NFC North: Jonathan Scott

Teams around the NFL can start contacting and negotiating with agents of players set to become unrestricted free agents on Saturday, but deals can't be executed until 3 p.m. CST March 11 when the new league year starts.

As that date quickly approaches, we take a look at Chicago's pending free agents, and their chances of returning to the team in the fourth part of our series we'll post all week.

2014 free agent: Blake Costanzo

Position: Special teams/linebacker

2013 statistics: Special teams -- 17 tackles, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery; Defense -- two tackles

2013 salary: $715,000 base salary and $25,000 workout bonus -- $740,000 cash value

Outlook: Costanzo led the Bears in special teams tackles but the team has made no attempt to re-sign him since the end of the regular season. The outspoken Costanzo didn't seem to click with first-year head coach Marc Trestman. However, Costanzo is a valuable contributor on special teams. He is sure to find work, but the prospects of him returning to Chicago are bleak. Costanzo received a $400,000 signing bonus from the Bears when he inked his two-year deal in 2012. That would be a great guaranteed number for Costanzo to strive for in the next round of free agency that begins March 11.

2014 free agent: Eben Britton

Position: Guard/offensive tackle

2013 statistics: None. Played in 13 games with four starts as an extra tight end.

2013 salary: $715,000 base salary and no bonuses and $4,200 workout bonus -- $718,200 cash value

Britton
Britton
Outlook: Didn't play the first three games before making his Bears debut Sept. 29 and later starting four games as an extra tight end in some of the club's run sets. In all, Britton played in 13 games and is a valuable backup with extensive experience as a starter. In fact, Britton could attract interest in free agency from teams wanting him to come in to compete for a starting job. Chicago will let Britton test the market to see how things shape up for him, and if he doesn't receive consideration as a potential starter, the Bears might look into bringing him back as a reserve with a veteran-minimum salary.

2014 free agent: Patrick Mannelly

Position: Long snapper

2013 statistics: One special teams tackle

2013 salary: $940,000 base salary and $5,250 workout bonus -- $945,250 cash value

Outlook: When Mannelly recovers from offseason hip surgery he will have a one-year, veteran minimum salary waiting for him from the Bears. Entering his 17th NFL season, Mannelly's skills are still sharp. Maybe he doesn't snap like he did five years ago, but he certainly appears capable of being effective and his usual near-flawless self for the Bears in 2014. There is a chance Mannelly, who turns 39 next month, could decide to walk away from the game on his own terms. That is always a possibility. But if the Bears' all-time leader in games played still has the itch to snap in the NFL, the Bears are expected to welcome him back with open arms. Why wouldn't they?

2014 free agent: Jonathan Scott

Position: Special teams/linebacker

2013 statistics: None. Inactive for all 15 games he spent with the team.

2013 salary: $715,000 base salary -- $672,941 cash value

Outlook: The Bears cut Scott in early September of last season to avoid being strapped with guaranteeing his salary for 2013 due to the fact he was a vested veteran. The Bears brought him back less than a week later, and although Scott was with the team for the final 15 games, he never saw action. Scott, 31, will test the market, according to his representatives, and it's unlikely the Bears will look to re-sign him unless they run into trouble finding younger players capable of contributing as reserves.

McClellin inactive again for Bears

November, 17, 2013
11/17/13
12:55
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CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bears released their list of inactives in advance of Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens, and defensive end Shea McClellin will miss his second-consecutive game due to a pulled hamstring.

Other Bears inactives include quarterback Jay Cutler, linebacker Lance Briggs, long snapper Patrick Mannelly, offensive lineman James Brown, offensive tackle Jonathan Scott and defensive tackle Jay Ratliff.

Ravens inactives include defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, receiver Marlon Brown, safety Omar Brown, running back Bernard Scott, receiver Brandon Stokley, offensive lineman Ryan Jensen and linebacker John Simon.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton and receiver Earl Bennett both described their concussions as headaches that wouldn’t go away. But now that they’ve dissipated and the protocol has been satisfied, the duo has been cleared for Sunday’s Week 1 matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals.

“I know we have a huge season ahead of us, and not really knowing when I was going to start feeling better exactly, it was a little nerve-wracking,” Melton said. “But finally, the clouds cleared.”

