NFL Nation: Jeff Dickerson

CHICAGO -- A rash of injuries on the offensive line and at wide receiver prompted the Chicago Bears to make a handful of roster moves in advance of Sunday night’s road game against the San Francisco 49ers.

Sources confirmed the Bears waived quarterback David Fales and released veteran cornerback Kelvin Hayden and veteran fullback Tony Fiammetta.

The Bears announced following Friday’s practice that Fales (shoulder) and Fiammetta (hamstring) had been officially ruled out for Week 2.

Hayden was a healthy inactive in Chicago's 23-20 overtime loss to the Buffalo Bills in the season opener.

The expectation is the Bears will look to fill some of the open roster spots off the practice squad. With Brandon Marshall (ankle) and Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) questionable, and Josh Morgan (groin) doubtful, the Bears could choose to promote one, or more, of their current practice squad wide receivers: Josh Bellamy, Greg Herd, Chris Williams and Rashad Ross. Practice squad center/guard Taylor Boggs is a candidate to help with depth on the offensive line after starters Roberto Garza (high-ankle sprain) and Matt Slauson (high-ankle sprain) were both declared out for the 49ers game.

Brandon Marshall wants to test ankle

September, 11, 2014
Sep 11
LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Chicago Bears Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall plans to test his injured ankle at practice on Friday, with the expectation of playing Sunday night in a pivotal road game versus the San Francisco 49ers.

Both Marshall and fellow wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) were injured in the Bears’ 23-20 overtime loss to the Buffalo Bills, although Marshall did manage to re-enter the game and finish with eight catches for 71 yards and one touchdown. But Jeffery (five catches for 71 yards) missed the final 32 snaps of regulation and overtime.

Marshall and Jeffery failed to practice on Wednesday and Thursday, prompting many to wonder if the Bears may be without the talented duo in Week 2.

Marshall tried to alleviate some of those concerns on Thursday afternoon.

“Hey, I’m going to go down swinging. I’ll be out there Sunday,” Marshall said. “That’s what I’m saying, but of course I’m not the head decision-maker here. But I’m going to be out there in my mind, and I’ll be ok.

“Sometimes your body tells you no and your mind has to be a little bit stronger. I was able to fight it off the second half, do some things. I felt a little more comfortable today then I did in the second half. I still have a few more days of healing to go, get out there tomorrow and test it out. It will be ugly and it’s going to be sore and it’s going to hurt. But you’ve got to show the team and the coaches that I can at least be in position.”

Durability is never a problem for Marshall. The five-time Pro Bowl selection missed only five games in eight-plus years in the league. Marshall’s last regular-season absence occurred in 2010 when he played for the Miami Dolphins.

“Brandon will work tomorrow. We’ll see where he’s at,” Bears head coach Marc Trestman said. “We’ve got Saturday the entire day out there. We’ll see where we are. Brandon knows the plays but certainly we want to be safe out there and we want to be healthy as well.”

However, Jeffery’s availability for Friday’s practice is unknown.

“I can't answer that and again, I've tried to be consistent with the fact that I'm not the doctor or the trainer,” Trestman said. “He did not practice today at all. Whether he will at all tomorrow in any or limited fashion, I don't know at this time.”

Further complicating matters, receiver Josh Morgan’s groin injury has apparently taken a turn for the worse. Morgan practiced on a limited basis on Wednesday, but skipped the entire workout on Thursday.

In addition to wide receiver, the Bears are dealing with serious injuries along the offensive line. High-ankle sprains sidelined starting center Roberto Garza and left guard Matt Slauson for the second consecutive day, prompting Brian de la Puente and Michael Ola to once again handle the reps with the first team.

Quarterback David Fales (shoulder) and fullback Tony Fiammetta (hamstring) round out the large group of Bears players who missed Thursday’s practice. Both Fales and Fiammetta were on the club’s inactive list for Week 1.

WRs Marshall, Jeffery miss practice

September, 10, 2014
Sep 10
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears first-team center Roberto Garza (high-ankle sprain), left guard Matt Slauson (high-ankle sprain) and wide receivers Brandon Marshall (ankle) and Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) were held out of Wednesday’s practice in advance of Week 2’s critical road game against the San Francisco 49ers.

