NFC North: Harvey Unga

The Chicago Bears agreed to terms Sunday with seven practice-squad players, including former Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson, who worked out last week for the team at Halas Hall.

The club also claimed defensive end David Bass off waivers from the Oakland Raiders, sources confirmed.

The team released five of the seven players signed to the practice squad on Saturday, a group that includes linebacker Jerry Franklin, cornerback Demontre Hurst, tight end Fendi Onobun, fullback Harvey Unga and defensive end Aston Whiteside. Johnson and former Fort Valley State receiver Ricardo Lockette complete the group. But there’s still one spot remaining on the practice squad.

The addition of Bass means the club needs to make room on the roster, which might jeopardize the status of reserve defensive ends Cheta Ozougwu and rookie sixth-round pick Cornelius Washington. There’s a possibility the Bears could release Washington and later re-sign him to fill their final spot on the practice squad.

A rookie seventh-round pick of the Raiders, Bass (6-foot-5, 256 pounds) played collegiately at Missouri Western, where he racked up 11.5 sacks during his senior season. Bass also posted a sack in the preseason for the Raiders.

As for Johnson, the Bears added a developmental quarterback to groom behind Jay Cutler and Josh McCown. Johnson has spent time with multiple NFL teams (Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Seattle), and has also played in the defunct UFL, where he was the No. 1 overall selection of the Hartford Colonials.

At Texas A&M, Johnson became the school’s career leader in total offense (8,888 yards) and passing yards (8,011 yards), but came into the league in 2011 as an undrafted free agent with the Eagles.
Most significant move: Despite J'Marcus Webb making 44 starts in 46 career games, including 32 consecutive starts at left tackle over the last two years, the Bears made the decision to part ways with him, even after reducing his salary to the league minimum for a veteran with three years of tenure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Read full post)

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.

NFC North Friday injury report

December, 28, 2012
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Let's get inside our last Friday injury report of the 2012 season. Sniff, sniff…

Chicago Bears: Linebacker Brian Urlacher practiced for the first time since injuring his hamstring Dec. 2, but he was limited and is listed as doubtful for Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions. It's more likely that Urlacher was beginning the process of returning for the playoffs if the Bears make it that far. The Bears listed tailback Matt Forte (ankle) as probable, but they also elevated running back Harvey Unga from the practice squad because backup Armando Allen is questionable because of a knee injury. Defensive lineman Henry Melton (chest) is questionable as well. Safety Chris Conte (hamstring) and linebacker Blake Costanzo (calf) are out.

Detroit Lions: Defensive lineman Sammie Hill (toe) is out of Sunday's game. Tight end Brandon Pettigrew (ankle) is out, but all other players should be available.

Green Bay Packers: Receiver Randall Cobb (ankle) returned to practice Friday in a limited fashion and is listed as questionable. Coach Mike McCarthy told reporters that Cobb looked good but that a decision on his status for Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings hasn't been determined. Receiver Jordy Nelson (hamstring) is probable, as is defensive linemen C.J. Wilson (knee) and Jerel Worthy (hamstring). Cornerback Davon House (shoulder/hip) is doubtful.

Minnesota Vikings: There appears a good chance the Vikings will have all 53 players on their roster available for Sunday. Defensive end Brian Robison (shoulder) is questionable but he practiced all week and appears on track to at least be in uniform, even if backup Everson Griffen takes the lead. Cornerback Antoine Winfield did not practice this week because of a broken hand and is listed as questionable. Winfield did some work on the sidelines Friday and seems set to play with padding on his hand.

BBAO: A busy Tuesday awaits

April, 17, 2012
4/17/12
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We're Black and Blue All Over:

It's been a while since we had a late Monday night gathering here on the blog, but I thought the news of what appears to be the end of the Minnesota Vikings' 2012 stadium bill was worth it. To summarize, I think it's time for the Vikings to play their final card in this high-stakes game: They must at least demonstrate a willingness to entertain offers to relocate. Otherwise, Minnesota politicians won't feel the urgency to act on their stadium issue.

Tuesday will be busy as well. We'll blog throughout the day, have our usual 2 p.m. ET chat and then be in place at 7 p.m. ET when the NFL announces its 2012 schedule. We'll have team-by-team analysis posted as quickly as my chubby fingers can type it out.

For now, let's take a spin around the NFC North:

BBAO: Key number in Matt Forte talks

September, 1, 2011
9/01/11
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We're Black and Blue All Over:

On Wednesday, we discussed the Chicago Bears' negotiations with tailback Matt Forte in the context of other deals that have been reached around the NFL. Most recently, the San Francisco 49ers agreed on a three-year extension with tailback Frank Gore. The deal is worth $21 million and includes $13.5 million in guarantees.

How do the Bears value Forte, and how does he value himself? Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com gives us a glimpse by reporting the team has offered a deal that includes about $15 million guaranteed. Unknown at this point is how many years the Bears are offering; generally speaking, more years equals more guaranteed money.

The only urgency for either side to strike a deal at this point is that Forte's value could change once the regular season begins. An injury could lower his value, while some monster games could increase the commitment the Bears will need to make in order to secure him. I guess there is a concern about the distraction of negotiations during the regular season, but to me it's a positive to have a player motivated by as many factors as possible.

Continuing around the NFC North:
In his latest Scouts Eye analysis Insider, Matt Williamson ranked NFC North running backs. You'll need an Insider subscription to read the entire post, but his decision to rank the Chicago Bears third among our four teams points to a secondary issue that we haven't bantered around much during the offseason.

Namely: How certain are we that Chester Taylor will return as the primary backup to Matt Forte?

