Camp arrived, and now it’s almost over, just like that. The Bears hold their final training camp practice today at Olivet Nazarene University, wrapping up about four weeks of workouts that saw some surprise, some disappoint, and some familiar faces do what we expected. Here’s how we’ll rate the following players based on expectations and what they have shown on the practice field.
Alshon Jeffery, receiver
The rookie got better and better as camp wore on. He looked very comfortable going to catch jump-ball passes in the end zone. Backup quarterback Josh McCown said Jeffery reminds him in the same way as star receiver Larry Fitzgerald, whom he played with in Arizona.
Brandon Marshall, receiver
The star receiver, like Jeffery, looked better as camp rolled along. He consistently made catches that made fans go ‘oooh,” He continued to appear to be the big-time receiver the Bears have needed for years.
Tim Jennings, cornerback
The debate about who should be the other starter alongside Charles Tillman is nearly mute. Jennings has separated himself from newcomers Kelvin Hayden and Jonathan Wilhite. The 5-foot-8-inch veteran has played confidently and aggressively in trying to hold on to his starting job.
Lance Briggs, linebacker
The veteran has consistently looked amped up and ready to work every day. If Brian Urlacher can’t play, the Bears will need Briggs to step up even more. He looked more than trustworthy in camp.
Jay Cutler, quarterback
Cutler has thrown a few picks in practice, but he’s also looked comfortable with Marshall, Jeffery and other receivers like Earl Bennett. Surround him with guys to protect him and to throw the ball to, and Cutler will do more good than bad.
Matt Forte, running back
He injured his knee last season, but Forte appeared to be just about 100 percent in camp. He ideally won’t get as many touches if Marshall and Jeffery and new running back Michael Bush step up, but he looks ready for another steady year.
THE QUESTION MARKS
Brian Urlacher, linebacker
Not based on performance, but because of his nagging knee issues, of course. Just how worried should Bears fans be about Urlacher having arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, which he injured in the last game of last season? When will he back? Is coming back for Week 1 a good idea? Will missing two weeks of training camp hurt?
J’Marcus Webb, offensive lineman
Chris Williams, offensive lineman
We’ll put these two together. Will one step up and seize the starting left tackle position? Webb looked like he was on his way to the job, but now Williams appears to be back in the battle. The Bears desperately need someone to protect Cutler’s blind side.
Michael Bush, running back
Bush almost ran for 1,000 yards last year in just nine starts with Oakland, but can he be as productive with fewer carries with the Bears? He dropped a pitch in the preseason loss to Denver and hasn’t stood out as frequently as other offensive pieces during camp. In fairness to him, most 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 plays are passing plays, so he didn’t see the ball much.
Shea McClellin, defensive end
The rookie has gotten better over training camp, which is a positive sign for the Bears. But is he still undersized to play defensive end in a 4-3 setup? Or would McClellin, whose speed is a strength, still be better suited for a 3-4, where he can play linebacker? He’ll chip in at some point.
Dane Sanzenbacher, receiver
If the ball touches his hand, Sanzenbacher almost always catches it. He’s under 6 feet tall, but he’s smart, runs good routes and appears to have good chemistry with Cutler. The guess here is Sanzenbacher, who made the team as a rookie free agent last year, makes it through again.
After missing nearly two weeks of training camp workouts, Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher underwent arthroscopic surgery on his injured left knee Tuesday morning.
The 13-year veteran sprained his medial collateral ligament and posterior cruciate ligament in the Bears’ regular-season finale Jan. 1 against Minnesota. Urlacher decided to forgo surgery following the injury and had hoped that the offseason would allow the knee to heal.
» Click to continue reading Urlacher has surgery but still expects to play opener
It didn’t seem to matter where the ball was thrown Tuesday.
Bears receivers were going to catch it.
The best example of that came when second-string quarterback Jason Campbell threw over the head of Evan Rodriguez. The rookie tight end used every bit of his 36-inch vertical and 32-inch reach to snag the pass by the tips of his fingers in heavy traffic.
“I love catching balls,” Rodriguez said. “If you’re gonna get hit, you’re gonna get hit. And if you’re gonna go up and get it, you better come down with the ball.”