Melton and Bennett took part in Monday’s workout, as did all of the club’s other previously injured players such as offensive tackle Jonathan Scott (knee), linebacker D.J. Williams (calf), and long snapper Patrick Mannelly (ribs).

Bennett suffered a concussion on Aug. 3 during a practice at Soldier Field, which forced him to sit out the entire preseason and every practice since. Bennett’s inactivity has led to concerns about his conditioning. Although Bennett plans to play Sunday against the Bengals, Bears coach Marc Trestman said that “it might not be plausible for him to play” because of the conditioning concerns.

“We’ll see how he looks during the course of the week. He ran well today. He was involved in reps. Obviously he hasn’t had the practice time or the conditioning level right now. So it’s plausible [that Bennett won’t play]. I don’t want to say unlikely because I don’t know how the week’s going to go,” Trestman said. “But it’s plausible he could be out on Sunday. It’s possible that he could be up. We’ll just see how the rest of the week goes. We’ve got another day off. He’s got three days of work ahead. We’ll see how all that fits together come Sunday.”

If Bennett doesn’t play, it’s likely that rookie Marquess Wilson or Joe Anderson would line up as the third receiver.

“Actually, I’m pretty good conditioning-wise,” Bennett said. “I’ve been up here running -- shoulder pads, helmets -- the past few days, just making sure that I’m in great shape. I’m very eager. I’m excited to be back. Excited to get back to work, and continue to work hard. Like I said, my plan is to play this week, so I look forward to this game.”

Melton does, too. Melton suffered his concussion in the preseason opener at Carolina on Aug. 9.

“They’ve been working me pretty hard all through the weekend, trying to get me back,” Melton said. “I’m feeling good. I went out there and ran a little bit.”

Scott, meanwhile, has been recovering from a minor procedure on his right knee, but practiced Monday for the first time since training camp in what he called a “limited” workout. A reserve offensive tackle, Scott said his expectation is to play against the Bengals if needed.

“Physically and emotionally I’ve been dying to be out here with this team and get after it,” Scott said. “I’m just happy to be in the position to play again.”
Here are three positional battles to monitor heading into the Chicago Bears’ preseason finale versus the Cleveland Browns:

1. Running back: Undrafted rookie Michael Ford is making a strong push to grab one of the final spots on the 53-man roster after returning a kickoff 100 yards in the second preseason game against San Diego, then following up that performance with 58 rushing yards and a touchdown on nine carries last week in Oakland. If the Bears decide to keep just three tailbacks, it means either Ford or veteran Armando Allen has to go. Allen played well last season for the Bears, appearing in 15 games and recording seven special-teams tackles. But Allen has been working his way back from an injury the past couple weeks, which has opened the door for the less expensive rookie out of LSU to showcase himself in these preseason games. Both figure to receive ample playing time tonight at Soldier Field.

2. Quarterback: The Bears’ offense is entirely in the hands of veteran quarterbacks Jordan Palmer and Trent Edwards after Bears head coach Marc Trestman announced last week that starter Jay Cutler and No. 2 Josh McCown would not see the field in the final preseason contest. If the Bears open the season with three quarterbacks, and that is still an if, the final spot could be determined by which of the two reserves has a better game against the Browns, plus what each accomplished on the practice field the past two weeks. The Bears got a brief look at just Palmer last week in the fourth quarter (1-for-1, five yards), but both quarterbacks will get an extended look tonight. Even if the Bears decide to go with just two quarterbacks to start the year, the team might still find themselves in need of another QB later in the season -- that’s why this is still an important game for Palmer and Edwards, regardless.

3. Offensive line: If the Bears retain eight offensive linemen, as offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer hinted earlier in training camp, then two spots might still be available. That means Jonathan Scott, Eben Britton, J’Marcus Webb and Taylor Boggs are probably the guys still alive to make the team, although sometimes these calls are already made before the final preseason game. Scott has actually pulled off the rare feat of improving his position on the team despite missing the past several weeks with a knee injury that required a procedure to clean it out. That’s because Webb has continued to struggle ever since being demoted to second-team left tackle. Webb is a mystery. He has all the physical gifts, but his inconsistency coupled with his strange behavior and apparent lack of passion toward the game, makes him a strong candidate to get cut. If Scott’s knee is OK for Week 1, then it might make sense to just keep him and Britton, try and sneak Boggs on the practice squad, and send Webb on his merry way. But if Webb wants to make one final stand, he better make the most his opportunities tonight.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton is expected to be medically cleared next week from a concussion and be ready for the regular season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 8.

