NFC North: Kyle Fuller

LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Nearly five months since undergoing shoulder surgery, Chicago Bears free safety Chris Conte will make his preseason debut Friday night against the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.

“I feel good. I’m excited to go out there and play,” Conte said Wednesday. “I can’t wait to get back out there on the field and play football.”

Conrath
Conte
Conte, along with fellow safety Craig Steltz, were activated off the physically unable to perform list on Aug. 10, but both sat out against Jacksonville. Safety remains unsettled, although Ryan Mundy and Danny McCray have started in each of the two previous preseason games. Veteran Adrian Wilson is another candidate in the mix, but no final decision can be reached at safety until the Bears determine if Conte can bounce back from a difficult 2013.

Conte has been a mainstay in the Bears’ secondary the last three seasons, recording 230 tackles, six interceptions and one forced fumble in 40 career starts.

“Chris had a good week of practice,” Bears head coach Marc Trestman said. “He's running around. He's involved in terms of what we're doing. So we'll see. He's going to play. It looks certainly that he's going to play. And we haven't decided how much yet. But he'll be out there and he'll be competing and he's back in it to try to show us what he can do and we're excited to have him back.”

Barring a setback, Steltz is also expected to play on Friday, along with wide receiver/kick returner Chris Williams, who seems to be recovered from a hamstring injury that he suffered in the preseason opener.

The Bears held five players out of Wednesday’s practice: cornerback Kyle Fuller (ankle), guard Eben Britton (hamstring), center/guard Brian de la Puente (knee), cornerback Isaiah Frey (hamstring) and Mundy (excused).
CHICAGO -- Chicago Bears first-round pick Kyle Fuller is out of Thursday's matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars after suffering an ankle injury during the game's opening kickoff.

The severity of Fuller's injury wasn't immediately known. There's a chance the Bears could be taking a cautious approach with Fuller, who played extensively last week during the team's preseason opening win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

Fuller walked along the sideline under his own power, and didn't appear to be in any pain.

The No. 14 overall pick of the NFL draft out of Virginia Tech, Fuller had been playing with the starters at cornerback opposite Charles Tillman. Tim Jennings filled in for Fuller after the injury.

The team also announced tight end Zach Miller will also miss the rest of the game. Miller suffered a foot injury during the second quarter.
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- For just a split second, it appeared Martellus Bennett would do the right thing.

He turned to walk back to the huddle. Then, all of a sudden Bennett snapped, pushing rookie first-round pick Kyle Fuller, before body slamming him to the ground in a confrontation that required several players to break up, while also causing Bears coach Marc Trestman to end Monday’s training camp practice earlier than scheduled.

“It’s practice,” Bennett said later. “Practice is practice. I know I sound like Allen Iverson right now, but at the end of the day it’s practice. At practice, [expletive] happens.”

[+] EnlargeMartellus Bennett
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhMartellus Bennett was a hot topic at Bears camp on Monday for much more than just his receiving ability.
Perhaps that’s true. But practice is also where the habits exhibited in games -- such as team discipline -- are born.

Going all the way back to Bennett’s dustup with Lamarr Houston during organized team activities in May, Trestman has made clear on multiple occasions his stance on players fighting at practice. Trestman has called practice skirmishes a safety issue for the players that can lead to on-field discipline problems in games. The coach has also pointed out how such situations take away valuable time that could be otherwise used for repetitions that enable the team to get better.

Bennett’s scrape with Fuller brought to mind all those things.

Not only that, it was totally unnecessary.

The play that led to the fight involved Fuller trying to make a play on a pass thrown to Bennett. As Fuller reached in to strip the ball loose, the rookie grabbed near the chest area of Bennett’s shoulder pads and pulled the tight end down to the ground. Had the play occurred during a game, it would have been totally legal.

So what Bennett did made little sense.

Getting up off the ground, Bennett looked as if he’d brush off the play. He started to walk toward the huddle, and then turned back toward Fulller before going after him.

“Just a football play,” Fuller said. “Stuff like that happens.”

What took place afterward, however, shouldn’t have happened.

What if Bennett’s body slam to Fuller would have left him injured? Remember, the team not only invested a first-round pick in Fuller, but it plans to play the rookie extensively as a major contributor to Chicago’s revamped defense.