Rodriguez and the rest of the Bears’ receiving corps seemed to adopt that philosophy as Jay Cutler and Campbell spent the day zipping passes into crowded spots in the secondary. Wideout Earl Bennett returned to camp one day after his wife gave birth to a baby girl and was on the receiving end of several neatly-placed Cutler passes. The 25-year-old said that being able to bring in those types of throws builds the relationship between Cutler and his receivers.
“That’s what it’s going to come down to sometimes in games, making those tough catches,” Bennett said. “Jay trusts us, which is why he puts [the ball] in certain places. And he can make those throws so we just have to stay focused and do our jobs.”
Right place, right time
Safety Chris Conte showed great awareness Tuesday, finding himself in position for two interceptions of Cutler. The second came on an overthrow in the open field, but it was the first that was easily the most impressive.
After tight end Kellen Davis brought brought down a ball in the back of the end zone, safety Craig Steltz punched it out and into the hands of a waiting Conte.
Conte, entering his second season, started nine of his 14 games played last season but came to camp needing to impress with Steltz and third-round pick Brandon Hardin fighting for playing time. As of right now, Conte has defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli’s confidence.
“He’s a guy that came in last year and did not have the opportunity for [organized team activities], mini camps, none of it [because of the league's lockout of players],” Marinelli said. “The first time he saw a Bear helmet was when he walked into training camp, and that’s tough with all of the things you have to learn as an NFL player.
“But he had a really nice offseason after playing what I thought was some solid football for us last year, and now he’s just building off of that. He has corner skills; he really aids our coverage, so he’s going to get better and better as we go.”
With Brian Urlacher out recovering from arthroscopic surgery and Lance Briggs taking the day off to rest, several reserve linebackers were given the chance to shine with the first-team defense. Veterans Blake Costanzo and Geno Hayes, along with second-year man Patrick Trahan, traded snaps.
After taking a majority of the reps with the first-string offense Monday, left tackle J’Marcus Webb jumped between the first- and second-team units Tuesday. Rookie tackle James Brown was given several looks with the first unit as the team tries to solidify its starting five up front.
Urlacher underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Tuesday morning in an attempt to relieve pain and swelling brought on by an MCL/PCL sprain suffered in the final game of last season. He did not make an appearance at practice. Cornerback D.J. Moore returned to practice after sitting out Monday with a quad contusion. Defensive tackle Stephen Paea, who twisted his ankle during practice Saturday, was free of a walking boot he had been wearing over the past few days and expects to return to action within a week.
Alshon Jeffery doesn’t pay much attention to his critics. He figures they are going to talk either way.
The Bears rookie wide receiver has given them plenty to talk about — almost all of it positive.
“I’d say the stars are the limit,” Jeffery said about his future in the National Football League, “if I keep working hard, listening to my coaches and keep grinding.”
Claims of Jeffery being overweight or lacking the necessary work ethic to succeed at the next level surrounded the 6-foot-3 wideout prior to April’s draft. Those seemingly vanished upon the Bears arrival in Bourbonnais three weeks ago.
At least for now, Jeffery is displaying signs of the elite talent that left scouts drooling during his 2010 sophomore campaign at the University of South Carolina. That season, Jeffery lit up the SEC for 1,517 yards on 88 receptions and left many scouts projecting the second-team All-American as a first-round selection.
Jeffery decided to return for his junior year, however, and saw his production fall to 49 receptions and 762 yards with eight touchdowns.
Some scouts blamed the dip on Jeffery’s work ethic while others pointed to the midseason dismissal of quarterback Stephen Garcia and South Carolina’s subsequent increased reliance on star running back Marcus Lattimore.
Either way, Jeffery’s draft stock plummeted.
“At the end of the day I feel that people are going to say what they are going to say about you whether it’s good or bad,” Jeffery said. “I leave that up to the reporters.”
The South Carolina native fell into the second round, where the Bears traded up from pick No. 50 to the 45th pick to select him.
Jeffery has rewarded the Bears with a tremendous training camp in which he has hauled in nearly everything thrown his way. He also drew praise from coach Lovie Smith after providing the team with one of its few offensive bright spots with four receptions and 35 yards in last Thursday’s preseason opener against the Denver Broncos.