[+] EnlargeHenry Melton
Dennis Wierzbicki/USA TODAY Sports Henry Melton appears to be on track to return from a concussion and play in the opener against the Bengals.
Melton, who suffered the concussion on Aug. 9, wore a helmet and participated in the individual open portion of practice on Wednesday, but he is remains off-limits to the media, per NFL rules.

"All indications are he is progressing that way (to be cleared by next week), yes," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. "When Monday shows up I don't know what the doctors are going to say, but the indications are if not by Monday then by Wednesday."

However, Trestman isn't exactly sure what kind of physical shape Melton will be in after missing the last couple of weeks.

"It's a question mark," Trestman said, "He's still getting himself back into shape and he's got four or five more days to do that. We're working with him to get him up to speed. His number of reps could change due to his conditioning level a week from Sunday (versus the Bengals), but we've got some time."

Wide receiver Earl Bennett (concussion) continues to be listed as day-to-day, but Bennett ran routes and caught passes on a side practice field on Wednesday. Bennett has been sidelined since Aug. 2.

"Earl came out and ran today," Trestman said. "He was out here earlier and had a helmet and shoulder pads and was out here running around. He caught some balls out here in practice. He is still day-to-day, but it's encouraging. He's been released to work and begin his re-conditioning process. So that's a good sign."

In other injury news, cornerback Zack Bowman (hamstring), linebacker J.T. Thomas (hamstring), offensive tackle Jonathan Scott (knee) and defensive tackle Corvey Irvin (ankle) all sat out practice on Wednesday.

Bowman's hamstring injury isn't believed to be serious.

Also, linebacker D.J. Williams did limited work at practice as he continues to recover from a serious calf injury.

Don’t ring the alarm regarding recent concerns expressed by Bears receiver Brandon Marshall about his place in the offense, level of conditioning and recovery from a January arthroscopic hip surgery.

Marshall dropped two passes and had another knocked away against the Raiders. But the week before, he caught four of the five passes thrown his way, including one grab for a 5-yard touchdown. Despite the limited action we’ve seen thus far from Marshall, would any of the few snaps we’ve seen (50 by my count) suggest the Bears should be worried?

Marshall
“I had about 10 drops,” Marshall said in recalling last week’s win over Oakland. “I think the offense did well. For myself -- mentally, physical -- we need to pick it up a little more.”

That’s the mentality of an elite player: hypercritical. It’s simply Marshall digesting the reality that with less than two weeks before the start of the regular season, with the team learning a new offense, he’s still got a ways to go if he plans on matching his record-setting production from 2012.

Against the Raiders, Jay Cutler targeted second-year receiver Alshon Jeffery eight times for seven completions; twice the number of passes thrown to Marshall. But let’s not forget Marshall accounted for close to half of the team’s receiving yardage in 2012, and while that number will fall off some in 2013 in Marc Trestman’s new offense, he’ll still catch his fair share of balls. So Marshall, at this point, shouldn’t be worried that he’s “still trying to figure out my role and my place in this offense.”

Jeffery and tight end Martellus Bennett will see plenty of passes thrown their way. But ultimately, the success of Chicago’s passing game this season will hinge on Marshall, who at this point says “it’s [now about] getting a feel for [the new offense], and having more experience in the offense.”

Trestman made that clear Monday, saying the receiver is “going to have a lot of catches and certainly be instrumental in the success of our offense, and ultimately our team.”