In the aftermath of the skirmish, Houston, Matt Forte, and Zach Miller tried to calm down Bennett, who was also yelling at star receiver Brandon Marshall. Several players voiced disgust on the field as the skirmish unfolded. Even offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer walked over to try to calm Bennett.

Trestman declined to divulge whether Bennett would be disciplined for Monday’s altercation.

“I don’t think that’s something I would address here,” Trestman said. “These are brief moments in a lot of really good moments of competition. We address it and we move on. I stopped the practice. I felt that it was time to stop. There were a lot of people who care a lot about this team involved. It was in the best interest of the team to move forward, finish with the walk-throughs and move on to our meetings.”

When asked about a potential fine, Bennett shrugged it off, saying, “I can afford it.”

But the team can’t, as 15-yard penalties and ejections from games ultimately cost clubs valuable wins.

To Bennett’s credit, he hasn’t lost it on the field in a game situation. At the same time, practices are where game habits are formed, and the current roster features 29 impressionable players with one year of experience or fewer.

“You learn from things that happen at practice,” Bennett said. “I’ve never done it in a game. I’ve done it in several practices before now.”

It needs to stop.

Bears Camp Report: Day 4

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
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BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Chicago Bears training camp:
  • Expectations are sky high for a Bears offense that ranked No. 2 in the NFL last year in points scored (27.8 per game) and No. 5 in passing yards (267.6 per game), but the opening four days of practice have produced a mixed bag of results from a unit that is expected to return all 11 starters. Monday’s performance was no different. At certain points of the session, quarterback Jay Cutler ran the offensive scheme to perfection, firing completions to wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Marquess Wilson and tight end Martellus Bennett that went for huge gains. On the flip side, Cutler badly underthrew Marshall on a deep route into double coverage that should’ve been intercepted by Bears defenders who were stationed in the area. Veteran cornerback Kelvin Hayden later picked off a deflected Cutler pass in full-team 11-on-11, Hayden’s third interception since the start of camp. There were also batted-down balls at the line of scrimmage and botched snaps from the center to the quarterback that resulted in Cutler describing the offense as “good and bad.” Cutler continued: “That is to be expected taking the time off in July. We’re getting better and better. There’s been some sloppy stuff out there. We’ve got to clean it up. I think the guys are doing a really good job of just recognizing the plays and getting lined up and knowing the concepts and knowing the checks and everything. So if we just clean up some of the little things as we go, we’ll be all right.”
  • The Bears desperately need their top three draft choices to step in and make immediate contributions on defense. First-round pick cornerback Kyle Fuller looks the part and continues to receive extensive reps on the first team in base and nickel with Tim Jennings temporarily sidelined due to a sore groin. Third-round choice Will Sutton got thrown into the fire on Monday at three-technique defensive tackle as the coaching staff decided to give Jeremiah Ratliff a veteran’s day off. Sutton appeared to hold up OK versus the heightened competition. Rookie nose tackle Ego Ferguson flashes the ability to get up-field in one-on-one individual pass-rush drills, but Ferguson has ended up on the ground on at least three separate occasions since the pads came on. Ferguson needs to find the perfect combination of speed and balance to ensure he doesn’t take himself out of the play when games begin for real next month.
  • Fans chanted “Mega-Punt” whenever first-year punter Pat O'Donnell connected with the football on Sunday. Not to be outdone, punter Tress Way won the matchup between the two aspiring kickers on Monday. As a sixth-round draft choice, O'Donnell is considered the favorite to win the job, but Way has proved to those in the organization that he is an NFL-caliber punter. Even if Way is eventually released, he can still make it in the league. Former Bears “camp legs” have found gainful employment in the league: Spencer Lanning (Cleveland Browns) and Ryan Quigley (New York Jets).
  • Most of the wideouts competing for the final roster spots have done little to distinguish themselves. The two exceptions are Eric Weems and Chris Williams. Not only are Weems and Williams natural fits in the return game, they have managed to catch the football in camp. The other reserve receivers have been plagued by drops.
  • Pro Bowl right guard Kyle Long (viral infection) visited doctors on Monday, but the team cannot say if Long will be back on the field when it returns to work on Wednesday. With Long out, the Bears have worked various combinations at guard, with Eben Britton, Michael Ola and Brian de la Puente all seeing time with the starters.
  • Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (sore foot), receiver Terrence Toliver (toe), safety Chris Conte (PUP) and safety Craig Steltz (PUP) were all spectators on Monday.
  • The Bears are off on Tuesday. The next practice is scheduled for Wednesday at 9 a.m. CT.

