Chicago Bears: Roberto Garza

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears announced Saturday they'd face the New York Jets on Monday night without center Roberto Garza (ankle), left guard Matt Slauson (ankle), cornerback Sherrick McManis (quadriceps), defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (concussion) and linebacker Shea McClellin (hand).

Ratliff
McClellin
The club held out all five players for Saturday's workout. Receivers Brandon Marshall (ankle) and Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) participated in a limited capacity, and are officially listed as questionable. Both are expected to play against the Jets.

In other injury news, the club officially listed defensive end Jared Allen (back), safety Chris Conte (shoulder) and receiver Josh Morgan (groin) as probable. Defensive end Trevor Scott (foot) is doubtful.

It was expected that Garza and Slauson would miss Monday's game after sitting out last week's win against the San Francisco 49ers, with Brian de la Puente and Michael Ola serving as their replacements. But the unavailability of Ratliff and McClellin forces the Bears to reshuffle the lineup for the starting defense.

With Ratliff out of the defensive line rotation, the Bears will lean more heavily on rookies Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton.

"That Sunday night game was a big test, and they played a decent amount of snaps," Allen said. "The game didn't seem too big for them, and sometimes that can be a problem with young guys. They kind of lose their minds out there, and they don't really remember their techniques or fundamentals. But they've been doing a great job of that. Both of them are powerful, and both of them have obviously a high skill set."

McClellin's expected absence means Jonathan Bostic will start at strong side linebacker.

McClellin participated on a limited basis on Thursday, but suffered a hand injury at practice that kept him out of action on Friday and Saturday.

"We've got a lot of different options," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. "We're disappointed for [McClellin] because he has been getting better. We've watched him so hard to learn a new position, get his body the way he's gotten it to play the position. We know he'll be out this week. We'll see where we are next week."
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte picked up his phone Thursday night knowing full well former teammate Devin Hester would soon be reading hundreds of text messages congratulating him for breaking the NFL's record for return touchdowns.

"He's a close friend of mine," Forte said. "But I knew he was going to read every text message. I definitely had to give him props on breaking the record. I just told him congratulations, all his hard work paid off even when people were saying, 'Ah, he's not going to break [the record],' or 'he's done. He can't return the ball anymore,' whenever he'd have a tough year. I'm just proud of him for staying the course."

[+] EnlargeDevin Hester
Scott Cunningham/Getty ImagesWith a 62-yard TD return Thursday night, Devin Hester now holds the NFL record for return touchdowns (20).
Hester high-stepped into NFL history on a 62-yard punt return TD to collect his 20th career scoring return, which broke Deion Sanders' record, during Atlanta's 56-14 shellacking of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, led by former Bears coach Lovie Smith. Hester's former Chicago Bears teammates at Halas Hall congratulated the return man Friday for the accomplishment, with Forte saying, "He's Hall-of-Fame worthy now."

Hester played eight seasons for the Bears (2006-13), racking up 11,632 all-purpose yards. The veteran spent parts of his career playing defensive back and receiver with the team. But last season, Hester requested to concentrate solely on special teams.

Prior to Hester's departure from Chicago, there were rumblings his skills had declined. Bears kicker Robbie Gould disputed that notion, and Hester's statistics certainly support that. Hester averaged 27.6 yards on kickoff returns last season and 14.2 yards per return on punts to go with an 81-yard touchdown.

"He still played at a high level [in 2013]," Gould said. "Actually, the record, he broke it last year and we had a penalty that called it back [against Minnesota]. The guy is a special player. He's got a lot of speed, a lot left in the tank, and you're seeing that right now; especially with the Atlanta Falcons. He's maybe one of the greatest players I've ever played with of all time."

Prior to the 2013, Hester considered retiring, and Forte said "I'm glad he decided to continue to do it, and was able to break that record."

