NFL Nation: Craig Steltz

Bears Camp Report: Day 6

July, 31, 2014
Jul 31
4:35
PM ET
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Chicago Bears training camp:
  • Safety Adrian Wilson seems to be gaining a level of comfort in Chicago’s scheme, which in turn has resulted in the veteran playing somewhat faster. But don’t be fooled by Wilson’s seemingly average workout pace as some within the organization believe he’s “practicing like a veteran,” meaning he’s expending as little energy as possible just to make it through camp and into the preseason games. For Wilson, the exhibition games are where he’ll make his mark, and that’s when people within the organization expect the safety to go full bore. Considering he’s currently in a backup role, expect Wilson to receive significant snaps late into the games against mostly backups, and he’ll need to play well -- nearly dominate -- before the staff feels comfortable enough to put him into the mix for one of the starting jobs. The coaching staff hopes Wilson pans out because if he does, it gives the Bears an intimidating force on the back end they haven’t had in several years.
  • The Bears pumped in the music as usual for the individual portions of practice, but when the team simulated some live situations, staffers piped in crowd noise through the public address system. The extra noise didn’t seem to affect execution on either side of the ball.
  • Strangely, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, and Matt Forte seemed to drop more passes in one day Thursday than they had throughout all of training camp. Jeffery and Forte each dropped two passes with the former making up for it by hauling in a long ball late in practice between two defenders. Chris Williams, a candidate to become the club’s primary punt returner and a backup receiver, muffed a punt and also dropped a pass.
  • Despite Marshall's drop, he made perhaps the catch of the day in a goal-line drill. With Demontre Hurst draped all over him, Marshall made a spinning one-handed grab for a touchdown. Marshall receives points for difficulty on this one as he caught the touchdown with his left hand.
  • Just before the start of practice, the Bears announced they signed offensive lineman Graham Pocic to a one-year contract and waived receiver Terrence Tolliver with an injury settlement. Pocic signed with the St. Louis Rams in 2013 as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Illinois.
  • Non-participants at practice Thursday included safeties Craig Steltz (groin) and Chris Conte (shoulder) along with guards Kyle Long and Eben Britton (hamstring). Long has been cleared to return to practice, but won’t be back in pads until the club’s night workout Saturday at Soldier Field. Britton wasn’t on the field with teammates as he spent all of the practice rehabilitating inside with athletic trainers.
  • Jermon Bushrod, Stephen Paea, Austen Lane, and Jordan Mills were the stars of one-on-one drills featuring offensive linemen against defensive linemen. Paea made the most impressive move of the day, using a swim move to blow past Roberto Garza in just one step.
  • The Bears practice again Friday at 9 a.m. CST.

Bears Camp Report: Day 4

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
5:05
PM ET
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.

Long arrives at ONU

July, 24, 2014
Jul 24
4:09
PM ET
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Chicago Bears guard Kyle Long's absence lasted just one day.

Long
The 2013 first-round pick arrived on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University around lunchtime Thursday, one day after the rest of the team reported to training camp, and told reporters he is recovering from a viral infection that is expected to sideline him through the weekend.

"I was pretty sick and run down this past weekend, but I'm feeling better," Long said before entering the ONU dining hall.

Bears general manager Phil Emery said Wednesday that Long will be re-evaluated at the beginning of next week.

Long was officially placed on the non-football injury list on Thursday.

No official timetable has been set for Long to start practicing, but right tackle Jordan Mills believes the Pro Bowl right guard will return in short order.

"He's going to be fine. He's tough," Mills said. "He hates that he wasn't here to see everybody yesterday."

The Bears ran their annual conditioning test Thursday morning, which consisted of three 300-yard shuttles.

Safety Craig Steltz (groin surgery) passed his conditioning test, but he will begin camp on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list along with fellow safety Chris Conte.
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bears agreed to terms on a two-year contract with safety Ryan Mundy, the club announced.

Mundy appeared in 16 games (nine starts) for the New York Giants last season, where he recorded a career-high 70 tackles, one sack and one interception. The 6-foot-1, 209-pound safety played four years (2009-12) for the Pittsburgh Steelers, starting five combined games during that stretch.