“He was one of the few guys that played good [Thursday], as far as his effort and being able to make plays,” Smith said following Saturday’s practice. “He’s a good football player. He’s getting more and more confidence. He’s got good size, he’s got excellent hands, and as a rookie, you see improvement from him. He takes coaching well. We could talk about him for a while.”
Jeffery’s ability to leverage position with his 6-foot-3 frame has been particularly impressive — especially considering quarterback Jay Cutler’s desire for big targets in the red zone. However, the rookie is the first to admit that there is plenty of work left to be done.
“I think I need to work on learning the playbook more,” Jeffery said. “I’m watching a lot more film and learning from coaches and teammates each and every day.”
At least for now, he’ll continue to do that with the second team as Brandon Marshall, Earl Bennett and Devin Hester run with the No. 1′s. But sooner or later, Jeffery knows he’ll get the chance to share the field with the team’s franchise quarterback.
“When the opportunity presents itself, I’m sure we’ll do a great job getting it done,” he said.
Tim Jennings is short in stature. But with the way he plays, his confidence would appear to be sky high.
Even though he’s having a terrific training camp, the Bears cornerback doesn’t let his head get too big when it’s time to rate his performance thus far.
“Well, I’m always tough on myself, so if I had to rate it on a scale of 1-10, I’d have to give myself a 7 or an 8,” Jennings said after practice Monday. “I have some good plays, but I never have the perfect practice. Because I always rate myself and work on my technique.”
Jennings, entering his third year with the Bears and seventh overall, is easy to spot during practice. He’s usually throwing his 5-foot-8-inch body around trying to defend far bigger receivers like Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Marshall is listed at 6-4, and Jeffery just an inch shorter. Both are in their first season with the Bears, but Jennings hasn’t looked intimidated going against them for the first time.
“It’s definitely helping me, because it’s helping me on my competitiveness,” Jennings said. “…These guys are big guys, and I have to be able to be aggressive — be aggressive at times, but on the same token, be smart about the situation and know some of my strengths and some of their strengths. So I have to recognize the station and recognize who I’m going against and try to mix it up a little bit.”
The challenges don’t stop there for Jennings. The Bears signed cornerbacks Kelvin Hayden and Jonathan Wilhite in the offseason, shaping up a starting job showdown for camp. But Jennings has clearly established himself as deserving the job thus far after taking notice of their arrival.
“Well, it definitely put me on my heels and my toes, man, just to to understand the situation and understand what the coach is looking for. So it was, ‘I need to step up my level of play,’” he said.
“We appreciate the depth. Kelvin is one hell of a corner. He could start in this league with any other team. I believe that. Seriously. And I think adding Kelvin and J. Wilhite, we add a whole lot of depth.”
Jennings might grade himself tough, but he plays with a swagger and often aggressively. At one point Monday, he wagged his finger at Marshall before a play, as if to say he wouldn’t let the star wideout get open. Marshall ran a few yards, turned around, and quarterback Jay Cutler threw the ball elsewhere.
Later, he knocked down receiver Dane Sanzenbacher after a reception, a no-no during camp. Sanzenbacher returned a shove. With most of the night’s practice being held under the lights at Olivet Nazarene University’s Ward Field before Family Fest fireworks, there was a little more excitement.
“Just the type of practice, you’re on the game field, you’ve got the lights on, you got the crowd out there,” Jennings said. “It got a little chippy with Brandon Marshall and Kelvin Hayden, so it kind of kept everybody on their toes. But I got to be smarter about the situation and protect our teammates.
“It’s just one of those moments that I just got caught up in the moment. I had a good break; I had a good read on the play.
“It’s the lights, man.”
Camp closes this week, and Jennings will get a chance to hit someone fair and square in the Bears’ second preseason game Saturday at Soldier Field vs. Washington. He said he wants to work on consistency, not trying to intercept every pass and staying healthy in that game.
Asked if he could improve on that grade of 7 or 8 in the final week, Jennings noted that nobody’s perfect. But among defensive players in camp, he has stood out based on expectations.
“I just want to come out here and work on my craft, work on some things that I need to work on to improve, just to become a better football player,” Jennings said. “And I feel like I’m doing that, making that stride.”
Jay Cutler stopped just short of calling training camp a full-on construction zone.