Hester admitted to feeling unhappy about his role toward the end of his Chicago tenure. Unable to click with quarterback Jay Cutler, Hester requested prior to 2013 that the Bears didn't use him on offense. During the 2014 offseason, the Bears decided to not offer Hester a contract.

"I'm going to say it, man. I wasn't happy the last three or four years in Chicago," Hester said during Thursday night's postgame show on NFL Network's Total Access. "Things weren't going the way I expected."

Hester caught a career-high 57 passes for 757 yards and three touchdowns in 2009, Cutler's first season with the team. But Hester and the quarterback never clicked. Hester finished with 2,908 yards and 14 touchdowns, but caught just 23 passes in 2012, his final season playing receiver for the Bears.

"I've got a quarterback now that ... he loves even the walk-ons," Hester said, "and coaches that know how to get the ball to me; how to make plays for me."

Cutler said on Friday he was unaware of Hester's comments.

"But I'm happy for him," Cutler said. "He seems to be in a good place there. Obviously, he's scoring touchdowns. That's always a good thing for him. Couldn't be more happy for him."

Bears coach Marc Trestman joined Forte in sending Hester a congratulatory text, and the coach said the return man responded later in the night.

"Excited about this mountain he's ascended to," Trestman said. "When people move on, you hope it's for the right reasons, for their career. I think everybody here is certainly excited about the fact he's having success, and doing something with his new opportunity."

Through three games, Hester has contributed 126 yards on seven receptions with the Falcons, along with one rushing TD. He's averaged 28 yards on kickoff returns and 15.2 yards on punts to go with Thursday night's record-breaking score.

"Great teammate," Forte said. "Whenever you needed something, you could call Devin anytime, and he'd help you out. As good as he is on the field, off the field, he's even better."

Allen practices, Marshall sits

September, 19, 2014
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Chicago Bears defensive end Jared Allen (lower back) practiced without restrictions on Friday, but wide receiver Brandon Marshall (ankle) remained sidelined for a second consecutive day.

 Marshall and Allen are both expected to play Monday night versus the New York Jets.

Besides Marshall, six other Bears were held out of Friday’s practice: defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff
(concussion), linebacker Shea McClellin (hand), defensive end Trevor Scott (foot), cornerback Sherrick McManis (quad), center Roberto Garza (ankle) and left guard Matt Slauson (ankle).

McClellin’s situation took a turn for the worse. The linebacker had limited in participation in practice on Thursday, but he sat out the entire workout on Friday.

According to head coach Marc Trestman, McClellin suffered the hand injury in practice this week, not during the 28-20 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Week 2.

In other health news, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) and safety Chris Conte (shoulder) were both limited for the second straight practice, while receiver Josh Morgan (groin) had full participation. Morgan should be available to face the Jets.

Seven players sit out Thursday practice

September, 18, 2014
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears held seven players out of Thursday’s practice in advance of Monday’s night road game versus the New York Jets: center Roberto Garza (ankle), left guard Matt Slauson (ankle), cornerback Sherrick McManis (quad), defensive end Trevor Scott (foot), defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (concussion), wide receiver Brandon Marshall (ankle) and defensive end Jared Allen (back).

 The Bears still have two more days of practice before the team departs for the New York/New Jersey area on Sunday afternoon.

In more encouraging news, safety Chris Conte practiced on a limited basis on Thursday after being forced to leave the 49ers game early because of a shoulder injury. Conte is tied for the team lead with two interceptions over the first two weeks of the regular season.

The Bears also listed wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) as having limited participation. Jeffery was a game-time decision in Week 2 but still managed to have three catches for 47 yards. The Bears admitted afterwards that Jeffery played at less than full strength.

Linebacker Shea McClellin (limited) is dealing with a hand injury.

Wide receiver Josh Morgan practiced without restrictions on Thursday after a groin injury sidelined him for the 49ers game.