Mundy was selected by the Steelers in the sixth round of the 2008 NFL draft out of West Virginia.

With Major Wright expect to depart via free agency, Mundy should fill one of the Bears’ safety spots in 2014.

Although Chris Conte struggled last season, the Bears will allow the former third-round draft choice to compete for a starting job in the preseason.

Safeties Craig Steltz and Anthony Walters (restricted) are also free agents.
Teams around the NFL can start contacting and negotiating with agents of players set to become unrestricted free agents on Saturday, but deals can’t be executed until March 11 at 3 p.m. CT when the new league year starts.

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

Williams
Williams
2014 free agent: D.J. Williams

Position: Linebacker

2013 statistics: 6 games (four starts); 39 tackles (21 solo), 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 2 tackles for lost yardage, 1 quarterback pressure.

2013 salary: $900,000 base salary, $750,000 roster bonus, $100,000 workout bonus -- $1,281,250 cash value

Outlook: The Bears mentioned Williams' strong play prior to a season-ending pectoral injury on multiple occasions shortly after the season, and all indications are the club wants the veteran to return for 2014. Williams has spent time rehabbing at Halas Hall and says he would like to remain a part of Chicago’s defense in 2014. Given the mutual interest between the sides, it should be only a matter of time before the Bears sign Williams to a deal similar to what he received to join the club last spring. With Williams in the middle flanked outside by Lance Briggs and Jonathan Bostic (provided he wins the starting job at Sam), the Bears could field a solid linebacking corps next season provided the group stays healthy.

Steltz
2014 free agent: Craig Steltz

Position: Safety

2013 statistics: 16 games (one start); 14 tackles, one pass breakup and 14 special teams tackles.

2013 salary: $715,000 base salary and $50,000 workout bonus -- $765,000 cash value

Outlook: Steltz is a solid reserve safety and special teams contributor. He's spent his entire NFL career in Chicago and would no doubt prefer to stay with the Bears. League minimum contracts for NFL veterans are a sensitive subject. Minimum deals basically represent an invitation to try out for the team. Veterans that fall into the league minimum category will fight hard for signing bonus money. Steltz could possibly find himself in that situation. Steltz has always been a good soldier, hard worker and positive voice in the locker room. Whether the Bears reward Steltz with a signing bonus (he received a $125,000 signing bonus two years) remains to be seen. But he fits the mold of the type of player the Bears are looking to bring back.

Collins
2014 free agent: Nate Collins

Position: Defensive tackle

2013 statistics: Five games (two starts); 13 tackles, three quarterback pressures and one sack.

2013 salary: $630,000 base salary and $5,250 workout bonus - $635,250 cash value

Outlook: Collins had a strong preseason and appeared poised to have a breakout year until he landed on injured reserve with a torn ACL. Collins is a pass-rusher. Players that can pressure the quarterback are not easy to find. The Bears decided not to tender Collins at the restricted free agent amount last season, and instead released him and signed him back to a minimum deal. Because of the knee injury, Collins is probably looking at the same kind of deal this time around. Collins, who has potential, seems like a decent candidate to return in the later waves of free agency unless the Bears feel confident enough in his health to extend him an offer in the coming week.

Anderson
2014 free agent: James Anderson

Position: Linebacker

2013 statistics: 16 games (16 starts); 129.5 tackles (76 solo), 7.5 tackles for lost yardage, 10 quarterback pressures, 4 sacks, 3 pass breakups, 1 fumble recovery.

2013 salary: $950,000 base salary, $200,000 signing bonus, $100,000 workout bonus -- $1,250,000 cash value

Outlook: Anderson led the team in tackles, and tied with Shea McClellin for second in sacks. But the Bears haven’t shown much interest in bringing back Anderson so far this offseason. As of Wednesday afternoon, the team still hadn’t approached the veteran about a possible return. Anderson doesn’t seem to fit the mold of the tough, hardnosed athletes the Bears are looking to add to the defense. So once the negotiation window opens, Anderson will likely be speaking with other teams before the Bears make a move. Anderson will likely leave, but it's still too early to rule out a return to Chicago.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Former Pro Bowl defensive tackle Henry Melton's recovery from a torn left anterior cruciate ligament has progressed to the point where Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery said on Thursday the club's preference is to re-sign Melton who is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent on March 11.

