Chicago Bears: Isaiah Frey

LAKE FOREST, Ill. – The Chicago Bears listed center Roberto Garza as participating fully in practice for the first time since the 14-year veteran suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 1, increasing the likelihood that Garza will return to the starting lineup Sunday in Atlanta.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed. Garza practiced today, and we’ll see what kind of aftereffects he’ll have after a full day of work,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said.

Last week, Trestman announced that Garza will return to the starting lineup upon receiving the proper medical clearance, but added the club is pleased with veteran Brian de la Puente, who has replaced Garza at center for four straight games.

Seven players missed practice on Wednesday: running back Matt Forte (coaches' decision), left tackle Jermon Bushrod (knee/ankle), linebackers Shea McClellin (hand), D.J. Williams (neck), Jon Bostic (back), Lance Briggs (ribs) and safety Ahmad Dixon (hamstring).

With the top four linebackers out, the Bears took a look at the trio of Khaseem Greene, Christian Jones and Darryl Sharpton.

In other injury news, safety Chris Conte and defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff were limited because of concussions, and cornerback Sherrick McManis had limited participation because of a quadriceps injury. McManis is a candidate to be used at cornerback in the nickel subpackage Sunday given the release of Isaiah Frey on Tuesday.
The Chicago Bears made a flurry of roster moves Tuesday, releasing nickel corner Isaiah Frey in addition to elevating Al Louis-Jean to the 53-man roster from the practice squad.

The club also signed linebackers DeDe Lattimore and Terrell Manning to the practice squad, while waiving defensive end David Bass and terminating the practice squad contracts of defensive end Roy Philon and receiver Rashad Ross.

Interestingly, Frey started at nickel corner for the Bears in their 31-24 loss Sunday to the Carolina Panthers, and contributed six tackles while playing a role in the club storming to a 21-7 second quarter lead on the strength of three takeaways. Frey stripped Panthers rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin after an 18-yard catch, and recovered the fumble with the Bears trailing 7-0.

The score set up Jay Cutler's 10-yard touchdown pass to Matt Forte.

A three-year veteran, Frey played in 19 games with seven starts with the Bears, posting 73 tackles and two pass breakups to go with his forced fumble and recovery against the Panthers.

In Frey’s absence, look for the Bears to move Sherrick McManis into the slot corner role. McManis has missed the last three games due to a quadriceps injury. Demontre Hurst is also an option at that position.

Louis-Jean, meanwhile, is an undrafted rookie free agent out of Boston College, where he played in 21 games over three seasons, contributing 36 tackles, an interception, four pass breakups and a pair of forced fumbles.

Bass played in 13 games with one start over the past two seasons with the Bears.

Bears re-sign CB Demontre Hurst

September, 18, 2014
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears used their final open roster spot to re-sign cornerback Demontre Hurst, the team announced on Thursday.

Hurst earned a place on the Bears’ 53-man roster at the conclusion of the preseason, and made his NFL debut versus the Buffalo Bills in Week 1, where he recorded two special teams tackles. However, the Bears waived Hurst following the loss to the Bills.

Hurst spent the entire 2013 season on the Bears’ practice squad after joining the club as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Oklahoma.

In addition to possibly contributing on special teams, Hurst has practiced at the nickel back position in the past.

With veteran cornerback Charles Tillman lost for the year and Sherrick McManis dealing with a quad injury, the Bears have spent the past three days figuring out what to do in the nickel sub-package.

Rookie first-round pick Kyle Fuller is expected to stay outside at cornerback full-time in place of Tillman, and the Bears may ask Tim Jennings to do the same. If the Bears go that route, it opens a hole at nickel back. The team had rookie safety Brock Vereen slide inside and cover the slot after Tillman got hurt in the 28-20 win over the San Francisco 49ers, but head coach Marc Trestman said on Tuesday the team still considers Vereen to be a safety.

The Bears elevated last year’s starting nickel back, Isaiah Frey, off the practice squad on Tuesday. Frey is a logical candidate to take over nickel after he started six games and recorded 62 tackles for the Bears in 2013.

It should be noted, however, that McManis had an excellent preseason. If healthy, McManis is fully capable of lining up at cornerback in the nickel defense if the Bears preference is to continue having Jennings cover inside.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The roster shuffling continued at Halas Hall on Tuesday, with the Chicago Bears elevating cornerback Isaiah Frey and receiver Rashad Ross off the practice squad to the 53-man roster while waiving running back Shaun Draughn and receiver Chris Williams, in addition to terminating the contract of vested veteran tight end Matthew Mulligan.

The moves come in response to the Bears placing cornerback Charles Tillman on the season-ending injured reserve, as well as to the club’s struggles on special teams during its win Sunday over the San Francisco 49ers.

The Bears also added defensive tackle Roy Philon to the practice squad.

A third-year veteran, Frey spent all of the 2013 season as the team’s primary nickel corner. But he struggled throughout the season due to a broken bone in his hand and failed to force a single turnover. Frey started six games, producing 62 tackles and two pass breakups, in addition to generating five quarterback pressures.

Frey spent his rookie season (2012) and the first two weeks of this season on the practice squad. It’s unknown whether the Bears plan to make Frey the starter at nickel for Monday night’s matchup against the New York Jets, and it’s likely the club is continuing to explore options at the position.

Because of Tillman’s injury, the Bears will move rookie Kyle Fuller into the starting lineup to play opposite Tim Jennings. Still, the club seeks a proven player to take snaps from the slot corner position, as the Bears spend approximately 50 percent of the time executing out of substitution packages.

Ross, meanwhile, spent the bulk of last season on the practice squads of the Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs after the former signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Arizona State.

Ross played in 26 games at Arizona State with 14 starts, and he caught 55 passes for 864 yards and seven touchdowns while also contributing as a return man (779 yards and two touchdowns).

Bears sign LS Jeremy Cain to active roster

September, 1, 2014
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears signed long snapper Jeremy Cain to the 53-man roster Monday, the team announced.

Cain replaces long snapper Brandon Hartson, who the team waived Sunday. Bears head coach Marc Trestman said following the preseason finale in Cleveland that the club wasn’t entirely pleased with its long-snapping situation.

The Bears brought three long snappers to Halas Hall to participate in a 14-player workout Sunday: Cain, Luke Ingram and Casey Kreiter.

Cain apparently did enough to impress the coaching staff.

Cain has appeared in 83 career games with the Bears, Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars, with 75 of those appearances coming at long snapper. Cain served as the long snapper for two games last season in Chicago. This marks Cain’s third stint with the Bears.

The Bears also announced their 10-player practice squad Monday: wide receiver Josh Bellamy, center Taylor Boggs, defensive tackle Brandon Dunn, cornerback Isaiah Frey, guard Ryan Groy, linebacker DeDe Lattimore, cornerback Al Louis-Jean, cornerback Terrance Mitchell, defensive tackle Roy Philon and wide receiver Rashad Ross.

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
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.”

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