Sources: Hayden, Fales, Fiammetta released

September, 13, 2014
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CHICAGO -- A rash of injuries on the offensive line and at wide receiver prompted the Chicago Bears to make a handful of roster moves in advance of Sunday night’s road game against the San Francisco 49ers.

Sources confirmed the Bears waived quarterback David Fales and released veteran cornerback Kelvin Hayden and veteran fullback Tony Fiammetta.

The Bears announced following Friday’s practice that Fales (shoulder) and Fiammetta (hamstring) had been officially ruled out for Week 2.

Hayden was a healthy inactive in Chicago's 23-20 overtime loss to the Buffalo Bills in the season opener.

The expectation is the Bears will look to fill some of the open roster spots off the practice squad. With Brandon Marshall (ankle) and Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) questionable, and Josh Morgan (groin) doubtful, the Bears could choose to promote one, or more, of their current practice squad wide receivers: Josh Bellamy, Greg Herd, Chris Williams and Rashad Ross. Practice squad center/guard Taylor Boggs is a candidate to help with depth on the offensive line after starters Roberto Garza (high-ankle sprain) and Matt Slauson (high-ankle sprain) were both declared out for the 49ers game.

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CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bears reeled off more than 400 yards of offense and converted 42 percent on third down, yet they came up short in overtime 23-20 against the Buffalo Bills, in part because Jay Cutler continues to be Jay Cutler.

The Bears entered the game Sunday with an offense expected to be one of the league’s best, due to its performance in 2013, yet finished the day stymied -- not only by the Bills but also by themselves -- in front of the home crowd at Soldier Field. With the score tied at 17 and 8:01 remaining, Cutler tossed his second interception while attempting to make a dangerous throw back left against his body to Martellus Bennett while on the move running right to elude the rush.

"I was just trying to get it inside to Marty," Cutler said. "Third-and-1 there. I should have just thrown it away."

Instead, the quarterback played a role in throwing away the entire game with the interception. Signed to a seven-year contract worth $126 million in January after a promising 2013 campaign, Cutler continues to make puzzling decisions in games. His inconsistency leads to doubt about whether he'll ever shed the label of enigma by making smart moves with the ball while limiting turnovers in crucial situations.

Yet Bears coach Marc Trestman defended the quarterback Sunday when asked whether Cutler, now in his sixth season with Bears, should now be past making such damaging decisions in critical situations.

"To be able to make those kinds of statements after being out there in the heat, those are tough," Trestman said. "There's a lot of reasons these plays come up, and I think I'm gonna leave it at that."

Cutler's second interception was picked off by Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams. The Bills turned that into a Dan Carpenter field goal to go ahead 20-17.

“We rolled up a lot of yards,” Cutler said. “Turnovers hurt us. Penalties hurt us. We just kept stubbing our toe on certain things throughout the game.”

By doing so, the unit basically slammed the embattled defense’s head against a wall. Of Buffalo’s 23 points on the afternoon, 13 came as the result of Bears turnovers. The Bills needed to move the ball a grand total of 58 yards after the turnovers to put those points on the board.

Chicago’s defense definitely deserves criticism for surrendering Fred Jackson’s 38-yard run in overtime that set up Carpenter’s game-winning field goal. But prior to OT, the Bills feasted on two turnovers in Chicago territory. The final one, Williams’ pick, occurred on the Buffalo 34. A horse-collar tackle tacked onto the end of the return gave Buffalo possession at its own 48 with 7:52 left in regulation.

“Going into games like this, you can talk about a lot of different things,” Trestman said. “But when you have drives and you turn the ball over three times and you wind up being minus-2 in the plus-minus department, you get all the answers you need.”

That naturally leads to continued questions regarding Cutler, whose two picks led to 10 Bills points.

“You guys are going to be as negative as possible,” Cutler said postgame. “We understand that. We made mistakes today.”

Brandon Marshall contributed with a fumble recovered by Preston Brown in the second quarter. That turnover led to points, too.