"We do want to bring back Henry and we'll work through that process," Emery said at the NFL combine. "He's made progress. He's made positive progress."

[+] EnlargeHenry Melton
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastHenry Melton collected 13 sacks combined in 2011 and 2012, but played in just three games last season.
Slapped with the franchise tag by the Bears last season ($8,454,725) after posting 33 tackles and six sacks in 2012, Melton started just three games before landing on injured reserve on Sept. 27 -- Melton has 15.5 sacks in 48 career games.

After undergoing surgery and sitting out the final three months of the regular season, Melton has apparently dedicated himself to strengthening his injured left knee over the past couple of months.

"He's in every day early," Bears head coach Marc Trestman said. "He's got to drive in from downtown. If you see him, you'll see that he has been training and he has been working. He's very focused. You'll see he dropped some weight. He looks very good physically right now. Obviously he's in there working the knee, but he's been on time, he's working hard with [Bears head athletic trainer] Chris [Hanks].

"As I said, I spoke with him yesterday for 30-45 minutes and he's committed to getting himself back and he's got work to do to get there, but he's in a very good place right now and we all understand the situation and we'll see where it goes."

The Bears' ability to retain Melton is expected to boil down to money. Considered one of the top defensive tackles scheduled to reach free agency, there is no way of knowing how much other teams are prepared to offer Melton when the new league year begins on March 11.

The Bears find themselves in the same situation with the other unrestricted free agents the organization wants to return, namely quarterback Josh McCown, cornerback Charles Tillman and center Roberto Garza.

While the Bears cannot officially re-sign McCown until the beginning of free agency, the team does hold exclusive negotiating rights with the veteran quarterback and can agree in principle to a new deal. McCown posted the third-highest quarterback rating (109.0) when he completed 149 of 224 passing attempts for 1,829 yards, 13 touchdowns and one interception in eight appearances (five starts).

"I talk to Josh pretty much weekly, or bi-weekly, I've talked to him two or three times anyways and I've texted with him. He's in the loop into what's going on. I've just called him on a personal level just to catch up with him and see how he sees the league and what's going on," Trestman said. "We just like to talk football. He knows exactly where he stands with us. I think that he's going to take his time, see where things are at, when he's ready to say ‘I want to come back,' I know Phil's going to do everything he can and we're going to do everything can to make sure he is."

Tillman, the 2013 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award winner and two-time Pro Bowl cornerback, has publicly stated on multiple occasions that his decision to return to Chicago for a 12th season will be determined by the kinds of contract offers he receives.

Meantime, Garza, a 13-year NFL veteran center/guard, will likely have to accept a one-year, veteran-minimum contract with a relatively low signing bonus to stay with the Bears. However, Garza is a respected team captain and the leader of the team's revamped offensive line that started all 16 games together.

"It's a tough business," Trestman said. "We want Roberto back. He knows we want him back. We believe he should finish his career with the Bears. He does so much in our community. He's such a leader in our locker room. He knows how we feel about him. We just need to let this thing evolve and hopefully it's going to work out best, No. 1 for Roberto, because that's No. 1. And from his standpoint, and it should be, he deserves that respect. And hopefully it will work out for the Bears as well. We certainly want to see him back."

Emery also praised free-agent veteran middle linebacker D.J. Williams who battled injuries for much of last season. Emery sounded as if the door is still open for Williams to return, and if he does, Williams is expected to compete with Shea McClellin, Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene for a starting spot.

"Saw a good football player [in Williams]," Emery said. "Saw a guy that has legitimately very good burst. Saw a player that has good instincts, gets around the ball and plays with a relentless style. We were not displeased with his effort. We were very pleased with where he was going and how he was progressing. Obviously, he had some injuries in camp, he had to get his feet back under him and once he did he started producing at a high level."

Other notable unrestricted free agents for the Bears include: defensive lineman Corey Wootton, defensive tackle Nate Collins, return man Devin Hester, safety Craig Steltz, defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff and cornerbacks Zack Bowman and Kelvin Hayden.
PHILADELPHIA -- As the seconds ticked away during a brutal 54-11 beating Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field, Chicago Bears defensive tackle Corey Wootton peered at the scoreboard in disbelief.

“It’s embarrassing, honestly,” he said. “Looking on the sideline, when you see the score at the end of the game and they've put up 54 on you, it’s embarrassing.”

[+] EnlargeZack Bowman
Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/MCT via Getty ImagesZack Bowman seemed at a loss after the Bears allowed another of the Eagles' six offensive TDs.
In addition to giving up 21 points in both the first and fourth quarters, the Bears surrendered 514 yards, including 289 on the ground, with LeSean McCoy running for 133 of them. Not only did Chicago allow one 100-yard rusher. Bryce Brown also carved up Chicago for 115 yards, including a 65-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, right through the middle of the Bears’ defense.

Considering the Bears have allowed at least one 100-yard rusher in 10 games this season, including veritable no-names such as Benny Cunningham and Brown, and another one to an aging Brandon Jacobs, it’s probably safe to assume Chicago’s defense won’t all of the sudden become stout in the finale against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday -- in a game with the NFC North crown and a postseason berth on the line. Traditionally, it’s been the defense that has helped the Bears stay in games. Currently, it’s that unit that could wind up keeping Chicago out of the playoffs.

It’s important to note that losses on Sunday by the Packers and the Detroit Lions meant that the Bears could have clinched the division title by defeating the Eagles. While ineptitude on offense contributed to the loss at Philadelphia, too often this season the defense has been the culprit.

“In the past years, we always stepped up when we needed to regardless of what the offense was doing,” Wootton said. “It just hasn’t been like that. If we want to make the playoffs or we want to make any type of run, we have to get this shored up. We talk about this every week.”

Philadelphia reeled off 10 plays for gains of 16 yards or more, with three of those plays coming on Nick Foles completions. The Eagles converted on 56 percent of their third-down attempts, and scored touchdowns on five trips into the red zone as Foles completed passes and McCoy either outran Bears defenders or outright made them miss.

The seven touchdowns scored by the Eagles were the most the Bears have allowed in franchise history (although one of the TDs was on an interception return). The 54 points rank as the second-most ever allowed by the Bears in franchise history.

“There’s a lot of different reasons we didn’t get this done today,” coach Marc Trestman said. “We’re all at fault. It starts with me. Nobody played well enough to win tonight.”

Trestman, Wootton, linebacker James Anderson and safety Craig Steltz all stressed that the coaching staff adequately prepared the players for what the schemes they’d see from the Eagles. The players simply didn’t execute.

“I do not think it was one special thing we did wrong,” safety Chris Conte said. “We just got our tails kicked today.”

Wootton said the Bears played the Eagles “the way we were supposed to” but “just didn’t make the plays when we needed to.”

Wootton also provided examples.

“If you look at it, they didn’t keep the ball really at all with Foles on the zone-reads. We knew they were gonna give the ball to McCoy,” Wootton said. “The one guy that was supposed to stay outside for contain would be there, then he’d miss the tackle. Or the guy wasn’t there when he was supposed to be. It was just stuff like that. But that can really gut you. That’s what they want to exploit on you. They want to make the one-on-one play and try to make you miss.”

The Eagles did that all night, with the rushing of McCoy and Brown and with Foles passing over the top of the Bears. Foles finished with a passer rating of 131.7, and although Chicago sacked him twice, the quarterback seemed to have plenty of time to find open receivers and deliver the ball.

“They just came out and brought it to us,” defensive end Julius Peppers said.

The Packers are capable of doing the same, even with hobbled running back Eddie Lacy -- who rushed for 150 yards against the Bears on Nov. 4 -- and Aaron Rodgers likely out. It’s not that Green Bay’s offense is as potent as Philadelphia’s. Chicago’s defense just appears to be that bad, with no real signs of improving.

“We certainly couldn’t stop the run,” Trestman said. “We’ve got to address is factually. We can’t deny the fact that we didn’t stop the run tonight. We’ve got to make sure they know why, and we’ve got to do what we can to get back to where we were previously the last couple of weeks when we really did feel we were ascending. We were getting better. You’re not where you ever want to be, but certainly [we were at] a place where we could be in a competitive environment, and get the ball back to the offense. There’s no one side of the ball that lost this one.”

Devin Hester: I can cover anybody

November, 22, 2013
11/22/13
3:30
PM ET
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Return specialist Devin Hester grinned Friday when approached by reporters to explain the cameo appearance he made at practice this week with the club’s defensive backs.

“If I go line up at quarterback and take a couple of snaps, you are all going to say we are running the option or running the Wildcat,” Hester said. “That’s your job.”

Hester
Hester, a former collegiate and NFL cornerback and nickelback, participated with members of the secondary in individual drills open to the media twice this week (Wednesday and Friday), and even spent roughly 10 minutes after Wednesday’s session working one-on-one with Bears’ defensive backs coach Jon Hoke.

“I did it to have fun,” Hester said. “Being a special-teamer now, I really don’t get as many reps as the normal guys do in practice since I’m a specialist now with the returns. That’s pretty much all I do now. To keep myself busy, I jump in every now and again to play around.

“We all hang out off the field, so whenever I come over there and play around with those guys, it gives them a little more energy and a little more excitement to go out there and work hard. When they see me in their group, it sparks them up a little bit. You have to make practice fun. You just can’t go through the same routine every day. When you joke around and have some fun, it goes by quick.”

While Hester seemed to enjoy the attention, he got serious for a moment when asked if he could cover Tavon Austin, the Rams' speedy rookie wide receiver, if the situation called for it.

“I can cover anybody,” Hester said before cracking a smile. “Just put a safety over the top, and I can shut anybody down. I need a safety over the top; I’m a Cover 2 man.”

Hester is likely an emergency option for the Bears if they suffer more injuries in the secondary Sunday. Cornerback Charles Tillman (triceps) has already been ruled out, while safety Craig Steltz is questionable with a concussion and starting nickelback Isaiah Frey is dealing with a fractured right hand that will require him to wear a cast during the game. The Bears also have reserve cornerbacks Sherrick McManis and Derrick Martin on the depth chart, and could theoretically elevate another defensive back from the practice squad before Sunday since the active roster stands at 52 (the max is 53).
LAKE FOREST, Ill. – The Chicago Bears have officially ruled out starting defensive tackle Stephen Paea for Sunday’s game in St. Louis because of a toe injury that forced him to prematurely exit the Bears' Week 11 win against the Baltimore Ravens.

McClellin
Paea, who did not practice all week, suffered the same toe injury in Week 4 and subsequently missed the next two games before returning to the starting lineup on Oct. 20.

“It’s like having a flat tire,” Paea said about the bad toe. “Imagine having to drive on a flat tire.”

Paea will continue to rest and receive treatment on the toe, but he’s unsure how long he’s going to be sidelined.

“It’s just frustrating right now,” Paea said. “It’s the same exact thing injury. I just re-aggravated it. The field was kind of wet (Sunday), so that (probably helped cause) it.”

With Paea down for at least a week, the Bears are expected to welcome back defensive end Shea McClellin (hamstring). McClellin participated fully in practice the entire week and is listed as probable.

Also probable for the Rams game: long-snapper Patrick Mannelly (calf) and right tackle Jordan Mills (quadriceps).

Safety Craig Steltz (concussion) is questionable, and had limited participation in practice on Friday.

Quarterback Jay Cutler (ankle), linebacker Lance Briggs (shoulder) and defensive tackle Jay Ratliff (groin) were all ruled out for Week 12. However, Ratliff practiced Friday (limited participation) and might be ready to make his Bears’ debut in Week 13.

The Bears' roster stands at 52 players (53 is the max). The open roster spot could be used to elevate a defensive back off the practice squad if Steltz is inactive on Sunday.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Chicago Bears nickelback Isaiah Frey fractured his hand in the team's Week 11 win against Baltimore, but he is expected to play Sunday at the St. Louis Rams. Frey did not practice on Wednesday.

“Isaiah’s got a fracture in his hand,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “He’s got it casted up. It looks good. It looks like they’ll be able to cast it up [Sunday]. We’ll know more tomorrow. We’re really optimistic on his end.

McClellin
Frey
“I’m optimistic that he’ll be playing. I don’t think it’s necessary to go through all the different logistics if that doesn’t happen. But it’s certainly been discussed. But I feel optimistic that he’ll be playing.”

Selected by the Bears in the sixth round of the 2012 draft, Frey emerged as the team’s No. 1 nickelback when veteran Kelvin Hayden suffered a season-ending injury in the preseason. Frey is seventh on the team with 32 tackles, even though he comes off the field when the Bears play their base 4-3 defense.

In other injury hews, defensive end Shea McClellin participated fully on Wednesday and is on track to return to the field Sunday after sitting out the last two games with a pulled hamstring. McClellin hurt the hamstring at practice the week after being named NFC Defensive Player of the Week for his three-sack performance in Green Bay on Nov. 4.

“I feel good,” McClellin said. “I feel 100 percent and ready to get back out there and help the guys out.

“It was pretty disappointing [to miss two games]. But it’s part of the game. Things happen. And you’ve just got to adjust. Sitting out is terrible. It's the worst thing. You just want to be out there with the guys helping out, especially if they're not doing too good. It's hard to watch what they're doing.”

Defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (groin) practiced on a limited basis Wednesday for the first time since he signed with the Bears on Nov. 2. The four-time Pro Bowler has not played in a game since last November, when he suffered a groin injury that eventually required sports-hernia surgery.

However, despite Ratliff’s apparent progress, the veteran defensive lineman will not be physically ready to make his Bears debut this Sunday against St. Louis, according to Trestman.

“Ratliff got some work; he’ll be a week-to-week thing,” Trestman said. “He got some reps in practice. It was good to see him out there moving around. I would not say [his debut] will be this Sunday, and we’ll re-evaluate it next week. To be fair with the situation, I’d say we are still a little bit away [from Ratliff playing].”

Trestman calls defensive tackle Stephen Paea (toe) “very questionable” to face St. Louis. Paea re-injured the toe that forced him to miss two games in early November; he did not practice on Wednesday.

Long-snapper Patrick Mannelly (calf) practiced without restrictions, while right tackle Jordan Mills was limited with a sore quadriceps. Safety Craig Steltz (concussion) was held out of practice but was able to do some conditioning work on the side.
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

How does each NFC North team look in the secondary, and what still needs to be done?

Chicago Bears: No team in this division is set up quite as well as the Bears, who have a pair of returning Pro Bowl cornerbacks in Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings along with two safeties in Major Wright and Chris Conte who started all but one game together last season. Veteran Kelvin Hayden won the nickelback job last season from the since-departed D.J. Moore, and the Bears also have a number of credible backups at safety, Craig Steltz among them. The Bears also want to find out about 2012 third-round draft pick Brandon Hardin, who missed last season because of a neck injury.

Detroit Lions: General manager Martin Mayhew worked harder than he ever has to address this annual problem spot. He committed $25 million over five years to re-sign his best cornerback, Chris Houston. He targeted and signed free-agent safety Glover Quin, used the No. 36 overall pick to draft cornerback Darius Slay and gave safety Louis Delmas an incentive-laden contract that will pay out based on availability. If 2012 third-round pick Bill Bentley can make it back from a shoulder injury, the Lions will have good depth at cornerback. Regardless, on paper their secondary is as well situated as it has been at any point in Mayhew's tenure.

Green Bay Packers: For the first time since 2005, the Packers will open a season without Charles Woodson manning a starting position. As usual, general manager Ted Thompson has a pile of young players competing to fill in the gaps. Tramon Williams is certain to start at one cornerback spot, while Sam Shields, Casey Hayward and Davon House fight to start on the other side and to form a depth chart for nickel and dime defenses. Morgan Burnett will be one of the Packers' starting safeties, but the other could be M.D. Jennings, Jerron McMillian or even Sean Richardson if he recovers from a neck injury. The Packers are, by definition, in transition, but there are plenty of options for life after Woodson.

Minnesota Vikings: It will be a while before we know if the team can successfully navigate the departure of veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield. Although Winfield is nearing the end of his career, he had a great season in 2012 and played a key role when he handled slot receivers inside. The Vikings have some highly drafted young players at cornerback, most notably 2013 first-rounder Xavier Rhodes, but it's not yet clear how it will all shake out. Former second-round pick Chris Cook (2010) is a starter if he stays healthy, and 2012 third-round pick Josh Robinson is the leading candidate to take over Winfield's nickel spot. Safety Harrison Smith will be a leader, but are the Vikings really going to go through another year with Mistral Raymond and Jamarca Sanford rotating at the other safety position?