Garza, Slauson and Jeffery were knocked out of the team’s 23-20 overtime loss to the Buffalo Bills, but Marshall did finish the game after he sustained his injury. Marshall ended with eight catches for 71 yards and one touchdown.

The veteran wideout spent part of his off-day on Tuesday receiving treatment before he traveled to New York to tape his weekly national television show.

Marshall is expected to play Sunday night against the 49ers.

However, Jeffery’s availability for the 49ers game is unknown. The wide receiver’s hamstring injury isn’t believed to be serious, but Jeffery was sidelined for the final 32 snaps last weekend.

On the offensive line, center Brian de la Puente and guard Michael Ola took the first-team reps at practice with Garza and Slauson unavailable.

Fullback Tony Fiammetta (hamstring) and quarterback David Fales (right shoulder) also missed Wednesday’s practice held inside the Walter Payton Center. Both Fiammetta and Fales were inactive in Week 1.

Wide receiver Josh Morgan (groin) and cornerback Charles Tillman (coaches’ decision) had limited participation.

Allen: Bears better fix run D

September, 7, 2014
Sep 7
CHICAGO -- Determined to improve a unit that ranked dead last stopping the run (161.4 yards per game) and recorded only 31 sacks in 2013, the Chicago Bears spent a substantial amount of offseason money and used two high draft picks to help fix its defensive line.

At least through Week 1, the team has not seen a return on its investment.

In a home defeat full of disappointments, perhaps the most upsetting development was the Bears' continued inability to stop the run. The Buffalo Bills rushed for 193 yards on 33 attempts (5.8 yards), including long gains of 38 and 47 yards respectively by tailbacks Fred Jackson and Anthony Dixon. On Bills' runs, Jackson and Dixon were virtually untouched before they reached the second and third levels of the Bears' defense.

Jackson's run essentially sealed the victory for the Bills in overtime.

"When you give up that many rushing yards, it's embarrassing. What can I say?" defensive end Jared Allen said. "It all starts with the run game. I know this league is about sacks and rushing the quarterback, but you do not win unless you stop the run. You don't get chances to rush the quarterback unless you stop the run.

"Obviously, we have to go back and watch the film and figure out where our run fits are, and play our fits. You got to make plays. We have to clean that up. If we stop the run today, it's a totally different game."

Fellow defensive end Lamarr Houston pointed to a lack of discipline.

"We didn't play disciplined football, not for all four quarters," Houston said. "We need to play disciplined football. We need to know our jobs and do our jobs. You play good run teams, you have to play disciplined football. You have to know your job and stay on your job. That's disciplined football."

Prized free agent pick-ups Allen and Houston combined for two tackles and zero quarterback hits, according to the official NFL stat book distributed in the press box. Overall, the Bears registered just one sack (Willie Young) and two quarterback hits (Young and Charles Tillman) on Bills starter E.J. Manuel, who passed the ball 22 times.

"Hopefully we'll look back on this and this will just be a game that we lost," Allen said. "You don't want to give home games away, but we'll fix some problems and move on. That's what you do. We've got a huge opponent coming up when we go play Sunday night football against San Francisco. We better darn well get this run thing figured out."

4 Downs: How much better is Bears' D?

September, 4, 2014
Sep 4
Charles TillmanJonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesA healthy Charles Tillman, who missed eight games in 2013, will play a key role for Chicago's defense.
The Chicago Bears' defense in 2013 didn't look anything like, well, the Chicago Bears' defense of the past decade-plus. The Bears ranked 30th in total defense and last in rushing yards allowed with 2,583 yards, just more than 400 yards from the 31st-ranked Atlanta Falcons.

GM Phil Emery & Co. went to work rebuilding the defense in the offseason through free agency and spent their top three draft picks on defensive players. With this potent offense, a top-16 defense would seemingly make the Bears championship material. Can the Bears rebound from the bottom of the NFL's defensive rankings to the upper half in one year?

Our panel weighs in on that and more:

First Down

Fact or Fiction: The Bears' defense will be in the league's top half this season.


Will the Bears defense finish in the top 16 this season?


Discuss (Total votes: 5,237)

Jeff Dickerson: Fiction. That's a large jump for a defense that allowed 394.6 total yards (30th) and 29.9 points (tied for 30th) in the NFL last year. On paper, the Bears are better on defense. If healthy, the additions of Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young should improve a defensive line that failed to slow down or sack anybody in 2013. But serious questions remain at linebacker and safety. And can all these veteran defenders stay off the injury report? There are too many "what ifs" to predict the Bears a top-16 defense in Week 1.

Jon Greenberg: Fiction. If the Bears' defense is in the top half, then this defensive line will go down among the game's greats and we better start coming up with nicknames. It's tough to be optimistic about the defense after last season's injury-plagued debacle and premature impressions from the preseason. Mostly, it's tough because the back seven of the defense is suspect. The linebacking corps has wily veterans in BBQ King Lance Briggs and D.J. Williams, but if Shea McClellin starts, wow. Jon Bostic had too much on his plate last season, but still has promise. Can he realize it this season? It's telling that Marc Trestman has danced around who will start at safety. Corners should be good, health willing, but all in all, this looks like a bottom-third defense.

Second Down

Fact or Fiction: The Bears' offensive skill player core of Cutler, Forte, Marshall, Jeffery and Bennett is the best in the NFC North.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery
Phil Sears/USA TODAY SportsBrandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery were the most productive receiver duo in the NFL last season.
Jeff Dickerson: Fact. Green Bay is superior at quarterback, and Detroit's Calvin Johnson is a tiny notch above Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery at wide receiver, but as a whole, the Bears own the best set of skill position players in the North. There is nothing wrong with the offense. Matt Forte is wildly underrated. Marshall and Jeffery are Pro Bowlers. Martellus Bennett is an above-average tight end, and Cutler has all the necessary talent. This figures to be a fun year on offense. Hard to believe just two years ago the Bears ranked No. 28 in total yards (310.6) and No. 29 in passing yards (187.4) per week. How quickly things have changed.

Jon Greenberg: Fact. I think you could argue the Bears' group edges the Packers' core. Marshall and Jeffery are arguably the most dangerous duo in the league, and Forte is worth every penny of his most recent contract. Bennett is a little extra spice to this recipe. But where it matters most is at quarterback, and Aaron Rodgers still trumps Cutler. And because the Packers' offense gets to face the Bears' defense, the edge still goes to Green Bay.

Third Down

Fact or Fiction: Jared Allen will have an eighth straight season of at least 11 sacks.

[+] EnlargeJared Allen
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhNew Bears defensive end Jared Allen has seven straight seasons with at least 11 sacks.
Jeff Dickerson: Fact. I went back and forth with this one, but I'll give Allen the benefit of the doubt because unlike Julius Peppers in 2013, Allen should have help on the defensive line. If teammates Houston, Young, Jeremiah Ratliff, Stephen Paea and rookies Will Sutton and Ego Ferguson can be disruptive, that should, in theory, loosen it up for Allen coming off the edge. Allen seems to be in good shape and in good spirits. No reason to expect a tremendous decline in his performance.

Jon Greenberg: Fact. Sure, why not? As long as Allen stays on the field, he'll produce. I like the Bears' revamped defensive line. How could I not? It's a clever mix of youth and experience with plenty of complementary skills. If these guys can stay healthy, Allen will have plenty of clear paths to get to the quarterback.

Fourth Down

Fact or Fiction: Cutler will be an MVP candidate this season if he stays healthy.

[+] EnlargeJay Cutler
Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesJay Cutler has missed 12 regular season games over the past three seasons.
Jeff Dickerson: Fiction. Reasonable expectations for Cutler are 16 starts and a playoff berth. Enough with the MVP talk. Make the postseason, a feat Cutler has accomplished only one time in eight years. Rich Gannon, the 2002 NFL MVP, blossomed late in his career in Oakland with help from Trestman. That proves nothing is impossible. But more recent MVP quarterbacks (Peyton Manning, Rodgers, Tom Brady) all have something in common: They play on perennial playoff teams. And the last I checked, Manning, Rodgers, Brady, Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, even Andrew Luck, aren't going anywhere. Make the playoffs. Whatever happens after that is simply icing on the cake for Cutler.

Jon Greenberg: Fiction. It's a perfectly plausible scenario, but I'm not buying that campaign just yet. Cutler's career has been about his promise, not his production, and while I'm high on him succeeding in tandem with Trestman, let's slow the roll a little on the MVP talk. Like, let's see him play four good games to start the season. Then we can start talking MVP. What I wonder is this: Will Cutler's reputation and his past performance be a boon or a detriment for this prospective MVP campaign? Sportswriters vote for the AP award. We're human beings, remember. Does his renaissance under Trestman make him a sympathetic figure -- The New Jay Cutler, For Real -- or will people still consider him a surly jerk above all else? I think it'll be the former, if it happens at all. Everyone loves a comeback story.
CLEVELAND -- Here are five things we learned in the first half of the Chicago Bears’ preseason finale versus the Browns.

1. 53-man roster mostly set before game: The Bears offered up a fairly complete picture of the final roster when they decided to sit numerous reserve players like: Josh Morgan, Ka’Deem Carey, Brock Vereen and Michael Spurlock. Unless the Bears find better alternatives over the weekend; all four appear to be in decent shape as the final cut date looms on Saturday. However, the decision to rest Carey and Vereen is somewhat curious. Outside of their draft status as fourth-round picks, neither did much to stand out over the summer. And no, Shea McClellin was never going to be cut. The Bears have not abandoned hope of salvaging the career of the former first-round draft choice.

2. David Fales knows the offense: Fales lacks ideal arm strength, but he does come across as a smart quarterback who understands where the ball is supposed to go. He did a decent job under intense pressure, and showed serious courage by throwing the ball deep on several occasions. The Bears are probably better off keeping only two quarterbacks on the active roster, but Fales showed enough smarts in the preseason to warrant a spot on the practice squad, if he clears waivers as expected.

3. Santonio Holmes can help Bears: Holmes proved he still has some juice left when he broke a tackle to score a 32-yard touchdown, followed by a 30-yard punt return. Granted, Holmes accomplished this against Cleveland backups, but he made the most of the opportunities presented to him. Holmes has too much experience to let walk away. Josh Bellamy had himself a solid first half with two catches for 43 yards in the opening quarter, but Holmes seems a smart choice to be the No. 4 wideout behind Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Morgan, with Spurlock also in the mix. We’ll see how/if Marquess Wilson’s injury complicates the situation when it boils down to determining the 53.

4. FirstEnergy video screens a nice touch: The Browns installed two giant video screens in the upper decks behind each end zone, a move that greatly enhances the in-stadium experience in Cleveland. The Bears need to strongly consider adding similar technology at Soldier Field, because the current video setup is below average for a stadium built in the last 11 years. The fans would love it. And it opens up tons of marketing and sales opportunities for the club. That’s a win-win for everybody involved.

5. Browns took it seriously: Cleveland needed starting quarterback Brian Hoyer to orchestrate a touchdown drive. The Browns are desperate for good vibes heading into Week 1. We all know Cleveland will probably stink again, but this is a franchise that is trying to sell hope to its tortured fan base. They call this place the “Factory of Sadness” for a reason. But the home fans actually seemed upbeat after the first 30 minutes, especially when Johnny Manziel fired a touchdown pass. Mission accomplished for the Browns.
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Linebacker Khaseem Greene admittedly struggled to acclimate himself to the speed of the NFL game last season when a shoulder injury to Lance Briggs thrust the rookie into the starting lineup for four games.

But with a year of experience under his belt, Greene has quietly pieced together an impressive camp, and even spent Monday’s practice next to Jon Bostic on first-team nickel with Briggs taking a veteran’s day off.

“It’s slowed down a lot for me this year,” Greene said. “I’m seeing stuff quicker. I’m being able to just be a natural football player and just use my instincts to react. The game definitely has slowed down. It’s fun now. I’m not overthinking it.

“The older guys always say that it will slow down once you get a grasp of the playbook and learn how to start studying opponents. Guys say those skills come with age and from the experience of doing it. I feel like from last year to this year, I’ve made a big jump as far as the game slowing down. I’m now able to read and react.”

The jury is still out regarding the number of linebackers the Bears plan to keep on the 53-man roster. With Briggs and Bostic already locks to make the team, the remaining linebacker spots are between D.J. Williams, Shea McClellin, Jordan Senn, Christian Jones, Jerry Franklin and Greene.

It will be interesting to see which players are pushed out if the Bears decide to keep six at the position.

Williams and McClellin appear safe if they stay healthy, but the picture is cloudy after the top four.

Greene figures to be intriguing because he has value on special teams where he recorded two tackles last year, in addition to defense. Senn is a core special-teamer, but isn’t considered much of a contributor at linebacker. The 6-foot-3 Jones, an undrafted rookie free agent out of Florida State, had a rough game versus the Eagles, but performed well the first couple weeks of camp. Perhaps the potential upside of Jones proves too irresistible to resist if the rookie can be trusted on special teams. And Franklin, who also received increased reps in Monday's practice, played in 13 games over two seasons with the Bears, recording eight tackles.
BOURBONNAIS -- Chicago Bears center/guard Brian de la Puente suffered a Grade 2 left MCL sprain in the preseason opener versus the Philadelphia Eagles and is expected to be sidelined for a couple of weeks, the veteran offensive lineman told reporters on Sunday.

“My knee feels good,” de la Puente said. “It was a scary deal getting [my knee] rolled up on like that [against the Eagles], but the MRI was promising. The big stuff and the ACL were all right, so it’ll just be a couple of weeks getting it back strong.”

A former starting center for the New Orleans Saints, de la Puente has spent much of camp working at first-team right guard in place of Kyle Long, who’s been forced to miss time due to a viral infection and a sore ankle.

Meantime, starting right tackle Jordan Mills was spotted in a walking boot prior to Sunday’s practice. Mills injured his left foot earlier in the week and did not play against Philadelphia. It’s unclear when he is expected to return to the field. Veteran guard/tackle Eben Britton remains classified as day-to-day with a hamstring injury.
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman confirmed the team put free agent wide receiver Santonio Holmes thru a workout on Tuesday.

ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported that the Bears brought in free agent receivers Holmes and Ben Obomanu before eventually signing wide receiver Greg Herd to a one-year contract.

“I did not [attend the workout]”, Trestman said. “I have it on tape but I haven’t looked at it. I think that’s something for our personnel department at this time. I don’t have a response [as to how Holmes looked] because I didn’t look at it.”

Holmes, 30, caught 23 passes for 456 yards and one touchdown last season in 11 games for the New York Jets. He played in just four games in 2012 before suffering a lisfranc injury.

Holmes best season in the NFL came with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2009 when he posted a career-high 79 receptions for 1,248 yards. Holmes was also named MVP of Super Bowl XLIII.

The Bears assigned the 6-foot-3 Herd uniform No. 81. He is expected to add a fresh set of legs to a unit that is currently down in numbers after Marquess Wilson fractured his collarbone. Wilson is out indefinitely following surgery on Tuesday morning.

Bears Camp Report: Day 10

August, 5, 2014
Aug 5
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Chicago Bears training camp:
  • While the Bears actively monitor the waiver wire and scan the list of available free-agent wide receivers in the aftermath of Marquess Wilson’s fractured clavicle, Tuesday’s practice allowed the team to try out several different receiver combinations. Minus Wilson and veteran Brandon Marshall (coaches' decision), the Bears trotted out a three-wide receiver set to begin 11-on-11 drills that featured Alshon Jeffery, Eric Weems and Chris Williams. Weems, a former Pro Bowl return man in Atlanta, figures to be a lock to make the team based on his familiarity with the offense and immense value on special teams, but the remaining roster spots are wide open. According to quarterback Jay Cutler: “Eric Weems has had a great camp, but so have a number of other guys. Right now it’s too early to peg anybody. We’ll just see how it plays out.” Cutler later added the Bears expect Wilson back on the field in 2014 after he underwent surgery on Tuesday morning. But with no timetable set for Wilson’s return, the Bears do need to find a reliable option in the slot to bridge the gap over the first couple weeks of the regular season, at the bare minimum.
  • Cornerback Isaiah Frey suffered a right hamstring injury at practice and had to be carted back to the locker room. The Bears’ 2013 starting nickelback, Frey is facing an uphill battle to make the team with veterans Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings, Kelvin Hayden and Sherrick McManis, plus rookie first-round draft choice Kyle Fuller ahead of Frey on the depth chart. Frey told reporters he plans to vigorously attack the required rehabilitation program, but stressed the importance of resisting the urge to return too soon from a pulled hamstring injury, since those types of injuries tend to linger.
  • Starting right tackle Jordan Mills hurt his foot at the tail end of Tuesday’s practice. Mills stayed and watched the final drill before walking off the field under his own power. Mills suffered a foot injury during pregame warm-ups in last year’s regular-season finale versus the Green Bay Packers that required offseason surgery. The Bears did not reveal the severity of the injury, but Mills seemed to be in good spirits when he arrived at lunch later in the afternoon.
  • Adrian Wilson and Ryan Mundy again took first-team reps at safety.
  • Jennings (quadriceps) and guard Eben Britton (hamstring) were held out of practice, but linebacker Lance Briggs fully participated after a knee injury kept him off the field for final portion of Monday’s session. Defensive end Jared Allen was excused from another practice due to personal reasons, while running back Shaun Draughn went through an entire practice following a couple of personal days away from the team.
  • The Bears' next scheduled practice is Wednesday at 9 a.m. CT.
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- For all the changes made on the defensive side of the ball, the key to the unit’s overall success might hinge on the health of 12-year veteran linebacker Lance Briggs.

The linchpin of the defense, Briggs started strong in 2013, but ended up appearing in a career-low nine games because of a shoulder injury that kept him on the inactive list for two straight months.

 One of the best linebackers in franchise history, Briggs was voted to seven straight Pro Bowls from 2005-2011 where he developed the reputation as one of the hardest hitting linebackers in the league.

At 33-years old, can Briggs still elevate his game to a Pro Bowl level?

“I don’t know. I’ve lost a couple of steps,” Briggs said with a smile on Thursday. “Now sometimes I have to fall into a tackle. If I’m lucky, a tackle will fall, and I’ll put my hand on him and get credit for it. That’s where I’m at in [this] stage of my career.”

The Bears believe otherwise. The organization feels Briggs is the best striker on the defense and will look to the 12-year veteran to help lead a revamped unit that includes other proven older players such as Jared Allen, Charles Tillman, D.J. Williams, Tim Jennings and Jeremiah Ratliff.

“If [Lance] is playing at full-strength the way he started last season, we’re going to be a much better football team all around,” Bears head coach Marc Trestman said. “What he can do ripples through the entire team.”

Of course, there is the issue of Briggs’ expiring contract.

 In the past, Briggs has gone public in expressing his displeasure with contract negotiations. He famously predicted he would never play another down for the Bears after the club slapped Briggs with the franchise tag in 2007. Briggs eventually signed a six-year extension in March, 2008 that the club later re-worked in 2012 to include another year and more guaranteed money.

However, Briggs said on Thursday he does not plan to make his contract a talking point this season.

“I’m not talking about a contract. I’m talking about playing football,” Briggs said. “I just want to play football. I’ve seen a lot of guys come and go. I’m here. I’m happy. I’m just appreciative.

“In a matter of one day, I learned that the coach that I’d been coached by for the last years was going to gone, and that whole staff was going to be gone. Everybody that I was used to everyday was going to be gone. The guy who I shared a room with for 10 years was going to be gone. A lot of the guys that I had built relationships with were gone. There’s some new guys coming in and filling up those numbers and those lockers. That’s life. That’s the way it is. It’s business.”

Briggs later reiterated that he wants to finish his career in Chicago.

“The only time I might not retire as a Bear was the time when I said I’d never put on a Bears’ uniform again,” Briggs said. “And I haven’t said that again since that time. So, of course [I want to retire as a Bear].

“I’m a Bear. I’m a true Bear. This is Year 12. I’ve given my blood, sweat and tears and my heart to the city and playing for this team. When it’s all said and done, I’ll retire a Bear.”

Bears Camp Report: Day 4

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
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.
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Chicago Bears Pro Bowl right guard Kyle Long met with doctors on Monday to check the progress of his recovery from a viral infection that’s forced the former first-round pick to miss the opening four practices of camp.

Despite Long’s illness, the second-year guard had been present at every training camp practice until Monday’s excused absence. The Bears next workout at Olivet Nazarene University is scheduled for Wednesday at 9 a.m. CT.

“I expect to hear from [Long] and the doctors today, and we’ll get a better idea where he is at,” Bears head coach Marc Trestman said.

The No. 20 overall pick of the 2013 NFL draft, Long started just five games at Oregon before making the jump to the NFL, where he became a permanent fixture in the Bears’ starting lineup last season at right guard, helping the offensive line achieve its lowest sack total (30) since 2008.