Cutler’s first pick came on an errant throw to Bennett. But the tight end took responsibility for not looking for the ball sooner, though it was actually thrown behind him.

Of Cutler's second interception, “I don’t know what happened on that s---,” Bennett said. “The fat guy got a pick.”

Still, this one came down to turnovers with Cutler leading the way.

"I would rather save that for tomorrow," Tresman said of Cutler's interceptions. "We all saw them out there. I think the tape will show there were times he tried to make a couple things happen, and that's part of what makes him special. I know we're all disappointed from an offensive standpoint with the three turnovers and two interceptions."
CHICAGO -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Chicago Bears' 23-20 loss to the Buffalo Bills:

Martellus Bennett
Bennett on INTs: Tight end Martellus Bennett took responsibility for the first of Jay Cutler's two interceptions but claims to not know what happened on the second INT, which led to Buffalo taking a 20-17 lead in the fourth quarter. Both passes were intended for Bennett, with the second being picked off by defensive tackle Kyle Williams.

"I don't know what happened on that s---," Bennett said. "The fat guy got a pick."

Jeffery appears to be fine: Alshon Jeffery missed the fourth quarter and overtime due to a hamstring injury, but Bears coach Marc Trestman said, "Alshon was prepared to go in there at specific times. I'll just leave it at that." Jeffery was seen in the locker room after the game, and he didn't appear to be walking with a limp or any type of discomfort. Trestman said he didn't know the extent of Jeffery's injury.

Garza and Slauson hobbled: Center Roberto Garza conducted postgame interviews with a walking boot lying on the floor in front of his locker while left guard Matt Slauson walked with a limp on the way out of the locker room. Both players missed the entire second half and said they will receive MRI exams Monday morning.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Fans watching the Chicago Bears this season won’t see "C's" stitched on the jerseys of the club’s captains because coach Marc Trestman declined to name any for 2014.

Instead, Trestman plans to elect new captains every week on a game-by-game basis with input from the coaching staff.

"We’re gonna have game captains this year," Trestman said. "We’re not gonna elect. We’re gonna do it game by game, and I’ll make that announcement to the team in the morning, who the first game captains are going to be."

The Bears named five captains to start last season: Jay Cutler, Roberto Garza, Lance Briggs, Julius Peppers and Patrick Mannelly. Each wore a special patch on his jersey as part of an NFL initiative to emphasize the role of captain. The Bears had named captains for seven consecutive years prior to this season.

"We’ve got a lot of guys deserving," Trestman explained. "There are influential leaders in our locker room that go beyond five guys, and I just didn’t want to put our team in position. I want to have the opportunity to recognize other guys on the team for game captains. That’s not new to the league. Other teams do that as well. There won’t be any patches because we won’t have any. What I’m hoping to do -- and we’ll see where we are at the end of the year -- but during the regular season we’ll have game captains."
CHICAGO -- Matt Forte continues to run the wrong way this preseason, carrying seven times for a loss of 7 yards in two outings, but Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman remains optimistic his team can improve the rushing attack by the time the games count.

Forte
Forte
Forte carried four times Thursday in Chicago's 20-19 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, while backup Shaun Draughn averaged 11 yards on three attempts

"We haven't been productive," Trestman said. "Certainly, we've had a few more [productive] runs with the second [teamers] and thirds than we did with the first. We're working on it hard every day."

Chicago's early struggles running the ball are fairly common. It takes time, several reps at practice and, in live action, synchronizing all the moving parts involved with fielding an efficient ground attack.

Forte's rushing statistics from 2013 indicate as much, as he didn't put together a 100-yard outing until the eighth game of the season.

"Running game usually takes a little more time to get in sync," quarterback Jay Cutler said. "We're not really game planning exactly how we would during the year; just kind of running some plays. We'll get to where we need to be."