Williamson's ranking was based largely on the players behind Forte on the depth chart. Taylor, as we've pointed out, was the NFL's first post-merger running back to average less than 2.4 yards per carry on at least 100 carries in 2010. Williamson termed the acquisition "a colossal flop."

I think Taylor provided the Bears some nuanced help in 2010, especially in short-yardage. But let's face it: When a 31-year-old running back rushes for 267 yards on 112 carries, as Taylor did last season, it's at least worth questioning his future with the team. The Bears have two other running backs on their roster, Kahlil Bell and Harvey Unga, who might provide younger (and cheaper) alternatives.

To be clear, if the Bears had already decided to move on, they would have released Taylor before the lockout as they did with defensive tackle Tommie Harris. But they really had no incentive to part ways with Taylor in February. Taylor received more than half of his $12.5 million deal in 2010 compensation. He's due a relatively affordable $1.275 million in 2011, a decent price for a veteran backup that the Bears could still avoid paying if they released him after training camp.

Offensive coordinator Mike Martz seemed incredulous when asked about Taylor's future in March, telling Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune: "Why would he get cut? Why would that happen? It wouldn't make any sense, would it? We're pleased with him. We're very pleased with him. He really played well, especially in the last few games."

It makes sense to bring Taylor to training camp. Should he make the team? I'm not sure that's an easy answer.

BBAO: Will Suh get more than Stafford?

July, 17, 2010
7/17/10
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We're Black and Blue All Over:

Chicago Bears

The National Football Post's Greg Gabriel wonders if supplemental draftee Harvey Unga will make the Bears roster.

Breaking down the Bears tight ends.

The Chicago Tribune's Sean Jensen asks the question: Is left tackle Chris Williams ready to make the Pro Bowl?

Cook County Associate Judge Joseph M. Claps called former Bears lineman Tank Johnson a coward while handing down a sentence against a man accused of the 2006 shooting death of Johnson's friend. Claps said Johnson showed "cowardice" for how he acted during the investigation.

Winners have been chosen in an essay contest run by Chicago Bears offensive guard Roberto Garza.

Detroit Lions

Will 2010 No. 2 draft pick Ndamukong Suh command a bigger deal than 2009 No. 1 pick and teammate Matthew Stafford?

Veteran Dennis Northcutt has to fight off several younger players for the final two receiver spots on Detroit's roster. While Nate Burleson is almost guaranteed a starting job, he has to Lions fourth-round pick Jason Fox is ready to do ... whatever. "They've told me that throughout training camp I'll get reps at both sides," Fox told the Detroit News. "I'm just trying to do whatever I can to help this team. If they want me to play special teams, if they want me to play on the right side, if they want me to play left tackle, I'm going to do whatever it takes to help contribute."

Former NFL quarterbacking great Terry Bradshaw is impressed with Lions quarterback Matt Stafford and thinks the team is "on the right track."

Green Bay Packers

Green Bay was prepared to lose Johnny Jolly. The defensive end was suspended for all of 2010 on Friday.

The Packers have have agreed to a four-year contract with third-round draft pick, safety Morgan Burnett.

Could the Big Ten Football Championship be headed to Lambeau Field?

Minnesota Vikings

Four Vikings fans drove 1,100 miles from Minneapolis to Hattiesburg to thank Brett Favre for 2009.

As part of his 20 burning offseason questions, Sports Illustrated's Don Banks has a query about Favre.

BBAO: Chmura to enter Packers HOF

July, 16, 2010
7/16/10
10:07
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We're Black and Blue All Over:

Chicago Bears

Jay Cutler says he's comfortable with the receivers on the Bears' roster and does not think the team should go out and sign Terrell Owens.

The Salt Lake Tribune interviewed Eric Metz, the agent for Harvey Unga, whom the Bears took in the supplemental draft on Thursday.

Detroit Lions

The Lions didn't draft fourth-round offensive lineman Jason Fox with the intention of him seeing the field this season.

Cornerback Jonathan Wade isn't letting the fact the Lions have won just two games during the past two seasons lower his expectations. He predicts a 9-7 record and a playoff appearance for the Lions this season.

The Lions are hoping their revamped defensive line will allow more playmaking opportunities for Julian Peterson and the Lions' linebackers.

Green Bay Packers

The Detroit News takes a look at the Packers' shrinking profits as player salaries continue to outpace revenue.

The Packers will unveil their alternate third uniform on a Dec. 5 game against the 49ers. The jersey will be navy blue with a gold circle in the middle that includes the player's number.

Former tight end Mark Chmura, who went to three Pro Bowls and won a Super Bowl during the 1990s, will be inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame on Saturday night.

Aaron Rodgers will be on the cover of ESPN the Magazine's upcoming fantasy football special edition. Here's a peek from the photo shoot.

Minnesota Vikings

Sage Rosenfels is left waiting for Brett Favre to make a decision, again.

NFL.com's Mike Mayock evaluates the Vikings' offense. Mayock likes the Vikings' playmakers but their lack of depth on the offensive line is a concern.

Free agent offensive lineman Chester Pitts, who is recovering from microfracture surgery, should be ready to work out for teams next week. Pitts said the Vikings are among the teams that have shown interest in him.

Two picked in NFL supplemental draft

July, 15, 2010
7/15/10
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Two players were selected in the NFL supplemental draft Thursday. The Chicago Bears picked Brigham Young running back Harvey Unga and the Dallas Cowboys selected Illinois defensive end Joshua Price-Brent. Both players were selected in the seventh round, meaning the Bears and Cowboys will forfeit their seventh-round pick in the 2011 NFL draft.

ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli spoke to Unga before the supplemental draft.

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NFC NORTH SCOREBOARD

Thursday, 9/4
Sunday, 9/7
Monday, 9/8