Bears Camp Report: Day 3

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27
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BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Chicago Bears training camp:
  • Pop-pop-pop-pop, pop-pop-pop-pop. That’s what you hear every day after practice. The players resemble Kung-Fu fighters in football pads as they work hand-fighting drills with martial arts expert Joe Kim, who was brought on by the Bears as a consultant to work on skill development. Cornerback Charles Tillman took part in the drills one-on-one with Kim on Sunday and said afterward he’s expecting the hand-fighting drills to help him improve at jamming receivers and getting off blocks better.
  • While we’re on the subject of hand-fighting drills, Kim joined the team mostly to work with the defensive line, because under defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, the scheme is changing drastically this season. Last year, the Bears employed Lovie Smith’s system, which emphasized penetration along the defensive line. The players were used to simply shooting the gaps to stop the run on the way to the quarterback. That’s all changing in 2014. The coaching staff wants Chicago’s defensive linemen to be technicians with their hands so they can engage opposing offensive linemen, stack them at the line, shed, and run to the ball. In the previous scheme, Chicago’s defensive linemen simply didn’t know how to use their hands effectively. Many times when they penetrated, they overran the ball because more and more now, teams are employing zone schemes that allow backs to pick their holes instead of the old-school leads, counters, and powers. By becoming better at using their hands, the D-line can also keep opposing offensive linemen off the club’s rangy linebackers, which in turn allows them to run around and make plays. In fact, Tucker recently turned on film of Chicago’s defensive line during a meeting, and many of the players on the roster that were a part of last year’s team were shocked at how badly the group played. What Tucker pointed out, according to one player in that meeting, was that last year, the group didn’t know how to use its hands. The joke among defenders now is that if one of the team’s linebackers has scratches or paint from the opponent’s helmets on their own, the defensive line isn’t sufficiently doing its job to keep offensive linemen off the linebackers. The Bears are expecting higher tackle totals this year among the linebackers, and the defensive line will be largely responsible for that.
  • It’s no real secret, but a couple of players to watch on special teams are linebacker Jordan Senn and safety Danny McCray. The staff believes Senn is a better special teams player than former Bear Blake Costanzo. McCray, meanwhile, was the best player on special-teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis’ units with the Dallas Cowboys.
  • The workout Sunday marked the team’s first in full pads. Coming off a torn ACL in 2013, fifth-year veteran Nate Collins produced the best performance among the defensive linemen in one-on-one drills against the offensive linemen. “You watch the practice tape, he's running full speed all over the field and finishing,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said.
  • Rookie first-round pick Kyle Fuller continues to impress, and appeared to get the best of Pro Bowl receiver Alshon Jeffery during one-on-one drills. Jeffery caught an extremely limited number of passes in the drill against Fuller, and one of those completions likely would’ve resulted in offensive pass interference as the receiver slapped the defender in the head and pushed off to get open.
  • Cornerback Tim Jennings (quadriceps) returned to practice, but pulled himself out of action after the first play in one-on-one drills because the leg “didn’t feel right,” according to Trestman. He’s still day to day. Defensive end Willie Young (quadriceps) returned to practice, but receiver Terrence Toliver (toe) was held out of the workout along with safeties Craig Steltz (groin) and Chris Conte (shoulder). It’s believed the bulked-up Conte will return to practice in the next week or two after missing the entire offseason conditioning program and the early part of camp because of shoulder surgery. Even if Conte returns soon, he's not expected to play in the first preseason game.

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. -- The Chicago Bears drafted Kyle Fuller at No. 14 overall because the organization believed Fuller had the ability to make an immediate impact on defense, even though two Pro Bowl cornerbacks were already on the roster.

[+] EnlargeKyle Fuller
Nam Y. Huh/AP PhotoRookie CB Kyle Fuller impressed coaches and teammates during Friday's training camp session.
It’s dangerous to get too high or too low on a player based on one training camp practice, but Fuller sure looked like an NFL-ready defensive back on Friday. Fuller stole the show on defense intercepting a pair of passes, including a spectacular diving pick on a Jordan Palmer throw during 11-on-11 that showcased the cornerback’s immense wingspan.