In the past, both Forte and center Roberto Garza have discussed how important it is for the offensive line and the running backs to develop precise timing. That's typically thrown off somewhat in the preseason because so many different players are rotated in and out of the lineup, not to mention the fact the offense isn't game planning the opponent.

"We're playing against a very good front during practice," Trestman said. "But we haven't shown that productivity. We hope that's not an indication. We feel strongly we're gonna be able to run the ball effectively, but we have not yet done that in the first two editions of the preseason."

Kyle Long ready for weekend return

August, 1, 2014
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BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- After receiving medical clearance to return from a viral infection earlier in the week, Chicago Bears right guard Kyle Long remains on schedule to make his training camp debut on Saturday night when the team hosts their annual Family Fest practice at Soldier Field.

Long
Following three days of conditioning work, Long told ESPN 1000’s “Carmen and Jurko Show” he is eager to resume football-related activities for the first time since the end of the offseason program in June.

“I feel good. I’m getting back on my feet,” Long said. “Had a rough few weeks, but if I had it my way I would have been out there the first day this week. But they’ve been holding me out trying to get my strength and conditioning back up. For a guy who has a ton of energy all the time I was really drained. It was really killing me to get back out there on the field.

“[Sitting out] gives you a different perspective especially when you are not on film because you get to watch everybody and are not just watching your position. I’ve been watching what all the guards and Roberto Garza have been doing from a technical standpoint. It’s been a good experience.”

Players normally shed pounds when they battle a viral infection, but Long revealed that he actually gained some weight during the layoff.

“I don’t know how I did it,” Long said. “I leaned out and actually gained weight. I was happy.”

The Bears' initial plan calls for Long to gradually ease back into the mix. The club’s 2013 first-round draft choice, Long was selected to the Pro Bowl after starting all 16 games at right guard as a rookie. While it’s important for Long to take his share of preseason snaps, the Bears know the importance of keeping the core of the team healthy in the weeks leading up to the regular-season opener versus the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 7.

“I think he’ll do individual [drills] if we’re on schedule here,” Bears head coach Marc Trestman said. “He may do more than individual, but I wouldn’t count on it. Our goal is to get him in pads on Saturday night and to get him through individual. Then we’ll see where he is on Sunday and work in a positive way to get him on the field on Monday.”
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Arguably the best drill conducted in full pads is the one-on-one pass-rush competition between offensive and defensive linemen.

Granted, football is not an individual sport, but players are required to win individual battles in the trenches for the betterment of the team.

Collins
Perhaps no defensive lineman flashed as often as fifth-year defensive tackle Nate Collins did on Sunday during the 15-minute exercise. That is an encouraging sign for the Bears. Collins missed the final 11 games last year because of an ACL tear that required surgery, and the Bears depth on the defensive line suffered because of it.

Collins spent months rehabbing the left knee before returning to the Bears on a one-year deal in March. Equipped with a bulky knee brace, Collins received medical clearance to participate in the offseason program in May and has been relatively full-go ever since.

"I have a mentality where the moment you get comfortable something bad can go wrong or something unexpected can happen," Collins said. "I do everything I can and focus on what I can control and everything else will work itself out. I just know if I come out here and perform my best every single day then good things will happen."

Collins showcased a variety of moves the handful of times he lined up opposite reserve offensive linemen in the drill, relying on his speed and technique on certain rushes, and brute power to push up the field on others.

"It really felt good to get out there. There was a lot of adrenaline and energy running through me. I'm just glad I was able to come out here and do what I love because I love football. I love football, I love these guys and I love this team. It's a blessing I was able to come out here and compete with my brothers."

