NFC North: Brandon Hartson

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.
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Aside from generating additional revenue for the league, preseason football exists to allow teams to work through their issues before games count for real in September.

While the Chicago Bears displayed a multitude of positive signs on both offense and defense in their preseason opener, the third phase, special teams, self-destructed on nearly every level imaginable -- blocked field goal attempt, muffed punt return, penalties, average punts, and a coverage breakdown that led to a Philadelphia Eagles 102-yard kickoff return touchdown.

Time is still on the Bears' side, but special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis feels a sense of urgency to turn things around in a hurry, starting with Thursday night's second preseason contest against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"I took away from Friday night that we didn't play very well," DeCamillis said Monday. "We had a lot of miscues. What's disappointing is practice had been going well. We felt like it was a good training camp up to [that] point.

"We have to starting finding out the guys [who] are going to be playing for us on Sundays. There's no question about that. It's still an evaluation, but I think one of the things that wasn't as good at the start of [last] year was we didn't start out great. I think they came on after the fifth game and really started playing well. We need to see the guys that are going to play on Sundays. That's our goal moving forward, especially in that third preseason game. We have to see those guys and they have to start playing together as a unit."

DeCamillis cited the windy conditions at Soldier Field last week as a possible reason why punters Tress Way (37.5 yards per punt/37.5 net average) and Pat O'Donnell (43.5 yards per punt/33.5 net average) had only average performances against Philadelphia, although both players appeared to strike the ball well during Monday's practice at Ward Field.

One encouraging aspect to take away from the Eagles' game is that long snappers Brandon Hartson and Chad Rempel were on the mark with their snaps. No decision has been made regarding which of the two the Bears will keep on the 53-man roster, but each offers something unique. Hartson is probably the better pure snapper, but Rempel is extremely athletic and seems to be capable of running downfield and covering a punt if necessary.

As for the return game, Eric Weems is in the drivers' seat, especially since speedster Chris Williams suffered a hamstring injury versus the Eagles. Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall did spend time Monday at practice fielding punts during special teams drills, but don't look for Marshall to be the new special teams secret weapon.

"Brandon Marshall sometimes likes to be in drills he shouldn't be in," DeCamillis said with a smile. "That's above my pay grade."
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- NFL punters are hardly ever the center of attention; except when things go horribly wrong in a game, like a bad kick or botched snap.

But Bears' rookie punter Pat O'Donnell proved to be the exception to that rule on Sunday.

A large part of the estimated 9,500 fans in attendance on Sunday spent the entire portion of the special teams drills loudly cheering for O'Donnell and chanting "Mega-Punt” every time he punted the ball.

O'Donnell's highly-touted right leg did not disappoint. Aside from one or two mishits, the majority of the rookie's punts were high and deep. One kick registered an unofficial hang time of 5.1 seconds and appeared to travel well over 50 yards.

"I didn't know what the crowd was saying,” O'Donnell said after practice. "I was just trying to keep focused. It's definitely a good feeling because the punter usually doesn't get a lot of attention. But it's the nature of the business. I just need to do my thing and hopefully flip the field when I can.”

Bears special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis added: "That's a first for me [hearing fans chant for a punter]. I was thinking you have to be kidding me over there. It was ridiculous. Let's keep the kid's feet on the ground.”

However, expectations are high for O'Donnell, after the Bears spent a sixth-round pick on the 6-foot-4, 220 pound punter from Miami following a record-setting year when he averaged a school single-season best 47.1 yards per punt and had 23 kicks sail 50-plus yards.

Generally speaking, when a team drafts a punter, it becomes his job to lose. But former undrafted free agent Tress Way stepped up his performance following the Bears selection of O'Donnell, and actually outkicked the rookie in the offseason program, paving the way for a genuine camp competition.

But Sunday clearly belonged to O'Donnell.

"I thought [O'Donnell] did some good things today,” DeCamillis said. "But we need to just keep working and hopefully he continues stacking good days on top of good days.”

Punter is not the only specialist position up for grabs. The retirement of decorated veteran Patrick Mannelly left a serious void at long snapper, one the Bears are currently trying to fill with either Chad Rempel or Brandon Hartson.