“It’s B,"" Cutler said. “He’s going to take it hard for a couple of days, and then he’ll snap out of it and he’ll be the guy we need next week. This week we don’t need him. So he can stay on the ledge for a couple more days, and then come back next week. Conditioning-wise, he’s a little behind. He knows where he needs to be. It’s just a matter of him pushing his hip through things when it gets tight a little bit. Once we start getting into a routine in a game week, and we shorten some of these reps, we’ll really figure out exactly what routes we want him on, and where we want him on the field. Hopefully things will sharpen us for his hip, and he’ll be able to make it go.”

Given the limited amount of snaps played by Marshall throughout the offseason, training camp and the preseason, he can’t yet fully visualize the role Trestman envisions for him because he simply hasn’t been on the field enough to become immersed in it. As for Marshall’s implication the club might be rushing him back too soon, perhaps there’s some truth to that. But he should know and understand the balancing act the team is performing in its attempt to keep him healthy, while also getting him the necessary reps to fully digest the offense which, eventually, will work the receiver into playing shape.

Coming into training camp, it appeared Marshall and Trestman weren’t necessarily on the same page. On the day the club reported, Marshall said he needed to “listen to his body” and expected (and also eventually received) a few days off here and there as he continued to recover. That same day, Trestman spoke about how teams could no longer be liberal in granting days off for veterans because of the limited practices allotted in the new collective bargaining agreement.

When Marshall first underwent the surgery, a source close to him said he expected the receiver to be back “playing basketball in two weeks.” Surely, Marshall expected the same.

Now that things haven’t gone the way he expected, Marshall's a little concerned, and rightfully so, because only the receiver truly knows what’s going on in his body. Still, it’s worth it to remember the type of athlete Marshall is, and his sky-high expectations for the season.

“Brandon is working his tail off to get himself ready,” Trestman said. “He feels a sense of urgency. He’s a highly competitive man. He can only comment on how he feels. You saw him on the field at Soldier Field. You saw that he does have those moments where he can practice and work at a very high level. There have been days that haven’t gone so well for him, and then he will bounce back.”

So now isn’t the time to get overly worked up about Marshall. Oakland might have been the setback, but my guess is Cincinnati on Sept. 8 is the bounce back.

Here's a couple of links to Bears news:

-- ESPN The Magazine columnist Chris Jones loves him some Jay Cutler.

-- Adam Jahns would be surprised if the Bears cut Devin Hester.

-- John “Moon” Mullin looks at the battle at swing tackle between Jonathan Scott and J’Marcus Webb.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Middle linebacker D.J. Williams returned to practice on Tuesday for the first time since suffering a July 31 right calf injury, but the club’s plan for him moving forward is murky with the starters not expected to play Thursday in the preseason finale and the regular-season opener nearly two weeks away.

Williams didn’t participate fully in practice.

Williams
Williams
“But he’s getting more work,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said.

Williams took part Monday in pre-practice stretching, and has also spent some time running. But Trestman said Monday that Williams’ conditioning could be an issue for the opener. So there’s a chance the team could opt to hold out Williams in favor of rookie second-round pick Jon Bostic, who has filled in as the starting middle linebacker.

“I couldn’t answer that question,” Trestman said when asked whether Williams would be ready for the opener. “Each and every day he gets a little better, and we’ll know a lot more at the beginning of next week. He’s got four or five days before our first day of practice on Monday. So we’ll see how it is at that point in time. I can’t answer the question other than there’s improvement there. Talking to him, he’s certainly positive that he can be ready. Players are always that way. They are, and they should be. We’ll see. I’m encouraged, but we don’t know at this time.”

The Bears signed Williams to a one-year contract in March worth $900,000 as the replacement at middle linebacker for Brian Urlacher, and drafted Bostic as the future at the position.

Bostic
But Williams’ calf injury pushed Bostic into the starting spot, and the rookie has turned heads with big hits and game-changing plays such as his interception return for a touchdown in the exhibition opener at Carolina.

Still, Trestman wasn’t ready on Monday to declare Bostic the starter.

“Well, I am not going to use that term ‘starting middle linebacker,’” Trestman said. “(Bostic) has started in the last couple games, and I think he has continued to grow and get better, and shown he can be a very good player in this league. He is fitting in and if he happens to be the guy who is that guy on Game 1 or Game 2 or whatever it is, I think he can grow into the position and be a more than sufficient middle linebacker in this league.”