Fuller intercepted six balls and broke up 34 passes in 50 games at Virginia Tech. That propensity for getting a hand on the football in pass coverage was one of the traits that attracted the Bears to Fuller in the pre-draft process.

“It was a good start for Kyle,” Bears head coach Marc Trestman said. “That was a tremendous play he made in the first series of the day. The second one [interception] we had [the receiver run] the wrong route but he [Fuller] was in the right place and made the play. That’s a good thing. He was around the football. That’s a good start for him today.”

Fuller spent the entire offseason program working on the Bears’ first-team nickel unit at cornerback opposite Charles Tillman, with Tim Jennings generally bumping inside to cover the slot. That personal grouping did not change on Friday, raising expectations that Fuller will be asked to contribute immediately in the regular season, if he avoids injury in the preseason.

“I had a good start, but I definitely have a lot of work to do,” Fuller said. “I definitely enjoy coming out here and competing with guys like Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery every day. They are making me better.

“I just try and come out here every day and show the coaches what I can do. My goal is to just get better, and whatever happens, happens.”
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.
Part of the reason the Detroit Lions essentially ignored addressing the secondary in the 2014 draft was because of the faith general manager Martin Mayhew had in the potential of his young cornerbacks.

That trust is sure to be tested now.

The Lions have released their top cornerback, Chris Houston, after an inconsistent 2013 and offseason surgery for a toe that just wouldn't heal. Darius Slay and Rashean Mathis would now likely be the team's opening day starters at cornerback and the move increases the pressure on an untested group of players.

Houston
Houston
Bill Bentley has experience in the slot and is probably best suited there instead of on the outside. Jonte Green started games the past two seasons when players went down to injury, but has not been consistent. Chris Greenwood can't stay healthy and has minimal experience. Cassius Vaughn had a good spring, but was used to primarily used to provide depth at cornerback in Indianapolis.

The one pick the Lions did use on the secondary, corner Nevin Lawson in the fourth round, should have been more of a developmental selection.

At least one of those players will need to be counted on this fall. The early guess would be Vaughn, who has some experience and had moments where he looked extremely sharp in the spring. He likely won't be a starter, but he at least feels like part of the reason the team could have felt comfortable releasing Houston without even seeing him in training camp.

Now, unless the Lions sign a cornerback before camp, they will have to use this group to forge a cornerback corps. It is a unit with some talent, but short on experience. In a division with receivers like Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, that is not the type of situation you want to have.

Yet this is where Detroit is in the middle of June.

Something like this -- and Detroit had to have an inkling of concern here considering Houston did not play well in 2013 and had surgery -- was part of why it was so confusing how the Lions handled the secondary in the draft. Yes, Justin Gilbert was off the board when Detroit picked, but the team wasted little time before drafting tight end Eric Ebron, who the team opened up money to sign by cutting Houston.

They didn't seem to consider either selecting or trying to trade down to nab cornerbacks Kyle Fuller, Darqueze Dennard or even Jason Verrett from TCU or Bradley Roby from Ohio State. Or the team could have drafted Ha Ha Clinton-Dix from Alabama or Calvin Pryor from Louisville at safety and moved Don Carey, the team's third safety, to cornerback -- a position he previously played.

After Ebron, the team went with an interior lineman, Travis Swanson, in the third round and traded their fourth round pick to move up for Kyle Van Noy. The move possibly cost them one of the litany of defensive backs who went off the board before the team took Lawson with a supplemental pick in the fourth round.

Any of those first three picks could have been used on a secondary player that could have helped.

Of course all of this is hindsight now. Yet the Lions knew this possibility existed because of Houston's past few months. And that possibility became reality Friday -- even if it was somewhat predictable after Houston was excused from mandatory minicamp.

It leaves Detroit either hunting on the free agent wire or sticking with what they have – a group of young cornerbacks that could end up deciding Mayhew's future.

This is a sequence -- between the draft strategy, how's Houston's injury and eventual release was handled -- that should be used to judge Mayhew if Detroit struggles this season.

Mayhew put his faith with a group of young cornerbacks early. With Houston gone, Mayhew will now need them to prove he was right all along.
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.
The Chicago Bears moved another step closer to signing their entire 2014 draft class when the club announced Wednesday it has agreed to terms with first-round pick Kyle Fuller on a four-year contract with a fifth-year option.

Fuller
Financial terms were not immediately disclosed.

A cornerback out of Virginia Tech, Fuller started in 42 of 50 games in his college career, contributing 173 tackles, six interceptions, 21 pass breakups, four forced fumbles and one recovery. Fuller blocked three kicks at Virginia Tech and recovered one for a touchdown.

As a senior, Fuller was a captain, earned second-team All-America honors from the Walter Camp Football Foundation, and was named first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference. In nine games, he had 24 tackles, two interceptions, 10 pass breakups and a blocked kick.

The Bears have reached agreement with seven of their eight draft picks from the 2014 class. The club agreed to terms with safety Brock Vereen and quarterback David Fales on Monday. On Tuesday, the Bears signed defensive tackle Ego Ferguson, running back Ka'Deem Carey, punter Patrick O'Donnell and offensive tackle Charles Leno.

Third-round pick Will Sutton, a defensive tackle out of Arizona State, is the only player the Bears haven’t come to terms with on a new contract.

On Wednesday, the Bears became the first team in the NFL to reach agreement with their first-round pick.
We're going back through our notes and pulling some pre-draft interviews from the NFL combine this week with some of the Chicago Bears' recent draft picks.

[+] EnlargeKyle Fuller
AP Photo/Frank Franklin IIKyle Fuller should add an infusion of youth and athletic ability to the Bears' secondary.
Here's a transcript of an interview with Bears first-round pick Kyle Fuller (No. 14 overall) from February's combine:

Question: How much advice did you receive from your brother, Detroit Lions wide receiver Corey Fuller, before coming to the combine?
Answer: "We haven't talked a lot, but it definitely sounds like he's enjoying it. It's something he's dreamed about it. I know it feels good to be there and I can't wait to be in the position he's in."

Q: How beneficial is it to grow up in such a football family?
A: "It means a lot. It definitely makes you want to get to that level. It definitely keeps you humble to continue to work hard to get there. I believe it just shows all the hard work all of my brothers have had to get to this point, and we're just thankful and blessed for that."



Q: How much sibling rivalry is there in your family?
A: "I'm very competitive, especially with my brothers. That's helped me to where I am now. We always want to be better than the next guy, each other, no matter how fast we are, the plays we make. We've had a couple races. I won one, Corey won one. Whenever we're home, we'll get it. I had the best time of my life as a senior playing with Kendall (a rising sophomore at Virginia Tech). It was sad that it got cut short. That would be a lot of fun. I had a chance to play with [Corey] one year at Virginia Tech.



Q: How similar was your role at Virginia Tech to what your brother Vincent Fuller did while there?
A: "I would definitely say it was similar. He moved around played corner nickel safety, physical, I've learned a lot from him. I take a lot from this game."



Q: When all of you get together for workouts, what are you guys doing?
A: "Definitely just working technique and fundamentals, the simple things backpedaling coming out of the breaks, transitioning to backpedal to turning and running. Just the little things, we always grew up taking care of the little things."



Q: What's the best part of your game?
A: "Just how physical I am, I feel like my speed, my playmaking ability, my ability to tackle."



Q: How important is it to you to be a first-round pick?
A: "I would love that. That's one of my goals. All I can do is show what I can do and I can believe that I'm a first round pick or whatever. But I'm not focused on that. I just have to do what I have to do and whatever team takes me I'll be happy to be with them."
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- As Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery finished up a 17-minute news conference Thursday night at Halas Hall, the muted TV to his right showed the Green Bay Packers taking Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix with the 21st pick in the draft.

Emery passed on Clinton-Dix, a mock draft favorite, when he took Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller with the 14th pick in the first round of Thursday’s made-for-TV draft.

[+] EnlargeKyle Fuller
Lee Coleman/Icon SMIBears first-round draft pick Kyle Fuller was a four-year starter at Virginia Tech.
If Fuller struggles and we see Clinton-Dix picking off Jay Cutler next year, we’ll have a good laugh (ha ha) about it, right, Bears fans?

Don't answer that.

You'll be surprised to know Fuller was the player the Bears wanted all along. Emery played coy about Pitt defensive lineman Aaron Donald, who ended up going a pick before the Bears’ turn, but he couldn’t help but effuse over Fuller, a tough, versatile cornerback who should excel playing Chicago Bears defense in Chicago Bears weather on Chicago Bears chewed-up turf.

He can hit and he can cover. Basically, he's the perfect football player, according to Emery's news conference.

"He's even a great person," Emery said.

No kidding.

Emery's a wild card around draft time, but we all figured he would go defense, given the glaring needs up front and, well, all over. But you shouldn't be surprised he wasn’t monomaniacally focused on safety. It’s a long draft. I think it’s over in July. So there will be more chances to draft a young safety this season.

This wasn’t a best-player-available situation, either. The Bears have a need, a hybrid defensive back, and Fuller filled it. ESPN guru Mel Kiper Jr. even picked this one.

“We decided on Kyle Fuller, the player,” Emery said. “That’s the important thing. He’s a good player with a lot of versatility in his coverage.”

Versatility is a word thrown around a lot around this time, and Fuller said, as draft picks are wont to do on draft night, that he’s open to playing anywhere.

“I feel like they know I can play corner, nickel and possibly safety,” Fuller said in a conference call with reporters. “I’m a versatile player.”

Versatility is nice. The Bears just need more bodies. Let’s go back to how last season ended, with safety Chris Conte blowing coverage, however it happened, and Packers receiver Randall Cobb going 48 yards for a division-clinching touchdown. At that time, the call was for a complete demolition of the defense, starting at safety.

Conte’s still around, but his partner, Major Wright, is gone. The Bears re-signed Charles “Peanut” Tillman and corner Tim Jennings, and brought in a handful of free agents at safety.

This isn't a leap. Fuller makes perfect sense. Emery just wants someone to cover the wide variety of receivers and tight ends in the modern NFL offense. The Bears need to match up with Green Bay and Detroit, not to mention the various offenses they see around the league.

Emery mentioned how Fuller covered tight ends like Eric Ebron, who was taken 10th by Detroit.

“His versatility of coverage was a big attraction,” Emery said.

We already know the Bears are going to go more “hybrid” this season under coordinator Mel Tucker. That’s the new rage, and of course, the old one. Disguising coverages is nothing new.

Fuller, who will line up inside and eventually supplant Tillman or Jennings on the outside, is expected to play right away, wherever.

“We see him as a corner with a lot of versatility in terms of coverage, in terms of covering different sorts of athletes,” Emery said. “That’s where his length comes in.”

Ah, length, another favorite buzzword come draft time. Fuller’s no giant, he’s a shade under 6-foot and 190 pounds, but Emery fell in love with him when he live-scouted Virginia Tech-Georgia Tech. Fuller forced a fumble and made two tackles for loss in that game.

“I knew that day that’s the type of player that I wanted to represent the Chicago Bears,” Emery said.

Let Emery explain.

“He was playing Georgia Tech, and they lined him up at inverted safety and ran him through the A gap against an option team to crash the mesh point between the quarterback and the fullback,” Emery said in plain English. “And he repetitively did that. This is one tough football player.”

On Thursday, Emery marveled at Fuller’s physicality, including 129 solo tackles as a four-year starter (with some injury history, that is of course, no concern whatsoever). In 2011, as a hybrid “whip linebacker/nickelback,” he led all college defensive backs with 14 1/2 tackles for loss. He’s also a highly-regarded special-teams player, blocking two punts in his career with the Hokies’ always dangerous unit. He's got a good pedigree, with two older brothers who have played in the NFL. His brother Corey is a practice squad receiver with Detroit.

Emery, of course, raved about Shea McClellin when he drafted him as a versatile pass-rusher. Two failed years later, McClellin is being moved to linebacker this year as a last-ditch effort to save his Bears career.

The Bears GM has made bold moves to renovate this defense for 2014, most notably signing defensive end Jared Allen. But Chicago will need Fuller to be more like Kyle Long, an instant starter.

A confident Emery left the press room Thursday sure the Bears have hit on this pick. Fuller was the best player on their board and is the start of a new defensive generation.

After all, he was the guy they wanted all along, and maybe the guy you wanted all along, too. Even if you didn't know it.

Bears' Day 2 look ahead

May, 9, 2014
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- With cornerback addressed in Round 1, the Bears can turn their attention on Friday evening to satisfying their other needs on the defensive side of the ball, particularly defensive tackle.

