protection on the right side of the line. Like Long, Mills made a couple of minor mistakes over his past two starts, including a false start Friday night in the second quarter. But Mills has kept Cutler clean in pass protection, while proving to be a dominating factor in the running game, which has been encouraging. After all, the Bears selected Mills with a fifth-round pick and it was expected he’d face a steep learning curve because of the differences in the pro game from the pass-happy attack he blocked for in college.

“They played well tonight,” Cutler said of the rookies on the right side of the line. “They get better and better each week. The thing about them is they want to do it. They’re excited about it. It matters to them, and they’re getting better. So I don’t see why [Mills and Long wouldn’t be ready to start in Week 1]."

CB Isaiah Frey. Kelvin Hayden’s season-ending hamstring injury gave Frey a chance to become the starting nickel corner. Still, the second-year veteran needed to earn the spot, which he’s done with consistent performances in practices that have transferred over to games. This may sound like an exaggeration, but really it isn’t. During training camp workouts at Olivet Nazarene University, you’d be hard pressed to find one day in which Frey didn’t make a play -- whether it was an interception or a pass breakup -- that drew attention to him. He played that well. Then, once it was time to play in the preseason, Frey simply duplicated what he’d been doing all along on the practice field.

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