But there is legitimate concern whenever an NFL player misses an extended period of training camp.

“Any player, no matter how long they’ve played the game, needs to practice and needs to work,” Trestman said. “It doesn’t matter who they are or at what level they play at. Kyle is missing time and there is nothing we can do about it. When he gets back here, he is going to have to get back into it and make up for some lost time.”

With Long sidelined, the Bears have experimented with different combinations at guard, including Eben Britton, Michael Ola and Brian de la Puente. Ola and de la Puente finished practice on Monday at guard with the starters in a two-minute drill after left guard Matt Slauson sat out the final period for undisclosed reasons.

“It’s been beneficial that we’ve been able to get some of these other guys in there,” Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said. “We’ve been able to look closer at our rotation, but we hope to get Kyle back as soon as possible.”

In other Bears injury news, cornerback Tim Jennings (quad) was sidelined for a third consecutive day, Pro Bowl wide receiver Alshon Jeffery sat out due to a sore foot and wideout Terrence Toliver is still out because of a bad toe. Veteran defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff was given Monday off by the coaching staff.
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – Even with temperatures in the low 70s, the Bears momentarily lost their cool for the second consecutive day.

Friday’s brief shoving match between wide receiver Eric Weems and cornerback Sherrick McManis lasted only a couple seconds, but Saturday morning’s dustup involved multiple players and took several members of the team to restore order.

The main combatants appeared to be defensive lineman Lamarr Houston and right tackle Jordan Mills, along with defensive end Willie Young. At one point guard Kyle Long tried to play peacemaker and separate the players, even though Long is still not practicing due to a viral infection. Multiple players from both sides then jumped in to quiet down the situation.

There were no further problems, and all the parties involved downplayed the incident after practice, as expected.

Shoving matches and minor fights are commonplace at NFL training camps, but Bears head coach Marc Trestman prefers that his players avoid engaging in that type of behavior, and for good reason.

“We know that there are times in practice where a player may lose his mind,” Trestman said. “The bottom line is when we talk about it in meetings: fighting is a disciplinary issue. We would have lost both players. If we’re practicing like it’s a game, we would have lost both players today.

“Not only that but it’s a major safety issue. The guys involved are remorseful about it. They don’t want it to happen and they know it hurts the football team. The thing you like to see is that it didn’t linger. The team got back to work and there were no other altercations. But one play can hurt a football team. That’s how we sell it to each and every guy. On one play we can lose players. And it’s a safety issue. We have to continue to move forward with that and I know we will.”
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- While the Bears were busy negotiating high-profile and expensive deals in the offseason, the team also made a concerted effort to address their depth at cornerback, drafting Kyle Fuller at No. 14 overall and quietly re-signing veteran Kelvin Hayden to a one-year contract on February 28.

Fuller stole the show on Day 1 of camp with a pair of interceptions, but Hayden flashed with a pick of his own on Jay Cutler’s very first pass attempt on Saturday morning.

With Tim Jennings sidelined due to a sore quad, Hayden spent the first half of practice taking the starters reps at cornerback in the base defense, then sliding inside to cover the slot when the team shifted to nickel.

“It felt good,” Hayden said. “Anytime you can have a turnover in practice it feels good. You just want to continue to build off that. Tomorrow is another day so you just want to continue to keep working.”

When healthy, Hayden has proven to be an effective and versatile member of the secondary, appearing in 101 regular season and 10 postseason games in nine seasons with 54 total starts and 15 career interceptions.

But Hayden’s last two years in Chicago have been tricky. He played in all 16 games (two starts) for the Bears in 2012, but never truly seemed to find his groove as he shuffled back-and-forth from cornerback to nickel back. Then last year Hayden suffered a serious hamstring injury before the team even broke camp that wiped out his entire 2013 season.

The hope this summer is that Hayden’s 30-year old body can hold up throughout camp, because without question, the Bears would benefit from having someone with his experience in a reserve role on the 53-man roster.

“We’re excited to have Kelvin back,” Bears head coach Marc Trestman said. “We missed him last year. He’s back, and he’s work very, very hard to put himself in this position to compete for a job on this team. It was good to see him have success today.”