Packers-Bears II: Special-teams hit

December, 11, 2012
12/11/12
2:02
PM ET
A bit later Tuesday, we'll take a look at the big-picture implications of Sunday's matchup at Soldier Field. In the meantime, however, let's note that the Chicago Bears won't have three of their top special-teams players when they host the Green Bay Packers.

Gould
Gould
Place-kicker Robbie Gould (calf), safety Craig Steltz (chest) and safety Sherrick McManis (knee) were all placed on injured reserve Tuesday. Among other roster moves, the Bears signed 39-year-old veteran Olindo Mare to kick in Sunday's game and presumably for the rest of the season.

Gould has been the Bears' place-kicker for 122 consecutive games, dating back to Week 5 of the 2005 season. But he strained his left calf during pregame warmups last Sunday at the Metrodome and apparently won't recover in time to kick freely again for at least three weeks. Sunday, he managed two extra points but ceded kickoffs to punter Adam Podlesh and didn't attempt a field goal.

Mare hasn't played in the NFL this season but was the Carolina Panthers' regular place-kicker in 2011. He could have some winter weather to adjust to Sunday at Soldier Field, but the Bears' final two regular-season games -- at the Arizona Cardinals and at the Detroit Lions -- shouldn't be impacted by the elements.

Meanwhile, McManis ranked third on the Bears with 10 special-teams tackles entering last Sunday's game. Steltz had five and was also getting turns in the Bears' rotation at safety. As the world turns. ...

Bears' hidden treasure: Safety

June, 27, 2012
6/27/12
12:00
PM ET
AFC hidden treasures: West | North | South | East NFC: West | North | South | East

Examining a position group that could exceed its preseason expectations:

The Chicago Bears' annual search for long(er)-term answers at safety has turned up some interesting possibilities for 2012.

Rookie Brandon Hardin, a third-round draft pick, was one of the standouts of offseason practice, in part because of his unusual 6-foot-3 frame. History suggests Hardin will get his starting chance sooner rather than later. Hardin was a cornerback at Oregon State, which can translate well into coverage skills for safeties at the professional level.

Along with Hardin, the Bears have a second-year prospect in Chris Conte, who made a positive impression last season before suffering a foot injury. Coach Lovie Smith has long been a fan of Major Wright, and veteran Craig Steltz hasn't embarrassed anyone in the short stints he has received in recent years.

NFC North free-agency assessment

March, 30, 2012
3/30/12
11:00
AM ET
AFC Assessments: East | West | North | South NFC: East | West | North | South

Chicago Bears

Key additions: Running back Michael Bush, linebacker/special teams Blake Costanzo, quarterback Jason Campbell, receiver Brandon Marshall (trade), receiver Devin Thomas, receiver/returner Eric Weems.

Key losses: Running back Marion Barber (retired), cornerback Zack Bowman, cornerback Corey Graham.

Come on back: Lost in the shuffle of the Marshall trade were the return of three free agents who should play key roles in 2012. Tight end Kellen Davis figures to get an expanded role in offensive coordinator Mike Tice's scheme, especially as a receiver. Cornerback Tim Jennings should retain his starting role opposite Charles Tillman, with D.J. Moore in the nickel. And safety Craig Steltz will provide reliable depth at safety and will be one of the Bears' special teams leaders after the departure of Graham and Bowman.

What's next: There is no urgency yet, but the Bears will need to make peace with tailback Matt Forte at some point before the summer. Forte isn't happy that he's been made the Bears' franchise player and briefly lost his public composure when Bush signed a deal that guaranteed him about the same amount of money as the franchise tag will pay Forte. It's not a big deal if Forte skips the Bears' offseason program or even misses a few days of training camp, but the Bears will want to find a way to eliminate this issue by early August. Meanwhile, it wouldn't be surprising if the Bears address their offensive line during the draft.

Detroit Lions

Key additions: Defensive end Everette Brown, cornerback Jacob Lacey.