With Williams still technically a starter, it’s unlikely the Bears would place him in harm’s way by giving him snaps Thursday against the Cleveland Browns. Given that Williams has missed virtually all of training camp and the preseason, he won’t have any way to compete with Bostic for the starting job.

Perhaps Williams’ long track record in the NFL is sufficient enough for the staff. Before joining the Bears, Williams played in 127 games for the Denver Broncos with 115 starts and has posted 886 tackles (673 solo) to go with 20.5 sacks, two interceptions, 14 forced fumbles and seven recoveries. Throughout his career, Williams has posted five 100-tackle seasons.

“There’s always competition. It’s compete to play, compete to stay,” Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said. “So there’s nothing ever set in stone. You’re only as good as your next play. That’s what we preach to the guys. So every time out is important. Every practice is important, every meeting, every rep that we take in a game. It all means something.”

In other injury news, the Bears practiced Tuesday without offensive tackle Jonathan Scott (knee), defensive tackle Corvey Irvin (ankle), cornerback Zack Bowman (hamstring), and running back Harvey Unga (undisclosed).

The team also held out defensive tackle Henry Melton and receiver Earl Bennett, who continue to go through the concussion protocol. Melton and Bennett took part in pre-practice stretches with teammates, and they’re also working on physical conditioning.

Trestman believed that Tuesday marked the first time Bennett had run since suffering the concussion.

“Earl and Henry both got running in today,” he said.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears returned to the field to resume workouts Monday, but continued to hold out defensive tackle Henry Melton and receiver Earl Bennett as the duo works through the steps of the concussion protocol to return to the field.

Melton and Bennett attended the session inside the Walter Payton Center during the portion of practice open to the media, but it appears neither has been cleared to return to activity. Considering the starters aren’t likely to play much, if any, during the preseason finale against Cleveland on Thursday, there’s no rush for Melton and Bennett to return to the field.

“Henry is into (the) running (phase of the concussion protocol). Earl is day-to-day," coach Marc Trestman said. "I know he was with some of the medical people this morning, I haven’t checked. Henry ran today. He’s going to run tomorrow and Wednesday and pick up that running significantly. That’s where he is at this point.”

However, the Bears have already begun preparations for the regular-season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 8, and the week leading into that outing would seem to be the target date for Melton and Bennett to rejoin the team for workouts.

As the club’s franchise player, Melton has already solidified his status as a starter. Bennett, meanwhile, is competing with Joe Anderson, Eric Weems, Terrence Toliver and rookie Marquess Wilson for one of the receiver spots behind Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Bennett hasn’t practiced with the team since suffering the concussion on Aug. 3 at Soldier Field after a hard hit from safety Chris Conte.

Melton suffered his concussion in the first game of the preseason at Carolina.

In other injury news, the team held out quarterback Matt Blanchard (hand), linebacker D.J. Williams (calf), offensive tackle Jonathan Scott (knee), defensive tackle (Corvey Irvin) (ankle) and cornerback Zack Bowman (hamstring).

Fullback Harvey Unga (ribs), defensive end Cheta Ozougwu (hamstring), and long snapper Patrick Mannelly returned to the practice field Monday after missing last week’s game at Oakland.
OAKLAND, Calif. -- The door is wide open for veteran Jonathan Scott to be the Chicago Bears' swing tackle in the regular season after J'Marcus Webb had problems in the second half of the club’s 34-26 preseason win against the Oakland Raiders on Friday.

Things went bad for Webb quickly after he entered the game. The former starter got called for holding on the Bears’ third offensive play of the third quarter, then later in the fourth quarter Webb committed a false start. Not exactly the kind of performance Webb needed two weeks after being demoted to the second-team and losing his right tackle job to rookie Jordan Mills.

Webb’s issues occurred a couple of hours after Scott worked out with the training staff on the field pregame, fueling speculation that he could return from a knee procedure sometime next week, and perhaps be healthy enough to play in the Bears’ preseason finale Thursday versus the Cleveland Browns.

“I’m encouraged,” Bears head coach Marc Trestman said. “I know he worked out tonight but I haven’t talked to the trainers about that. But we’re encouraged by what’s going on with the guys that have (had) medical attention.”

Scott, a seven-year veteran, started seven games for the Bears last year after joining the club in September. Scott, Webb, Eben Britton, Taylor Boggs and Edwin Williams are all fighting to earn a spot on the 53-man roster while James Brown is secure as the swing guard. It’s unclear how many offensive linemen the Bears plan to keep, but offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said last week the number could be eight.

If that happens, Webb could be a casualty just one year after starting all 16 games for the Bears at left tackle.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Defensive tackle Henry Melton and wide receiver Earl Bennett remained sidelined on Tuesday due to concussions, but both players watched practice from the sidelines for the first time since the Chicago Bears concluded the Bourbonnais portion of their training camp on Aug. 13.

However, Melton and Bennett have still not passed the NFL concussion protocol to return to action, and therefore both continue to be off-limits to the media, per league rules.

While veteran Nate Collins has elevated his game filling in for Melton at defensive tackle, the picture at the No. 3 wide receiver spot is cloudier with Bennett out. Wideouts Joe Anderson, Marquess Wilson, Eric Weems, Terrence Toliver and Devin Aromashodu have all been given an opportunity to run with the first and second teams in recent weeks, but quarterback Jay Cutler said on Tuesday that he has no input on which specific player would fill the void left by Bennett if his absence continues to drag on.

"They don't give me an opinion so we'll see who they throw in there," Cutler said. "We'll see who Marc (Trestman), Phil (Emery) and those guys like. Whoever is out there I trust that they can get the job done."

In other injury news, quarterback Matt Blanchard (hand), fullback Harvey Unga (rib), defensive end Cheta Ozougwu (hamstring), linebacker D.J. Williams (calf), long snapper Patrick Mannelly (rib), offensive tackle Jonathan Scott (knee) and defensive tackle Corvey Irvin (ankle) were all held out of Tuesday's practice.

The news on Blanchard is encouraging. The second-year quarterback is expected to miss about a month, but could still have a role on the team in 2013 in some capacity. Blanchard also remains eligible for the practice squad.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears returned to Halas Hall on Monday to resume practice with eight players sitting out the workout, including defensive tackle Henry Melton and receiver Earl Bennett, who are still advancing through steps of the concussion protocol.

"Henry and Earl are getting better," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. "It's still day-to-day there, and we're keeping our fingers crossed there that it will continue to improve as it has."

Melton suffered a concussion in the first quarter of the team's preseason opener at Carolina, while Bennett's head injury came due to a hit from teammate Chris Conte during an Aug. 3 night practice at Soldier Field. It's unlikely the Bears will make either player available for Friday's preseason matchup at Oakland. Neither attended the workout on Monday, as both are recovering at home.

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CHICAGO -- Chicago Bears defensive end Julius Peppers will be sidelined for the second time this preseason Thursday against the San Diego Chargers, the team announced before the game.

Bears coach Marc Trestman said on Tuesday he anticipated Peppers and wide receiver Brandon Marshall making their preseason debuts against the Chargers, but the veteran pass-rusher was a late scratch due to coaches' decision.

Peppers, who has been battling a minor hamstring injury the past week and a half, was on the field watching the rest of his teammates going through pregame warm-ups.

However, Marshall and defensive end Corey Wootton are in uniform and scheduled to see action with the Bears starters for at least one quarter.

Also sitting out for the Bears: running back Armando Allen (hamstring), linebacker D.J. Williams (calf), defensive tackle Henry Melton (concussion), wide receiver Earl Bennett (concussion), long snapper Patrick Mannelly (ribs), offensive tackle Jonathan Scott (knee), fullback Harvey Unga (ribs) and tight end Kyle Adams.

San Diego rookie linebacker Manti Te'o has previously been ruled out due to a sprained foot.
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears returned to the practice field following their preseason opener in Carolina with a different starting combination on the right side of the offensive line with rookies right tackle Jordan Mills and right guard Kyle Long replacing James Brown and the embattled J'Marcus Webb.