Other observations from the drill included: defensive tackle Stephen Paea winning a memorable one-on-one matchup with veteran center Roberto Garza. Defensive end Trevor Scott continued his strong start to camp by beating an offensive tackle off the edge on one rush, then winning another matchup with an inside move. Rookie second-round pick Ego Ferguson ended up on the ground on two separate occasions, but Ferguson did manage to push his way into the backfield on one snap. Left tackle Jermon Bushrod got the best of defensive end Jared Allen the one time they squared off in the session. Right tackle Jordan Mills held his own versus ends Lamarr Houston and Willie Young.
Overview: Keeping the interior of the pocket clean allows the quarterback to step up and follow through on throws, and in 2013 the trio of starters Roberto Garza, Kyle Long and Matt Slauson certainly allowed the Chicago Bears' signal callers to do that with relative ease.

"We want the protection system to start from the inside out," offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said.

It's probably safe to say the interior of Chicago's offensive line is its strength, and should only improve with the team bringing back all the starters while ramping up the competition at some of the backup spots.

"It's exciting," Slauson said. "This is the first time in my career where all five guys have stayed the same. Hopefully we can build off all the progress we made last year."

Battle to watch: This isn't expected to materialize into a full-blown battle, but surely all eyes will be on the play of Garza and Brian De La Puente at the center position. Garza has started every game the last three seasons at center, and in 2013 put together arguably his best campaign since taking over for Olin Kreutz at the position. Although Garza hasn't shown any signs of a drop off, his age (35), and the fact the Bears brought on De La Puente -- who also has familiarity with Kromer -- as the potential heir apparent at the position will lead to speculation the team might be looking to replace the team captain. The potential speculation should lead to intense competition at training camp between Garza and De La Puente, who has also spent time during the offseason at guard. Garza's spot likely isn't in jeopardy, and the truth is some of the battles for the backup roles might wind up being more compelling.

Dark horse: The Bears put together such strong depth at the interior positions there probably won't be a dark horse to make the team at center or guard, and certainly no player on the roster will push either Slauson or Long for their starting jobs.

Who makes the cut: The Bears entered the 2013 regular-season finale with 10 total offensive linemen on the active roster and six of those players including Taylor Boggs, Eben Britton, James Brown, Garza, Long and Slauson can play interior positions. Well, every one of those players is back for 2014, in addition to De La Puente. De La Puente will make the team, which means one of the other players won't make the cut. There's a good chance that player winds up being Brown.

Observations: Vereen challenging at FS

June, 11, 2014
Jun 11
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Based on the organized team activities (OTA) portion of the Chicago Bears' offseason program, rookie fourth-round pick Brock Vereen looks to be a serious contender to earn a permanent place in the starting lineup.

[+] EnlargeBrock Vereen
Nam Y. Huh/AP PhotoBears safety Brock Vereen, who participated in the team's rookie minicamp in May, is adjusting to playing in the NFL.
Vereen took all the first-team reps at safety alongside free-agent signee Ryan Mundy on Wednesday, as veterans Chris Conte and Craig Steltz continue to be sidelined due to injuries. M.D. Jennings and Danny McCray handled the reps on the second team.

"I wouldn't say [I'm] shocked [by the starters reps], but I know nothing is set," Vereen said. "I'm just coming in and working hard. If that gets me on the field, then so be it.

"It's really starting to slow down for me out there. Now I'm able to react rather than to have to think about it."

Vereen played multiple defensive back positions in college for Minnesota, but appears best suited to line up at free safety in the NFL. Mundy is built like a strong safety at 6-foot-1, 209 pounds, but the safety spots are generally viewed as interchangeable.

Here are other observations from Wednesday's OTA, the final session open to the media:

• With Matt Slauson still recovering from shoulder surgery, Brian de la Puente worked with the starters at left guard. Many consider de la Puente to be the heir apparent to Roberto Garza at center, although the former New Orleans Saints starter signed only a one-year contract with the Bears in the offseason.

• Cornerback Charles Tillman and defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff were present this week after being absent from last week's open OTA to the media.

• The Bears' trio of linebackers in their base defense during the majority of team drills consisted of D.J. Williams (MLB), Lance Briggs (WLB) and Shea McClellin (SLB). However, both Williams and McClellin came off the field in the nickel package in favor of Jon Bostic.