Even though the Bears missed out on Pittsburgh's Aaron Donald (No. 13 to St. Louis), there is expected to be ample talent at defensive tackle available in the second and third rounds for general manager Phil Emery to consider. Remember, the Bears do have some depth on the interior of their defensive line with veterans Jeremiah Ratliff, Stephen Paea and Nate Collins all under contract next season. The Bears aren't necessarily under the gun to find a defensive tackle on Day 2 of the draft that has to start Week 1 next season. Instead, the Bears need to target a young player capable of jumping into the rotation inside in 2014, but who has the potential to grow into a starting role in the future.

Names to consider in the second and third rounds include: Minnesota's Ra'Shede Hageman, Notre Dame's Louis Nix, Florida State's Timmy Jernigan, Notre Dame's Stephon Tuitt, Penn State's DaQuan Jones, LSU's Ego Ferguson, Arizona State's Will Sutton and Princeton's Caraun Reid.

The outlook appears to be more complicated at safety.

After passing on Louisville's Calvin Pryor (New York Jets, No. 18), Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (Green Bay Packers, No. 21), Washington State's Deone Bucannon (Arizona Cardinals, No. 27) and Northern Illinois' Jimmie Ward (San Francisco 49ers, No. 30) in favor of Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller with the 14th pick, the Bears will find slim pickings at safety on Friday.

Names to monitor are: Florida State's Terrence Brooks, Minnesota's Brock Vereen, Wisconsin's Dezmen Southward, Wyoming's Marqueston Huff, and USC's Dion Bailey.

Or the Bears could look to double-dip at cornerback with the hopes of converting another defensive back to safety.

Lindenwood cornerback Pierre Desir remains on the board after Thursday night. The Bears sent their Director of College Scouting to the 6-foot-1, 198 pound Desir's pro day during the pre-draft process to get a better feel for the Division II standout who intercepted 25 passes during his college career.

Finally, the Bears still need help at inside linebacker where Wisconsin's Chris Borland and Louisville's Preston Brown are possible candidates.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Despite veterans Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings being firmly locked into the starting cornerback spots for the Chicago Bears, don’t assume the team wasted a pick Thursday when it selected Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller at No. 14.

In drafting Fuller, the Bears addressed the future at the position while also adding a versatile Day 1 starter.

Fuller
“Obviously a player picked that high, we expect him to contribute his first year,” general manager Phil Emery said. “With the number of multiple wideout sets you face, we expect him to come in and contribute right away, and as time permits and our roster change[s] over time like they all do, to be a starter on the outside.”

But right now, Fuller is pretty much a sure bet to be the club’s Week 1 starter at nickel corner. Sure, it would be easy to try to minimize the value of the nickel corner in Chicago’s defense. But what’s important to realize is that Fuller will play more than the team’s starting strongside linebacker in 2014. Why? Because the Bears play nickel more than they play base personnel.

Historically, during Emery’s tenure in Chicago, the Bears have operated out of nickel between 54 and 60 percent of all defensive snaps, he said. That means Fuller will be on the field quite a bit. What’s more is Fuller’s versatility allows the Bears to be more creative with the scheme and how they deploy him. Emery has already said Fuller can play inside against tight ends or bigger slot receivers, but he also can move outside against speedier pass-catchers.

“We see him as a guy that has a lot of versatility in terms of coverage, in terms of covering different types of athletes. That’s where his length really helps him,” Emery said. “You can see him on tape covering the North Carolina tight end [No. 10 overall pick Eric] Ebron. You see him cover inside slots or bigger receivers. You see him cover outside. This is a corner that had 173 tackles in his career, 123 solos; a corner with 23 tackles for loss. You don’t see that every day; 4 1/2 sacks, six picks, 28 PBUs (pass breakups). [He’s a] versatile, tough, hard-nosed, smart football player and a great person on top of that. He’s got run-support toughness. There wasn’t any reason not to take Kyle Fuller.”

Fuller embodies what Emery and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker covet in the players the club looks to add to the defense moving forward. He’s versatile, athletic, and tough. He’s played nickel/whip linebacker at Virginia Tech as well as corner.

Interestingly Bears special-teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis rated Fuller as the best special-teams player in the draft. So he’ll contribute there, too, this season.

“Coming in, I like feel they know I can play corner or nickel; possibility of safety, whatever it is. I’m a versatile player," Fuller said. "I know they’ll put me in the best situation for myself and the team."video

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