[+] EnlargeKyle Long
Jerry Lai/USA TODAY SportsBears guard Kyle Long is working out with the first team at camp.
The Bears inserting 2013 first-round pick Long into the starting lineup is hardly a surprise since both he and Brown had been alternating reps with the No. 1 offense since the beginning of training camp. But Sunday marked the first time Mills, the Bears’ 2013 fifth-round choice out of Louisiana Tech, had jumped in front of Webb on the depth chart. Webb spent the practice at left tackle with the second team while Eben Britton worked at right tackle with the No. 2s. Veteran Jonathan Scott remained sidelined with a knee injury.

“It’s a great opportunity, it’s humbling, having Roberto Garza, Webb, Jermon Bushrod, Matt Slauson, the whole offensive line helps me,” Mills said. “They’re in your ear every time I make mistakes I can go to the sideline expecting some criticism, constructive criticism -- what to do here, you need to step this way, be a little bit lower, so it’s been great working with them. In my eyes, these dudes are all Hall of Famers in my eyes, so just to be here is so humbling.”

Bears head coach Marc Trestman cautioned that nothing is set in stone on the right side, but said Mills and Long will continue to get the bulk of the practice reps in the next couple of days leading up to the second preseason game against the San Diego Chargers, where the duo is likely to open up the game as starters.

However, Trestman stopped short of saying the team was sending a message to Webb.

“I think we've been very clear with J'Marcus about what we're doing,” Trestman said. “I said it last week that there's been an up-and-down performance level by J'Marcus but we were still going to do this. We were still going to give work to the other guys and see what they could do as well. So we'll evaluate it. We're going to go through the week like this. We'll evaluate the game and move forward into Oakland."

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Jay CutlerAP Photo/Nam Y. HuhJay Cutler will see minimal playing time in the preseason opener on Friday in Carolina.
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Don't expect quarterback Jay Cutler to be on the field for more than a handful of plays Friday night when the Chicago Bears open their preseason schedule on the road against the Carolina Panthers.

Bears coach Marc Trestman's plan is to pull all of his starters out of the game sometime in the first quarter and then get an extended look at reserve players and those fighting for a spot on the final 53-man roster.

"Jay will play, but he'll play very, very limited (snaps)," Trestman said. "How limited? I don't know. It could be three plays, it could be one play, it could be eight plays. We'll just see how the flow of the game goes. If we go three-and-out, we'll decide if he goes back in for another three. He may not.

"The starters, including Jay, if they’re going to play it will be minimally in this first game."

Wide receiver Earl Bennett (concussion) and linebacker D.J. Williams (calf) already have been ruled out for the Carolina game, while defensive end Julius Peppers (excused the last two days/hamstring) and offensive tackle Jonathan Scott also seem likely to miss the opening exhibition game.

Defensive tackle Henry Melton, safety Chris Conte and defensive end Corey Wootton all suffered minor injuries in practice on Wednesday and could be held out for precautionary reasons.

• Don't rule out the possibility of former Jacksonville Jaguars second-round draft choice Eben Britton eventually unseating J'Marcus Webb for the starting right tackle job. Britton, who started 30 games (23 at right tackle, seven at left guard) for the Jaguars from 2009-12, has come on strong after signing a one-year deal with the Bears on April 16.

While everything in the NFL is subject to change, Trestman said he envisions Britton as one of the active offensive linemen on game days in the regular season.

"I think Eben is in the mix of finding where our offensive line will be," Trestman said. "He's in the mix. He's had a very productive camp. He's versatile; he can play just about anywhere we put him, both on the left and right side. And at this point I can say he's definitely involved in being part of this roster -- on a week-to-week basis. The 46-(man active game day roster)."

• Less than 24 hours after Trestman and Bears offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Aaron Kromer told reporters that Bears' defensive linemen are told not to jump in the air and bat down balls thrown by Cutler, the quarterback opened the 11-on-11 portion of practice with, you guessed it, a tipped pass at the line of scrimmage that linebacker James Anderson intercepted.

• No. 2 quarterback Josh McCown continued to build on his strong camp when he zipped a ball in between two defenders in the end zone to tight end Fendi Onobun for a score.

• The next scheduled practice at Olivet Nazarene is Sunday at 3:15 p.m. The Bears' final summer workout on the ONU campus is Tuesday, Aug. 13. The remainder of training camp will then be held at the newly refurbished Halas Hall.

• Receiver Earl Bennett must now follow the NFL's concussion protocol to return to the field. There are four steps, including passing the concussion test, matching up with his baseline test, going through physical activities without symptoms, meeting with the doctors and being cleared by an independent neurologist. He was present on the practice field on Wednesday.
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- In a practice filled with defensive highlights, defensive end Shea McClellin authored the play of the day on Tuesday when he sniffed out a screen pass and intercepted a hard-thrown ball from quarterback Jay Cutler in the flat.

McClellin initially rushed up field on the play from his end spot before anticipating the throw by Cutler and coming down with a difficult catch. If the sequence had occurred in a real game, McClellin would have scored an easy defensive touchdown.

[+] EnlargeShea McClellin
Bradley Leeb/US PresswireShea McClellin said he feels faster, and it showed on a nice play Tuesday.
"I was just doing my job and reading my keys," McClellin said. "The ball was right there so I picked it off. I was just doing my job. I feel faster out there than I did in the spring after I lost eight pounds. I still feel like I get a little heavier, but I'll work on that after camp.

McClellin has been in a groove the last week, routinely winning one-on-one battles with offensive lineman in individual and team drills. The likely plan for the former first-round pick is to move him around the defensive front, lining him up in a two-point or three-point stance depending on the defensive call or the matchup, while sometimes requiring that he cover a tight end or guard the flat on passing downs.

The Bears asked McClellin to do some of that last year as a rookie, but expect to see more of it in 2013. That's because McClellin should receive a significant boost in play-time in the Bears' three-man starting defensive end rotation that also includes Julius Peppers and Corey Wootton.

On the topic of defensive lineman moving around, the Bears had several lineman stand up in a two-point stance and either rush the quarterback or run with a tight end in coverage, the most notable being Pro Bowl defensive tackle Henry Melton.


  • As the wide receiver bubble starts to take shape, Joe Anderson is doing whatever he can to earn a spot on the Bears' final 53-man roster. A standout on special teams in the final three regular-season games of 2012, Anderson has made several impressive catches throughout camp.

    On Tuesday, he beat safety Major Wright down the deep middle of the field and hauled in a touchdown bomb from Cutler.

    "It was just a beautiful pass by Cut, man," Anderson said. "The safety sat and I just ran by him."

    Anderson has the necessary physical skills (6-foot-1, 196 pounds), but admits that he still needs to work on the mental aspect of his game. Anderson was an undrafted rookie free agent last summer out of Texas Southern.

    "I'm just as strong as Brandon Marshall or anyone else that is out here," Anderson said. "So it's not the physical part, it's more mental, like learning the fundamentals of the game. Just the little things that can get you open in tight coverages, and that starts in the film room, getting in your playbook and taking good notes in the meeting room. Then you need to come out on the field and apply it all."

    It appears to be an open competition at wide receiver after the top three on the depth chart. Wideouts Anderson, Eric Weems, Devin Aromashodu, Terrence Toliver, Marquess Wilson, Josh Lenz, Marcus Rucker, Britton Golden and Jerrell Jackson all figure to get an extended look in the upcoming preseason games.

    Wilson, the Bears seventh-round draft choice, is intriguing because although his 6-foot-4, 184 pound frame may not be ready to contribute much for the Bears on offense or special teams this season, would he clear waivers if the team cut him with the intent of bringing him back on the practice squad? The last thing the Bears want to do is completely cut ties with a 20-year old receiver, who if he stayed in school and continued producing at the same rate he had over his first three years at Washington State, would've been a first-round or second-round pick in 2014.


  • Wide receiver Earl Bennett (concussion symptoms), nickel back Kelvin Hayden (hamstring), linebacker D.J. Williams (calf), offensive tackle Jonathan Scott (knee) and Peppers (excused) were all sidelined on Tuesday.

    Left tackle Jermon Bushrod participated in just individual drills for the second consecutive practice as he eases back from a right calf strain.

    Defensive tackle Stephen Paea (hip) had full participation.


  • Team matriarch Virginia McCaskey watched the workout and later chatted with Bears general manager Phil Emery.
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