In the Mannelly era, the Bears experienced a bad snap maybe once every five or six years. This summer, there have been multiple long snapping miscues over the span of just three days since camp opened on Friday.

"I wouldn't say we are concerned," DeCamillis said. "We need to work through the process and find out who our guy is going to be. Hopefully he's on this team right now. He may not be. We'll have to see. But I wouldn't say we're concerned. I've been in this position before with young guys. You just need to work through the process."
LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Bears special-teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis said on Saturday that no decision has been reached regarding the future of veteran free-agent long snapper Patrick Mannelly, the longest tenured player in team history and perennial special-teams captain.

Mannelly told reporters prior to being honored as the Bears’ 2013 Ed Block Courage Award recipient last month that he remained undecided about returning to the Bears for a franchise record 17th season after undergoing offseason hip surgery in January.

“I’ve been in contact with Pat and there is no pressure one way or the other,” DeCamillis said. “We just have to let it play out. He’s had a great career, and I hope he continues his great career, but we just need to let it play out and see how it goes.

“I don’t [have a sense which way he’s leaning]. I just hope it’s the best situation for him. That’s really what I hope because he’s such a great person and such a great guy. Winning the Ed Block Courage Award is a big deal. Couldn’t be a better guy to win it, I can tell you that.”

The Bears had three long snappers participate in rookie minicamp: Chad Rempel, Brandon Hartson and Craig Montgomery (tryout).
Most significant move: Despite J'Marcus Webb making 44 starts in 46 career games, including 32 consecutive starts at left tackle over the last two years, the Bears made the decision to part ways with him, even after reducing his salary to the league minimum for a veteran with three years of tenure.

Webb entered the offseason as the starter at right tackle, and stayed in that spot through the early part of training camp. Then, after the preseason opener at Carolina, the club demoted Webb to the second team behind rookie fifth-round pick Jordan Mills.

The demotion put Webb in competition for a backup role with veterans Jonathan Scott and Eben Britton. A five-year veteran, Britton has 30 games of starting experience on his résumé, but also possesses more versatility than Webb because of his ability to kick inside to guard and center. Scott hasn’t played all preseason, and recently underwent a procedure on his knee. But the team is confident that even a dinged-up Scott is more reliable than a fully healthy Webb.

Webb possesses the physical skillset to be a starter in the NFL for several years, but lacks motivation and passion, which is a no-no for general manager Phil Emery and the new coaching regime. The new staff worked diligently to coax out the best in Webb, but couldn’t do it consistently enough for the team to feel confident in the three-year veteran, even as a backup.

Good outing, bad result: Quarterback Jordan Palmer performed well in the preseason finale against Cleveland despite little preparation after signing as an injury replacement for Matt Blanchard. But a 64.7 completion percent and a passer rating of 102.8 with a touchdown pass in his preseason debut wasn’t good enough to keep the Bears from cutting Palmer.

A big part of that was the team’s reported desire to sign a third quarterback with practice-squad eligibility. Palmer doesn’t have any practice-squad eligibility remaining.

What’s next: With the 53-man roster finalized, the Bears will start to build their practice squad. If the club wants to bring back some of the players it cut, it will have to wait until they clear waivers. The Bears will likely be looking to add a few players cut from other teams to their practice squad, too.

Bears cuts: QB: Trent Edwards, Jordan Palmer. RB: Armando Allen. OG: Dennis Temple, Edwin Williams. LB:Jerry Franklin, J.T. Thomas. WR: Brittan Golden, Terrence Toliver, Josh Lenz. OT:J'Marcus Webb, Cory Brandon. DT:Corvey Irvin, Christian Tupou. S:Tom Nelson, Brandon Hardin. LS: Brandon Hartson. CB: Demontre Hurst. TE:Fendi Onobun. FB: Harvey Unga. DE: Aston Whiteside, Josh Williams.

Note: Brandon and Irvin received injury settlements. Hardin was waived/injured, which means if he clears waivers, he’ll revert to Chicago’s injured reserve.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider