NFC North: Jimmy Clausen

Most significant move: The Chicago Bears officially made Jimmy Clausen the No. 2 quarterback and jettisoned Jordan Palmer, who quickly signed with the Buffalo Bills. While Clausen and Palmer aren’t considered proven commodities, the latter had more familiarity and experience in Chicago’s offense. Jay Cutler hasn’t played an entire 16-game regular season since 2009, so it’s almost a given that at some point in 2014 the Bears will need to lean on the backup quarterback. That’s not to say the Bears made the wrong move, because Clausen appears to be the better player. Interestingly, Palmer signed with Chicago’s Week 1 opponent: the Buffalo Bills. So there’s a good chance the Bills are pumping Palmer for information on Chicago’s offense.

The end of a career? The Bears signed Adrian Wilson hoping he still possessed many of the physical traits that made him one of the NFL’s most dominating safeties over the years. Had Wilson panned out, he would have given the Bears the type of physical presence on the back end they haven’t had since Mike Brown roamed the secondary. The Bears gave Wilson plenty of opportunities to earn a spot on the team, but he never flashed the brilliance that made him such a force for so many years with the Arizona Cardinals. Wilson says he’s a “prideful person,” but at this point it appears his career is over.

What’s next: The Bears finish out the preseason on Thursday at Cleveland, and upon returning they’ll start to finalize the roster heading into the Aug. 30 cutdown date before beginning preparation for the regular-season opener against the Bills.

Bears' cuts: QB Jordan Palmer, KR/PR Darius Reynaud, LB Jordan Senn, RB Michael Ford, WR Greg Herd, WR Kofi Hughes, OT Joe Long, RB Derricus Purdy, DB Peyton Thompson, DT Nate Collins, OG Dylan Gandy, S Adrian Wilson, S Craig Steltz, OG James Brown, B Isaiah Frey.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- A combination of experience, preseason performance and upside landed Jimmy Clausen the No. 2 job at quarterback, according to Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman.

The Bears released Clausen's primary competition, Jordan Palmer, on Sunday, leaving the former, Jay Cutler, and David Fales as the quarterbacks remaining on the roster.

[+] EnlargeJimmy Clausen
David Banks/USA TODAY SportsJimmy Clausen, who was drafted by Carolina in 2010, will back up Bears' starting QB Jay Cutler.
"They both competed really hard for the job," Trestman said. "As I told Jordan, Jimmy played at a consistent level, as did Jordan. I really threw out the five or six plays Jordan had the other night backed up. I know Jordan was terribly upset about that situation. That really didn't come into the consideration. Jimmy's played a lot more football in this league. He's younger, and I thought the competition was very close. But I thought at the end of the day, I think the upside for Jimmy, his age, his experience, and he came highly recommended from some people I trust in Carolina."

Clausen and Palmer put up similar numbers through the first three games of the preseason. Palmer completed 70 percent of his passes for 225 yards, a touchdown and an interception for a passer rating of 88.9. Clausen hit on 64.9 percent of his throws for 280 yards, two touchdowns, an INT and a passer rating of 94.4.

But Clausen has started in 10 of the 13 regular season games he's played in the NFL, while Palmer has thrown just 15 passes in the four games he's played. Clausen is 26. Palmer is 30.

In what proved to be the final test pitting Clausen against Palmer on Friday night in Seattle, neither produced stellar numbers. Palmer completed 7 of 10 for 48 yards to finish with a passer rating of 80.4. Clausen hit on 6 of 9 for 36 yards and a 74.3 passer rating.

"It's good that the coaches have the confidence in me to name me the No. 2 behind Jay [Cutler]," Clausen said. "But we've got a long way to go. I don't even remember the last game I played, my rookie year. But it's a great opportunity like I said from Day 1. [I've] just got to keep going out each and every day, getting better and doing everything I can to help the team win."

Clausen put together a solid workout in June at Halas Hall, in addition to a reassuring personal interview and X's and O's session on the board, prompting the Bears to add him to the mix in their search for a primary backup to Cutler.

The team liked Clausen's experience, mechanics and football smarts, as well as his mental toughness. In addition to handling injuries and a lack of success as a rookie, Clausen quietly weathered the disappointment of the Carolina Panthers drafting Cam Newton and immediately inserting him as the starter.

"His ability to handle the adversity that he had in his first year, his leadership qualities, he stood up tall through a lot of tough times in Carolina, and gained the respect of his teammates and the team there with the way he handled himself in a very, very difficult year," Trestman said. "So that, plus performance, plus experience, plus youth were a lot of the reasons if I can give you some content. It wasn't everything. At the end of the day it really comes down to how you feel about things. You weigh some content there that I gave you to make that decision. We wish Jordan the best. He not only competed hard, he really invested in our football team. He emotionally invested. He coached. He shared. He coached other guys up, guys at his position. He's a tremendous young man, and we'll look forward to him landing on his feet somewhere."

Palmer expressed gratitude for the opportunity in Chicago on Twitter on Sunday, posting "I'll be wearing #Bears gear and supporting the Bears for the rest of my life. Regardless of what happens. This is the best org in the NFL."

Clausen, meanwhile, believes his experiences in Carolina -- while negative -- might have helped with the latest situation.

"One of the big things is sitting and looking back on the sidelines the past few years in Carolina just sitting and learning really did help," Clausen said. "I didn't have that in college. I didn't have that in high school. Just to sit back and take a step back and look at everything helped the game slow down a little bit for me, and [I] just learned how to play in the NFL because it's totally different from college."
LAKE FOREST, Ill. – With the No. 2 quarterback spot still up for grabs, Jordan Palmer will be the first quarterback off the bench to replace starter Jay Cutler when the Chicago Bears travel to Seattle on Friday night to face the Seattle Seahawks.

Bears head coach Marc Trestman announced on Wednesday he planned to switch the quarterback rotation after Jimmy Clausen relieved Cutler last week at Soldier Field against Jacksonville.

Palmer
Clausen went 11-of-15 for 94 yards and one interception before giving way to Palmer, who completed 6 of 9 throws for 73 yards and one touchdown.

“Jay will work certainly into the second quarter and we'll make a decision during the second quarter what we're going to do with him,” Trestman said. “That will be dependent on a number of different things. And then after that we'll have Jordan, so expect Jordan to play the third quarter and Jimmy to play the fourth. We'll continue to rotate these guys around. We've got another week after this one and that's the way we'll operate this week.”

Trestman hinted the quarterback competition might run through the final preseason game next Thursday in Cleveland. NFL rosters must be trimmed to 53 players by 4 p.m. ET on Saturday, Aug. 30. It’s unclear if the Bears plan to keep both Clausen and Palmer on the final 53-man roster. One might have to go if the Bears decide to keep just two quarterbacks, and perhaps rookie David Fales could make the 10-man practice squad if the rookie clears waivers.
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Lovie Smith finished 10-6 in his final season with the Chicago Bears before being fired. Marc Trestman comes in and leads the Bears to an 8-8 record in 2013. Yet expectations soar here on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University, where crowds for training camp practices routinely swell to 10,000.

It’s easy to see why. For a fan base accustomed to hard-nosed defense and shaky-at-best offense, Trestman flipped the script in 2013, taking Chicago’s attack to new heights with a major assist from general manager Phil Emery’s shrewd personnel moves.

The Bears broke record after record on offense last season, and the defense stumbled to historic lows.

If Trestman and Emery could basically work a miracle on offense in just one season, why can’t they do it on the other side of the ball in 2014?

“[I] feel very good about the competitive depth and the fights for positions that we're going to have,” Emery said. “Out of the three camps, I would say this camp has the best competitive level among the roster from 1 to 90.”

Emery achieved that by loading up on defenders: acquiring a mix of players poised to hit the sweet spot of their careers in Lamarr Houston and Willie YoungJared Allen, and drafting potential stars such as first-round pick Kyle Fuller. The Bears bolstered those moves with an overhaul of the scheme and additions to the defensive coaching staff.

“We started [with], ‘What could we do to get this team better?’” Trestman said. “I sat down with Phil [Emery], and we began to lay out a road map together on how we were going to rebuild this football team, and here we are at a stage where I don’t think there’s a player in our meeting room who doesn’t feel like there’s hope and high expectations. Now, it’s time to go to work.”

[+] EnlargeJay Cutler
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastJay Cutler is more comfortable in coach Marc Trestman's system, and all of his offensive weapons are healthy and ready to go.
THREE REASONS FOR OPTIMISM

1. Jay Cutler’s grasp of the offense is firmer in Year 2 of Trestman’s system, and his performance this year at camp is significantly different from in 2013. Offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said Cutler is his own problem solver and is making on-field adjustments so instinctively that he doesn’t need guidance from the staff. In his first camp under Trestman, Cutler misfired routinely, and there were concerns about whether he’d be effective in the regular season. After one particularly bad session in 2013, Trestman gathered Cutler and the other quarterbacks in the middle of the field in what could be described as a turning point. That’s not happening this year at camp as Cutler has become a bona fide field general.

2. Brandon Marshall is Brandon Marshall. He wasn’t at camp in 2013. He was coming off hip surgery that hindered his season preparation. Fully healthy now with an offseason to condition, Marshall is ready to go -- and with full comprehension of the offensive system. Throw in Alshon Jeffery’s ascension and you have the makings of something lethal on offense. The duo has certainly looked that way at camp as both routinely make so many eye-popping plays that Cutler could almost throw it up blindly and one of them would come down with the ball.

3. There’s a nastiness on defense and intense focus reminiscent of the units put on the field in Smith’s heyday. Practicing against one of the best offenses in the league, the defense should be losing more than it does at training camp. But this group routinely bests the offense, with dominating play by the front seven as a hallmark. Chalk it up to a combination of personnel additions and a culture shift brought about by an overhaul of the scheme and the acquisition of no-nonsense, get-in-your-face coaches such as Paul Pasqualoni, Reggie Herring and Clint Hurtt.

[+] EnlargeRyan Mundy
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastThe Bears brought Ryan Mundy in to compete at safety, but the position, at least in camp, continues to look shaky.
THREE REASONS FOR PESSIMISM

1. The defensive line makes plays at training camp. The corners and linebackers make plays. But you rarely see the safeties making an impact. That could be a result of a lack of chemistry because, with both spots up for grabs, the Bears are using several combinations at the position involving players such as Ryan Mundy, rookie Brock Vereen, Danny McCray, Adrian Wilson and M.D. Jennings. Horrid play at this position in 2013 contributed significantly to the defense’s demise, and we haven’t seen many indications at camp that the Bears will turn that around in 2014.

2. Protecting Cutler could become an issue if some of the injuries suffered by the team's offensive linemen linger. Guard Kyle Long (ankle) and tackle Jordan Mills (foot) missed the preseason opener, and the latter was seen wearing a walking boot when the club returned to training camp after that game. Reserve center Brian de la Puente is expected to miss time to a knee injury, and reserve guard/tackle Eben Britton still hasn’t returned from a strained hamstring suffered earlier at camp.

3. Cutler hasn’t played an entire 16-game season since 2009. So naturally, you’d think at some point in 2014 the Bears will have to turn to the backup quarterback. The problem is the candidates vying for the No. 2 job -- Jordan Palmer and Jimmy Clausen -- have done little to inspire confidence the way Josh McCown did last year at training camp. For the most part, Palmer and Clausen have been merely average at camp, misfiring on occasion and making mistakes typical of players acclimating themselves to a scheme. The duo needs to pick it up or the Bears could wind up looking outside the current roster for a suitable No. 2.

OBSERVATION DECK

  • Chris Conte says he’s the best athlete in Chicago’s secondary. He needs to prove it, which he'll finally have a chance to do now that he's off the physically unable to perform list. Conte certainly possesses the athleticism to be a playmaker on the back end, provided he regains his confidence. But time is running out for Conte to make a real push for one of the two open jobs at safety. What Conte has going for him right now is that none of the safeties vying for the starting jobs is making plays at camp.
  • The Bears hired martial arts expert Joe Kim to teach the defensive linemen hand fighting techniques as part of the scheme overhaul that requires the front four players to be technicians with their hands. It’ll be interesting to see how the results manifest themselves on the field. Every day after practice at camp, several defensive linemen -- and even some defensive backs -- work intricate hand fighting moves with Kim for several minutes. The players say the moves become almost natural once routinely put into practice on the field. We’ll see whether Kim’s assistance plays a role in the front four anchoring a run defense that finished last in 2013.
  • Zach Miller and Matthew Mulligan are pushing Dante Rosario hard for the No. 2 job at tight end. Miller is more of a move tight end, and Mulligan is a classic in-line blocker who shows some impressive skills as a receiver. The two have received extra reps because of Martellus Bennett's suspension.

Bears Camp Report: Day 13

August, 11, 2014
Aug 11
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BOURBONAIS, Ill. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Chicago Bears training camp:
  • Morning showers soaked the practice fields at Olivet Nazarene University on Tuesday. So the Bears moved their session across the street to Ward Field, where the club could practice on FieldTurf. “The players handled the transition today and the weather. We moved some things around, went indoors for our walk-through, came out here for the first time in full pads, got a lot of work done, moved some guys around and we made it through the day,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “We wanted to make sure we got this one in. We had Plan B and Plan C. Plan A worked pretty good and we got a lot of work done.” According to a school official, the same company that installed the surface inside the Walter Payton Center laid the FieldTurf at ONU, with the work being completed approximately three weeks ago. The school’s soccer teams used the field for the first time on Monday, and the Bears were the first football team to put the surface to use.
  • Zach Miller continues to state a strong case to win the job as the club’s No. 2 tight end. Miller put together another solid outing, catching every ball thrown his way during the various team periods.
  • Backup quarterback Jordan Palmer struggled during Tuesday’s workout, throwing a pair of interceptions to safety Chris Conte and defensive end Willie Young. The INT thrown to Young hit the defensive end squarely in the chest. Conte secured his pick in the end zone during a red-zone drill on a pass intended for Micheal Spurlock. Trestman declined to say whether Jimmy Clausen had overtaken Palmer on the depth chart. “I don’t think we’ve had any movement there at all,” Trestman said. “We’ll move people around. We’ll see how they play in different environments and we’ll make a decision when we have to.”
  • Trestman said “it’s too soon to talk about” whether Conte will play Thursday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Conte came off the physically unable to perform list on Monday and has practiced just two days.
  • Ryan Mundy and Danny McCray continued to take snaps at safety with the starters. The club did work in Conte and Adrian Wilson with the starters as well.
  • Brandon Marshall spent time catching punts during special-teams periods, but don’t expect the club to use him in that capacity during games. “Brandon Marshall likes to get into some drills that maybe he shouldn’t be in,” special-teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis said.
  • Non-participants for Tuesday’s session included Chris Williams (hamstring), Eben Britton (hamstring), Jordan Mills (foot), Brian De La Puente (knee), Marquess Wilson (collarbone), Isaiah Frey (hamstring) and Lance Briggs. Briggs isn’t injured. He was given a day off, which Trestman routinely does for veterans.
  • Keep an eye out for linebacker Jerry Franklin, who is taking snaps with the starters on some of the coverage and return units on special teams. He’s also been taking reps with the second team on defense.

Bears Camp Report: Day 2

July, 26, 2014
Jul 26
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BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Chicago Bears training camp.

" Day 1 of training camp Friday brought about a spirited workout that included a minor shoving match between Sherrick McManis and Eric Weems. On Saturday, the Bears experienced a full-blown dust-up that appeared to involve defensive end Lamarr Houston and right tackle Jordan Mills initially, and escalated to include defensive end Willie Young and Kyle Long, who still isn’t practicing because of a viral infection.

At first, Bears coach Marc Trestman joked “we’ve got to start charging” for people to watch, but took a more serious tone in pondering the implications such an event could have on the team. Trestman believes in simulating game situations whenever possible. So “if we’re practicing like it’s a game, we would have lost both players today,” he said.

Trestman also called the skirmishes “a disciplinary issue” in addition to “a major safety issue.” Interestingly, Mills and Houston were involved back in June in a similar incident during organized team activities.

" What should have been a touchdown to Martellus Bennett from Jay Cutler during a red-zone drill instead became a breakup by linebacker Jonathan Bostic.Bennett and Cutler refused to let it go. So after practice, the two stood in the end zone discussing ways they could be more effective in the red zone as the rest of the team walked off the field.

Bennett explained to ESPN.com that Cutler thought he fired the pass in the end zone high enough to get it past the outstretched arms of Bostic, and into the tight end’s hands. But at 6-foot-6, Bennett said, “What might be a high pass for someone else is different than my high,” meaning his catch radius is wider than most of the team’s targets.

“We’re just trying to take the thinking process out for both of us and make it more of a reaction thing; me reacting to his throws instead of him reacting to my body,” Bennett said.

Bennett hopes the 10 minutes spent in the end zone after practice Saturday will ensure touchdowns instead of incompletions once the season starts.

" The Bears held out Tim Jennings (quadriceps) from Saturday’s practice, and defensive end Willie Young left near the end of the workout after experiencing soreness in a quadriceps. Both are day to day. Other non-participants included safeties Craig Steltz (groin) and Chris Conte (shoulder) along with Long (viral infection).

" Despite repetitions typically being scarce for rookies, sixth-round pick David Fales received an extended period of snaps to run the offense during a team session. Although his delivery appears somewhat unconventional, it’s clear the quarterback knows where to go with the ball, makes quick decisions and doesn’t take risks. Fales was accurate on the majority of his throws, but most of his passes traveled fewer than 10 yards.

" Quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh is splitting the reps between Jordan Palmer and Jimmy Clausen as the two compete for the No. 2 job behind Cutler. Clausen played most of the snaps with the second-team offense during the first half of practice, and the quarterback delivered several strikes while making virtually no mistakes. Palmer, meanwhile, struggled with accuracy working with the third team and threw an interception to linebacker Khaseem Greene. Palmer worked with the second team later in practice and improved significantly.“

"You shouldn’t draw any conclusions by who the guy [is] that goes in there after Jay’s in there,” Trestman said. “We’re just moving people around and giving each guy a chance to work with different people and different centers and so forth.”

Bears Camp Report: Day 1

July, 25, 2014
Jul 25
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BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Here is a quick recap of highlights from Chicago Bears training camp at Olivet Nazarene University:
  • Welcome-to-the-NFL moments generally aren’t favorable, but rookie first-round pick Kyle Fuller bucked that trend with a pair of interceptions during his first training camp workout.During the first session of full team work, Fuller broke on a pass from Jordan Palmer intended for Terrence Toliver, diving just before the ball arrived to make an interception worthy of a highlight reel. Later in the practice, Fuller picked off a throw by Jimmy Clausen on a play when Terrence Toliver ran the wrong route according to Bears coach Marc Trestman.“Just playing my technique and fundamentals, and when the ball is in the air [I’m] just trying to go in and make a play,” Fuller said of his first interception.Positivity didn’t rule the day for Fuller, however. Chris Williams pulled in a bomb from Palmer, who dropped the ball right in between the bracket coverage of Fuller and safety M.D. Jennings for a touchdown.
  • Trestman introduced one new wrinkle the fans and players could appreciate at practice, as the team pumped music over the loudspeakers during warm-ups and individual periods. Trestman pointed out that during pregame at stadiums, music blares over the loud speakers during warm-ups, and the coach wants to simulate real situations as much as possible.Perhaps more interesting is the eclectic selection that included songs from Bon Jovi, Guns & Roses, T.I., Bob Marley and AC/DC. Trestman said the players pick the music.“It translates to games because there’s music before games,” Trestman said. “I just wanted to bring just a little more energy to practice.”
  • Chicago’s revamped defense definitely came out of Day 1 as winners, compared to the offense. But let’s remember, it was only the first day. In addition to Fuller’s pair of interceptions, cornerback Sherrick McManis picked off a Jay Cutler pass, and later stripped Marquess Wilson near the sideline before recovering the loose ball.There were also several instances in which the rush affected the quarterbacks enough for them to abort plays. Cornelius Washington also batted down a Cutler pass.“We looked great, came out here, got a few turnovers,” cornerback Tim Jennings said. “Defense came out with a lot of energy. I know some of the offensive coaches wish they could’ve had some plays back. We’re not at all disappointed with this first day.”
  • Non-participants at practice included guard Kyle Long (viral infection), and safeties Craig Steltz (groin) and Chris Conte (shoulder). Conte started camp on the active physically unable to perform list. But the club decided late Thursday to add Steltz to the active PUP list and put Long on the active non-football injury list.Long is considered day to day, according to Trestman, who said, “We don’t anticipate it will be too long” before he’s released to practice.
  • Receiver Eric Weems and McManis became involved in a brief shoving match near the end of practice that was quickly broken up by teammates.
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Jordan Palmer, 30, showed the Chicago Bears' coaching staff enough in the offseason program to enter training camp as the No. 2 quarterback, but Palmer's spot on the roster is far from secure.

Palmer
Clausen
The most immediate threat to Palmer appears to be former Notre Dame standout and 2010 Carolina Panthers second-round draft choice Jimmy Clausen. Clausen was a late addition to the offseason roster, but he clearly impressed the coaching staff at the tail end of organized team activities and during the veteran minicamp after signing a one-year deal with the Bears on June 5. The Bears also spent a sixth-round draft choice on quarterback David Fales, who passed for 8,382 yards and 66 touchdowns in two seasons at San Jose State.

"Right now, Jordan Palmer has the first shot at being No. 2, [but] it's a competition," Bears head coach Marc Trestman said on Wednesday. "There are three guys who are up for the No. 2, but it's going to start with Jordan. We feel very good about Jimmy and we felt very good about David's performances as well. So we're going to work it like that. We're going to give Jordan the first shot. He's been here the longest. Jimmy Clausen has the most experience so we're going to work him in there, and we're going to provide David with opportunities throughout camp to play and perform not just in practice, but in games.

"It'll be an on-going process [that takes place] day-to-day. We don't have to make a decision for quite some time and we'll get a chance to see a lot of plays of practice and certainly in the preseason games as well."

Bears general manager Phil Emery described Clausen as having "a chip on his shoulder" and "eager to prove people wrong" after the quarterback started just 10 games for Carolina from 2010-13.

Palmer has appeared in only four regular-season games (zero starts) since 2008 with the Cincinnati Bengals, completing 10-of-15 passes for 59 yards and two interceptions.

Finding a serviceable No. 2 quarterback is essential for the Bears after injuries have forced incumbent starter Jay Cutler to miss 12 games over the past three seasons. Josh McCown thrived in the backup role in 2013, but the veteran signed a lucrative contract in the offseason to be the new starting quarterback of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"It's going to be interesting," Cutler said of the battle for No. 2. "There's not going to be a lot of reps for them. I think a lot of it is going to play out in the preseason games. Because I'm going to get a lot of the reps in camp. Jordan, he's been around a long time, his older brother, he's been able to watch him a lot. Jimmy, he's played in big games at Notre Dame and kind of got the pedigree. He's a high-round pick; he was in a tough position in Carolina. They're both very hungry, they've both worked extremely hard this offseason putting in the time mentally, which is probably more important for them right now, just trying to figure out the playbook so they can go to the line of scrimmage and be fluent in what they want to do. We'll see how it goes."
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Jordan Palmer's return from a minor strain to his right throwing shoulder did little to clear up the Bears' fuzzy picture at the backup quarterback position.

Limited by the injury the last two weeks of organized team activities (OTAs), Palmer had full participation in the Bears' first of three mandatory minicamp workouts held on Tuesday, but he seemed to struggle with his accuracy at times, although Palmer reported no issues with his shoulder when he spoke with reporters after the practice.

"I felt great," Palmer said. "It was good to be back in the mix. I thought we had a pretty good practice today. [There wasn't] too much [rust]. It's still football. We're still wearing shorts and T-shirts, but it was good to be back out there with the guys."

[+] EnlargeJimmy Clausen
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhWith the addition of Jimmy Clausen, the Bears now have quarterbacks under contract.
Meantime, newcomer Jimmy Clausen made the most of his limited reps, and even spent the end of practice occasionally working in with Palmer and starter Jay Cutler, while developmental quarterbacks David Fales and Jerrod Johnson took turns running the scout team offense on the other side of the field.

Clausen signed a one-year deal with the Bears on June 7.

"I watched Jimmy when he was at Notre Dame," Cutler said. "Liked him. He was in a tough situation out there in Carolina. Offensive line was pretty rough; he was getting hit a lot. The system turned over on him. He throws the ball well. I didn't have any input on bringing him here, though. Once he did get here, though, he was in the quarterback room over the weekend three straight days grinding way, trying to figure out this offense. He was peppering me and David Fales, [quarterbacks coach] Matt Cavanaugh, all questions. So he's been working hard. I think he likes the opportunity he has here. He's a little bit humbled going through the experience of being on the streets and getting picked up again. He's got a good attitude. Training camp and preseason, we'll see how it works out."

Clausen's first task is sticking on the roster long enough to report to training camp with the club on July 24. But the odds of that happening seem promising. However, with five quarterbacks currently under contract, the Bears are likely to jettison at least one reserve quarterback in the coming weeks.

"I don't know if that's ever happened [going to camp with five quarterbacks], not in the times I've coached the position," Bears head coach Marc Trestman said. "These next two days are certainly critical; we've got to continue to analyze the situation. It would be hard to, we need legs at camp, but we'll see. We'll make that decision, and we don't even have to make that decision this week, we'll make it before the start of training camp. I think we've got five viable guys. You take Jay out of it and we've got four guys that are really competing hard and all have the requisite skill set to play in the National Football League, we've just got to continue to watch it and see how it unfolds."

Here are other observations from the Bears' opening minicamp practice:

• The Bears rested starting right tackle Jordan Mills (foot) after the second-year offensive lineman returned from offseason surgery in May to participate in OTAs. Mills called his absence "precautionary," but wasn't sure if he'd practice on Wednesday or Thursday before the team breaks for the summer.

"It's just a little precaution, nothing major," Mills said. "I'm 100 percent. I was kind of mad I couldn't go out there and practice today with them but the trainers know best. They just wanted to rest my foot a little bit.

• Safety Chris Conte, linebacker Khaseem Greene and defensive tackle Will Sutton were all excused for "family reasons" according to Trestman. Matt Slauson (shoulder) was present but continued to sit out. Safety Craig Steltz took part in certain individual drills as he recovers from an offseason leg issue.

• Veteran Kelvin Hayden was the Bears' fourth cornerback when the team went to its dime package on defense.

• Trestman called D.J. Williams "the lead dog" at middle linebacker, but 2013 second-round pick Jon Bostic took reps with the first team at linebacker in the nickel package, and could definitely still challenge for the open outside linebacker spot if Williams manages to stay healthy and solidifies the middle in the club's base defense.

• Safety Ryan Mundy dropped an easy pick when a Cutler pass sailed off its mark close to the right hash.

• Linebackers Jerry Franklin and Christian Jones saw action with the No. 2 group. Jones, an undrafted rookie free agent out of Florida State, has opened some eyes in the offseason program.

• With Mills out, Michael Ola spent time at right tackle with the starters. Brian de la Puente continued to take reps at left guard.

• Converted running back Jordan Lynch ran a wheel route out of the backfield and caught a diving touchdown pass from Johnson late in the session.

• Rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller broke up a pair of passes in team drills.

• Brandon Marshall burned Tim Jennings for a long touchdown reception. On the play, the Bears had speedster Chris Williams lined up in the slot.

• The Bears invited numerous NFL player agents to Halas Hall on Tuesday to watch practice inside the Walter Payton Center. Agents are frequently spotted catching up with their clients at training camp, but rarely are large groups of agents permitted to observe a workout held at the team's facility.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Quarterback Jordan Palmer finally revealed the reasoning behind his lack of participation in team drills during Bears organized team activities Wednesday, saying he suffered a right shoulder strain that isn’t considered serious.

The Bears wrapped up the ninth of 10 OTA workouts inside the Walter Payton Center, and although Palmer participated during individual drills, he’s been held out of team work during recent practice sessions open to the media this offseason. Palmer expects to participate from June 17-19 during the club’s mandatory minicamp.

“It’s frustrating having to sit out a week or two, but it’ll be ready to go for the minicamp; just rehabbing, getting back into it,” Palmer said. “It’s a nothing deal, just frustrating. I’ve kind of had to back off for a week or two and rest my shoulder, getting it ready for minicamp.”

[+] EnlargeJordan Palmer
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastJordan Palmer said his strained throwing shoulder should be ready for the Bears' minicamp next week.
During Palmer’s inactivity, Chicago brought aboard former Carolina Panther and Notre Dame standout Jimmy Clausen last week, signing him to a one-year contract worth $645,000 to compete for the role of Jay Cutler’s primary backup. Prior to the club making the signing, Bears coach Marc Trestman pulled Palmer aside for a talk.

The coach told Palmer “really just to worry about my shoulder, getting myself back and to not get caught in anything else that’s going on,” he said. “That’s 100 percent of my focus right now, and everything else is stuff I can’t control. So I’m not focused on that.”

It’s not as if Palmer automatically fell behind in the competition for the No. 2 job.

Clausen visited the Bears at Halas Hall last Thursday and put together an impressive workout, personal interview and X’s and O’s session on the board for the coaches, which prompted the club to sign him. Still, as Palmer mentioned “he’s been in the system for 72 hours,” a fact Clausen admits is a little different than what he’s accustomed to.

“Competition brings out the best in people, and I’m looking forward to competing,” Clausen said. “The only way I can compete is if I learn the offense. So I’ve just got to keep speeding that up. It’s definitely exciting. It’s a great opportunity.”

As it stands now, Chicago’s roster at the quarterback position includes Cutler, Clausen, Palmer, Jerrod Johnson and David Fales, a rookie. Despite missing time recently, Palmer remains the front-runner for the No. 2 job. But the addition of Clausen raises the stakes for everyone involved in the derby; provided the quarterback gets up to speed quickly enough to make a mark.

The Bears plan to keep at least five quarterbacks on the roster through the end of minicamp, but afterward there’s a good chance the club starts to whittle down the position.

The team believes Clausen is fully healthy after undergoing surgery last September to repair a torn right labrum suffered during the 2013 preseason finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers. In addition, the Bears are impressed with Clausen’s football smarts, mechanics and mental toughness; not to mention the fact he’s experienced despite being just 26.

A second-round pick by the Panthers, Clausen started 10 games as a rookie, but tossed just three touchdown passes and nine interceptions in 13 total contests. The next year, the Panthers used the No. 1 pick in the draft to select Cam Newton, and Clausen never took another regular-season snap in Carolina.

The Bears believe the way Clausen dealt with such adversity as a rookie, the shoulder injury, and Carolina’s selection of Newton improved the quarterback’s mental toughness.

“I think that’s how everything works in life: right place at the right time,” Clausen said. “Everything is about timing and opportunities, and when you get that opportunity you’ve got to flourish. So I’ve been working hard, trying to get my shoulder 100 percent and wait for my opportunity. I have it now.”

Clausen said he brings some lessons from his time in Carolina to the current situation in Chicago.

“The biggest thing is knowledge. Obviously, I had a rough rookie year,” Clausen said. “Just coming back my second and third year just to learn and watch the game from the sidelines, I did that at Notre Dame as well, and it just helped me grow and learn different things. They helped me out a lot, whether it was Cam, whether it was Derek Anderson or Coach [Mike] Shula, there was a lot of knowledge in that room. It helped me a lot because we would bounce things off each other. I learned a lot of knowledge, especially defensively [in the way teams defend offenses].”

Palmer, meanwhile, refuses to put much thought into the recent setback with his shoulder and how the addition of Clausen might affect his chances at winning the job as Cutler’s backup. In fact, Palmer says he’s been a Clausen fan “for a long time” because “we grew up in the same area.”

“In my position, I’ve had to compete every single year since I was in high school. I’ve had to compete for a job,” Palmer said. “I’ve had to beat somebody out or had to compete to keep my job. So whatever the situation is and how everybody looks at it, I’m just focused on each day. Regardless of how many guys [are] in the room, I’m in the same position. I need to go out here, and move the team when I’m in there, make good decisions, and everything will shake out here at the end of camp.”
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.
Chicago's addition of veteran Jimmy Clausen on Thursday added a level of intrigue to the competition for the job as the primary backup to quarterback Jay Cutler.

Clausen
Jordan Palmer appeared to be the front runner to seize that gig. But for undisclosed reasons, he participated only in the individual portion of the club's last session of organized team activities, which were open to the media. Two days later, the Bears bring in Clausen for a workout at Halas Hall and make the decision to sign him.

It's also interesting that Bears coach Marc Trestman played a role in preparing Clausen for the 2010 NFL draft.

So what did the team like about Clausen? Quite a bit, actually. First off, Clausen produced a strong workout for Trestman and the club's scouting staff. The way Clausen tossed the pill -- with a tight spin and good accuracy -- gave pretty much everyone in attendance confidence the quarterback is fully healthy after undergoing shoulder surgery last September to repair a torn right labrum suffered during the 2013 preseason finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The team likes Clausen's football smarts, and solid mechanics, too. Remember, Trestman is a stickler for mechanics and fundamentals. Clausen's mental toughness also played into the team's decision to bring him aboard.

As a second-round pick by the Carolina Panthers out of Notre Dame, Clausen started in 10 games as a rookie, but threw for just three touchdowns and nine interceptions in 13 outings. The Panthers finished the 2010 season, fired the coach, and later used the No. 1 pick of the draft to select Cam Newton.

Clausen never took another regular-season snap in Carolina.

To push through the lack of success as a rookie, after being a highly-touted player throughout college and going into the draft, the shoulder injury, and the Panthers drafting Newton, Clausen showed a level of resilience and mental toughness the Bears appreciated. Throw in Clausen's experience: He's 26, and like Palmer, is going into his fifth season. Yet Clausen has thrown 284 more passes than Palmer, with 147 more completions for 1,499 yards.

Clausen further helped his cause with a good session on the board with the coaches, and a positive personal interview with them.

The team's plan is to carry a minimum of five quarterbacks through the end of veteran minicamp, which wraps up on June 19. As it stands now, the roster features five signal-callers in Cutler, Palmer, Clausen, Jerrod Johnson, and rookie sixth-round pick David Fales.

Emery said in March the team would “look at the draft for an opportunity to add to our quarterback roster,” and made good on that with the selection of Fales. In the very next breath, Emery mentioned the club would “bring in a bunch of veterans” after free agency, “take a look at who's still looking for an opportunity, and we'll bring them in, try them out, and we may sign another one.” The Clausen signing takes care of that one.

Now it's time to just sit back and watch how it all plays out.

Over the past four seasons, Cutler has missed 13 regular-season games because of injuries, and that doesn't include other games he was unable to finish. So recent history tells us at some point the backup quarterback will have to take some snaps. Now, it's all about determining who that player will be in 2014.
Joe WebbAP Photo/Paul Sancya"'Monday Night Football,' you can't get better than that," said Joe Webb of his probable first start.
Speaking on a conference call last week, Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith turned the tables on a group of reporters. Asked about the rookie quarterback he's likely to face Monday night, Smith laughed and said: "You guys could probably tell more about him than me. So let's have your scouting report."

To put it bluntly, does it matter? Whoever takes the Minnesota Vikings' first snap will be the fourth backup quarterback the Bears have faced this season. Smith's team has won all three previous games, allowing a total of 26 points and limiting the passers to an average of 142 yards per game.

ESPNChicago.com's Jon Greenberg suggested the "Bears are getting another break in a season full of fortune." Indeed, they appear to be living the kind of charmed existence necessary for most division winners in this era of NFL parity.

And let's be clear: The Bears won't simply be facing a backup quarterback at TCF Bank Stadium. The Vikings' starter will be a pull-the-ripcord-emergency replacement for Brett Favre and Tarvaris Jackson, both of whom suffered significant injuries in consecutive weeks.

The Vikings announced Saturday they will start Joe Webb -- a sixth-round draft choice once projected as a receiver and whose future position remains unclear. His backup will be journeyman Patrick Ramsey, whose first practice with the team was Thursday.

Webb's ascendance should please fans of both teams. For the Vikings, he represents the excitement of the unknown at the end of a deeply disappointing season. The Bears have remained publicly respectful of Webb, but surely they know he is the rawest quarterback they have faced this season and one who will start only through unique circumstances.

If common sense had prevailed in the spring, Webb would be into his 15th week as a receiver/kick returner/Wildcat quarterback. That was the original vision after Senior Bowl coaches switched him from quarterback to receiver in January. Webb, in fact, gained some national buzz after the emergence of a YouTube video that showed him jumping over seven stacked drill bags.

[+] EnlargeMinnesota's Joe Webb
Nick Laham/Getty ImagesIt will be Joe Webb (14), not Brett Favre, who starts for the Vikings on Monday night.
The Vikings drafted him as a receiver, but former coach Brad Childress switched him to quarterback during rookie minicamp. (My theory is that Webb was a pawn in Childress' vendetta against former backup Sage Rosenfels, whom he wanted to jettison. Making Webb the presumptive No. 3 quarterback provided the perfect avenue. But I digress....)

Is he a quarterback because of his skills or as the result of a Machiavellian sideshow? I'm not sure. Regardless, Webb has appeared permanently amused ever since. As in: Not even I can believe I'm a quarterback on a National Football League roster. Watching him practice and interact with teammates has been at once charming and frightening.

"I really like his attitude," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "He's got great confidence in his ability. He's kind of an unflappable guy. He does come across like he doesn't know what he doesn't know [and doesn't know] what he's getting himself into. He just really does believe in his ability and that he can make plays in the field."

We'll find out Monday night if that confidence is justified or borne from blissful ignorance. Frankly, it could be either. Webb had the kind of training camp that made you cringe at times and raise an eyebrow at others. He'd throw a 6-yard duck followed by a 50-yard rope. He tantalized late-game preseason observers with a 48-yard touchdown run against the San Francisco 49ers and, as expected, helped nudge Rosenfels off the roster in September.


Considering Favre's 18-year streak of consecutive starts, the decision carried little weight at the time. But now Webb is set to make his first NFL start on "Monday Night Football" against a defense that ranks fifth in the NFL with 26 takeaways. Oh, and the game-time temperature is expected to be around 20 degrees -- or about 20 degrees lower than the coldest game he said he ever started at Alabama-Birmingham.

"I mean, it's a great opportunity. "Monday Night Football," you can't get better than that," Webb said. "You've been dreaming that ever since you've been a little kid. Watching the game ever since you've been a little kid and now I'm probably going to be a part of it. [I'd] love to take advantage of it."

Webb has carried himself as a happy-go-lucky interloper in an NFL locker room. Monday night, he'll have a chance to demonstrate he belongs on the big stage.

"Joe, he is a character," Bevell said. "He's got great personality. The guys like him. The players around him feed off his energy. But he has great confidence, and I don't think he has any doubt about stepping in the huddle, calling plays, doing what we're asking him to do. ... As long as he's working within the offense, who can't believe in him?"

Here's the better question: If the Bears took care of business against Jimmy Clausen, Tyler Thigpen and Drew Stanton, shouldn't they do the same against Joe Webb? Who can't believe that?

Big Question: The best backup QB?

July, 13, 2010
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NFC Big Question: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Who's the best backup QB in the NFC North?

Take a few minutes and peruse all the NFL depth charts. Look at the No. 2 quarterbacks for every team. This isn’t a topic that is discussed enough, but it is a putrid group. Not every team has a clear-cut No. 2 and some of the quarterbacks who presently qualify are extremely young and unproven -- such as Sam Bradford or Jimmy Clausen -- making it hard to comment on their NFL acumen. But overall, the backup quarterback situation in this league is horrendous.

[+] EnlargeTarvaris Jackson
AP Photo/Andy KingBackup QB Tarvaris Jackson has 19 starts -- 12 in 2007 -- in four seasons with the Vikings.
For the sake of this exercise, I am assuming that Brett Favre is the Vikings’ starter. And Favre just doesn’t miss games. But even though he is unlikely to see the field, I give Minnesota's Tarvaris Jackson the nod over Detroit's Shaun Hill, Green Bay's Matt Flynn and Chicago's Caleb Hanie as the top backup in the NFC North.

This is a two-horse race between Jackson and Hill, as both quarterbacks have at least started games in the NFL. Flynn and Hanie fall into that “relative unknown” category at this stage. I do think Flynn is cerebral and would do little to hurt his high-powered offense. In fact, if I saw a little more of Flynn in action, I might tab him the best backup in this division. But there just isn’t enough to go off of right now -- 17 career passing attempts aren’t enough. Hanie might surprise as a nice side project for Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz, but again, I just can’t rank him over Jackson or Hill without seeing a lot more from him first.

Trust me, I am not a believer in either Jackson or Hill. They both have a huge flaws. Jackson has proven to be too inaccurate of a passer at all levels. He also consistently tries to do too much -- which he proves to be incapable of over and over again. Hill is very tough and plays with moxie. He has won his share of games as a starter. As the veteran presence among this group of quarterbacks, his contributions most likely will come in the meeting room and off the field. Hill also doesn’t turn over the ball often and is a quick decision-maker. But Hill’s physical tools, namely his arm, will always hold him back from being able to utilize the entire field, which is why he was allowed to leave San Francisco with little in return in a trade.

Jackson can improve and did show positive signs before Favre came to Minnesota. The tools are there. He has a big, strong frame, an excellent arm and great athletic ability. But I don’t think he will ever be a respectable passer in terms of his accuracy -- in fact, he wasn’t even all that accurate at Alabama State.

In the end, I will take Jackson over Hill, Flynn or Hanie. But again, I wouldn’t be excited about any of the options.

Vikings polish edges with Gerhart

April, 23, 2010
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Toby GerhartKirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireThe Vikings will pair Stanford running back Toby Gerhart, above, with Adrian Peterson.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Here is a measure of Minnesota's confidence in its roster: The Vikings' top two picks of the 2010 draft both play positions with long-term starters firmly in place.

Virginia cornerback Chris Cook faces a season as a reserve/special teams player behind veterans Antoine Winfield, Lito Sheppard, Benny Sapp and eventually Cedric Griffin. Stanford running back Toby Gerhart, meanwhile, will get the touches left over by workhorse starter Adrian Peterson.

So it goes for a team that is expected to bring back all 22 starters from the group that advanced to the NFC Championship Game. The Vikings didn't find their quarterback of the future on Friday, twice passing up Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen and Texas' Colt McCoy, but they still wound up with two players who figure -- at best -- to play secondary roles in 2010.

"We've helped our roster a lot today," said vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman, referring to the all-important depth Cook and Gerhart will provide. The way Gerhart ended up with the Vikings illustrates the way Spielman is approaching this draft: As a tool to polish the edges of his roster.

I was totally on board with the Vikings' decision to let veteran tailback Chester Taylor depart via free agency. If the Vikings follow past practice and Peterson stays healthy, their backup running back will get no more than 150 touches in 2010. It would have been irrational to pay Taylor the $7 million in guarantees he got from Chicago for such a limited role.

The Vikings made one run at signing a veteran replacement, but when veteran LaDainian Tomlinson signed with the New York Jets, Spielman quickly pivoted toward the draft -- where it is a more than reasonable expectation to find a complementary running back.

"I knew what was coming out in the draft and I knew the potential runners that could be available to us," Spielman said. "So if something does not work out in free agency, I have a pretty extensive chart.... So you make a run at one. You don't have to panic because potentially you can get something down the road in the draft."

Spielman passed on an opportunity to draft Cal's Jahvid Best at No. 30 overall Thursday night. But he jumped for Gerhart -- giving up his third-round pick (No. 93 overall) to move up 11 spots in the second round. Although Gerhart's 231-pound frame is big enough to be a fullback, the Vikings project him as a traditional (and bruising) tailback in their scheme. Although he didn't fully confirm it, coach Brad Childress suggested Gerhart has the tools to replace Taylor as a third-down back as well.

"I think you see a very versatile athlete there," Childress said. "I know he carried the ball between the tackles [at Stanford], ... but he's exceptional in the pass game. It's not something that was highly emphasized there. I know the system that [Stanford] runs, and he'll come in here and be able to adapt very quickly. He gives you a bigger body, whether it's a backup running back or a special teamer."

Because he has that "bigger" frame and attended Stanford, Gerhart has drawn middling comparisons to former Cardinal fullback Tommy Vardell. But Gerhart runs the 40-yard dash in a legitimate 4.5 seconds, and I think anyone who watched him play in college knows he has a significant burst and tremendous competitive instincts. Even Gerhart said he believes he has "more wiggle" than Vardell and that he can be "more all-purpose."

You'll find no argument here. I might not draft Gerhart be a 20-carry per game back, but that's not what the Vikings need as long as Peterson is on the roster.

"I'm not sure what my role is going to be," Gerhart said, "but I think it's going to be to complement the best running back in football. ... I look forward to finding out more and contributing to the team."

In the scenario I believe the Vikings envision, Gerhart will follow in Taylor's footsteps: About three-to-six carries per game and two-to-three catches in third-down situations. I think that's a fair way to use him, and it's a rotation that Childress and running backs coach Eric Bieniemy established during three years of working with Peterson and Taylor.

Bieniemy, in fact, once recruited Gerhart to UCLA when he worked as the Bruins' running backs coach in 2006. Gerhart planned to commit until the Vikings hired Bieniemy away two weeks before NCAA signing day. Bieniemy had big plans for Gerhart as a feature back then. Now, he'll have him as a finishing touch.

"Kind of ironic," Gerhart said.

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