• Rookie first-round draft choice Kyle Fuller continued to run with the No. 1's in nickel as Tim Jennings mainly bumped inside to cover the slot with Tillman at the opposite cornerback spot.

Jay Cutler connected with Brandon Marshall and Marquess Wilson in the end zone on back-to-back passes during a red zone drill. Marshall did have a couple drops over the course of the afternoon.

• Marshall did return a punt at one point on Wednesday.

• Reserve quarterback Jerrod Johnson saw action on special teams when he lined up as one of the two cornerbacks tasked with slowing down the gunner on punt return. Hard to remember a quarterback wearing the orange "off-limits" jersey ever participating on special teams before. But Johnson held up just fine during the drill and flashed some impressive speed trailing the gunner down the field.

• New quarterback Jimmy Clausen received fewer reps than Johnson and rookie David Fales, but the former Carolina Panther had some zip on the ball and seemed to have a decent understanding of the offense whenever he went under center.

• The Bears have one final OTA scheduled for Thursday in advance of the club's three-day veteran minicamp next week. Cutler is expected to meet the media next Tuesday for the first time since the start of the offseason in April.
Brian de la PuenteAl Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesBrian de la Puente will push starter Roberto Garza in what should be spirited competition.
The addition of free agent center Brian de la Puente fills two important needs for the Chicago Bears.

In the short term, de la Puente provides the Bears with a proven and experienced center behind team captain Roberto Garza, who turned 35 years old at the end of March.

Garza has been incredibly durable throughout his career, missing just two games in nine seasons with the Bears. But in the event he suffers an injury, de la Puente can step in and fill the void. Not only did de la Puente start 44 games at center for the New Orleans Saints over the last three seasons, he should be able to quickly pick up the Bears' offense after playing for Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer for two years in New Orleans.

But even if Garza stays on the field for all 16 regular season games in 2014, as most expect him to do, the Bears eventually need to address the position long term.

Garza’s tenure in Chicago has been nothing short of terrific. That’s not an exaggeration. After the Bears signed Garza off the street in 2005, he went on to start 133 games at both right guard and center.

But the Bears will need to replace him on the field. That’s just a part of life in the NFL.

If the Bears are satisfied with the 28-year-old de la Puente next season, even if he doesn’t start a single game, the club will be in position to offer him a longer deal in the 2015 offseason. Really, inking de la Puente to a one-year contract is actually a steal for the Bears. They get a first-team caliber player at a fraction of the cost, with nothing guaranteed beyond 2014.

There is also the issue of de la Puente pushing Garza when the team returns to the field. Competition is a wonderful thing. With so many veteran players on one-year, league minimum deals, the Bears have set the stage for fierce preseason battles for roster spots at several positions. While Garza is penciled in as the No. 1 center, he is not the type of player to rest on his laurels. But even a 13-year NFL veteran can benefit from a younger player applying a little pressure behind him on the depth chart.

This is really a win-win scenario for the Bears.

Bears, TE Dante Rosario agree to terms

February, 27, 2014
Feb 27
6:09
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The Chicago Bears agreed to terms on a one-year contract with veteran tight end Dante Rosario, the team announced on Thursday.

Earlier on Thursday the Bears re-signed starting center Roberto Garza to a one-year, $1.5 million contract that included a $100,000 signing bonus and $75,000 workout bonus.

Rosario, a seven-year NFL veteran, was acquired by the Bears via a trade with the Dallas Cowboys on September 2. Rosario appeared in 15 games (three starts) and caught just one pass for 13 yards but did record five special teams tackles.

For his career, Rosario has 100 receptions for 1,119 and eight touchdowns in 106 games and 29 starts.

The Bears could still look to add another tight end to the mix in free agency or the NFL draft to compliment starter Martellus Bennett, who caught a career-high 65 balls for 759 yards in 2013, to go along with five touchdowns.

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