Key losses: Cornerback Eric Wright.

All in the family: With the exception of Wright, the Lions were able to retain the core of their 10-6 team. Among those who re-signed: Tackle Jeff Backus, safety Erik Coleman, defensive end Andre Fluellen, quarterback Shaun Hill and linebacker Stephen Tulloch. And don't forget that receiver Calvin Johnson is locked up for perhaps the rest of his career. He signed a new eight-year contract worth $132 million.

What's next: The Lions appear interested in adding competition at safety, having hosted free agent O.J. Atogwe earlier this month. Adding a safety remains a possibility, if not through free agency, then probably through the draft. And while Backus is re-signed for two years, it wouldn't be surprising if the Lions look for a long-term replacement in the draft.

Green Bay Packers

Key additions: Defensive lineman Daniel Muir, center Jeff Saturday, defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove.

Key losses: Quarterback Matt Flynn, center Scott Wells.

Shocker: The Packers usually do whatever it takes to keep their own players and avoid having to search the free-agent market for other the castoffs of other teams. They started off that way by re-signing tight end Jermichael Finley to a two-year contract, but when they were unable to sign center Scott Wells, they quickly targeted veteran Jeff Saturday and made him their first starting-caliber free-agent signee in five years. General manager Ted Thompson also authorized the acquisition of Hargrove and the pursuit of Dave Tollefson.

What's next: It's not out of the question that the Packers will add a veteran pass-rusher, whether at defensive end or linebacker. Then they'll get back into their comfort zone and start preparing for the draft, where it's reasonable to think they'll use at least one of their 12 picks on a center while also continuing to pursue pass-rushers.

Minnesota Vikings

Key additions: Cornerback Zack Bowman, tight end John Carlson, running back Jerome Felton and offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz.

Key losses: Nose tackle Remi Ayodele (release), guards Anthony Herrera (release) and Steve Hutchinson (release), tight end Jim Kleinsasser (retire), running back Jerome Felton.

Methodical methodology: The Vikings made one big-money signing, bringing in Carlson as a new weapon for quarterback Christian Ponder, and otherwise have spent their offseason getting younger and signing complementary players. General manager Rick Spielman wants to end a cycle of seeking blue-chip players via free agency and instead count on the drafts for his difference-makers.

What's next: One way or the other, the Vikings need to find a deep threat for Ponder. The draft would seem the most likely place for that will happen. They are also midway through a rebuild of the secondary that could use at least one more cornerback and perhaps two safeties.

NFC North Friday injury report

December, 9, 2011
12/09/11
4:26
PM ET
Getting inside the Friday injury report:

Chicago Bears: Safety Major Wright (shoulder) was ruled out of Sunday's game against the Denver Broncos. Craig Steltz is expected to start in his place. Other than quarterback Jay Cutler (thumb) and running back Matt Forte (knee), all other players will be available.

Detroit Lions: Safety Louis Delmas (knee) and cornerback Chris Houston (knee) are doubtful and not expected to play Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. Linebacker Justin Durant (hamstring), who did not practice Thursday or Friday, is questionable. So is defensive tackle Nick Fairley (foot), who did not practice all week. The Lions signed free agent defensive tackle Jovan Haye and waived cornerback Brandon McDonald, presumably for more depth along the defensive line.

Green Bay Packers: Running back James Starks (ankle) and linebacker Desmond Bishop (calf) missed a third day of practice Friday and were declared out for Sunday's game against the Oakland Raiders. Tackle Chad Clifton (hamstring) and linebacker Vic So'oto (back) were also declared out. But linebacker A.J. Hawk (calf) practiced for the first time since suffering the injury Nov. 24 and is listed as questionable. D.J. Smith is expected to start for Bishop, and Robert Francois would play for Hawk if he isn't able to go Sunday.

Minnesota Vikings: Quarterback Christian Ponder (hip) and running back Adrian Peterson (ankle) practiced Friday as limited participants. Neither player is close to 100 percent, and Ponder took only a handful of practice repetitions all week. The Vikings listed both players as questionable for Sunday's game. At 2-10, you wonder if the Vikings will risk further injury to either of their marquee offensive players. Joe Webb would start at quarterback if Ponder can not.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Roster Advisor