Fans have placed high expectations on the new-look Bears offense, but the team’s franchise quarterback reminded everyone Monday evening that it’s still a work in progress.
“We’re a long way away,” Cutler said. “We’ve got a lot of stuff to figure out. We’ve had good days out here; we’ve had bad days out here; and we’ve had really bad days out here.”
Cutler and starting running back Matt Forte both sat out of last Thursday’s 31-3 preseason-opening loss to Denver. Coach Lovie Smith didn’t say how much his starters will play in Saturday’s tuneup against Washington, but it’s safe to assume both players will see significant playing time in the first half.
The Bears’ biggest concern remains along the line, and offensive coordinator Mike Tice joked Monday that he often loses sleep trying to figure out how to protect Cutler.
Tice said that first-team offensive linemen will see plenty of action — meaning fans should get their first look of Tice’s scheme with Cutler under center. The Bears’ signal caller isn’t expecting things to go without a hitch, however.
“This isn’t a final product,” Cutler said. “It’s not going to be a final product on Saturday, and it’s probably going to take two or three weeks until we’re probably ready to play in a real game.”
One of the Bears’ biggest offensive strengths come in their running backs’ ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.
Forte demonstrated the stress can put on an opponent at Monday’s practice as the running back found himself lined up on the edge against linebacker Lance Briggs.
Forte quickly blew by the veteran as Cutler found his back wide open for a long touchdown.
“He can run the routes like a receiver can,” Smith said of Forte. “He can make you miss in the open field, and we have a lot in store for him this season.”
With rain falling on Olivet Nazarene University at times Monday evening, practice took a slightly more physical tone.
Several shoving matches occurred throughout team drills. Most notably, cornerback Tim Jennings put a big hit on wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher during 11-on-11′s. Jennings received a shove from the second-year wideout before the two were quickly separated.
“The way for us to get better is to have practices like tonight,” Smith said. “It was a more physical practice — a little bit more hitting tonight. It’s the sense of urgency that you want your team to have.”
Unsurprisingly, linebacker Brian Urlacher once again sat out of practice. Fellow linebackers Dom DeCicco and Adrien Cole also sat out with injuries.
Cornerback D.J. Moore was in pads but didn’t participate in team drills due to a quad contusion.
Wide receiver Earl Bennett was not present Monday evening as his wife gave birth to a girl.
They might not know when he’ll play again, but at least Bears fans know where Brian Urlacher is now.
After being absent from several practice sessions and last Thursday’s preseason game, the star middle linebacker was at practice Saturday at Olivet Nazarene University. Urlacher, who is recovering from a left knee injury suffered in the last game of last season, was not in pads, though, and did not participate.
“Brian Urlacher’s back, after he’s taken care of some business,” Bears head coach Lovie Smtih said Saturday. “So it’s good to get him back out on the practice field, even though he’s not practicing yet. He still has some soreness with the knee. We’ll continue to monitor it. Exactly when he’ll be back, I can’t tell you that. It’s good to get him back here.”
Little if any information has been revealed about where Urlacher was, and Smith was vague when asked if Urlacher was out getting more tests done on his knee. Urlacher did not speak to the media after practice, heading off in a golf cart.
“Knee is sore. He was out for personal reasons. That’s all we can really say,” Smith said.
More welcome receptions
Like Urlacher, quarterback Jay Cutler and running back Matt Forte did not play in Thursday’s preseason game, and that likely contributed to why the first-string offense didn’t look sharp in a 31-3 loss.
But in training camp, the receivers have offered hope, and that continued Saturday. Brandon Marshall caught a low pass going to his left in the right corner of the end zone on about a 10-yard pass from Cutler. That came after a drill earlier in which he beat rookie cornerback Isaiah Frey and caught a pass from Cutler.
Later, rookie Alshon Jeffery caught three passes in the end zone, though on one, it appeared he only got one foot inbounds. All three were mostly jump-ball style throws in which the receiver has to go up and get the ball.
Jeffery also performed well Thursday, catching four passes for 35 yards.
“He was one of the few guys that played good [Thursday], as far as his effort and being able to make plays,” Smith said Saturday. “He’s a good football player. He’s getting more and more confidence. He’s got good size, he’s got excellent hands, and as a rookie, you see improvement from him. He takes coaching well. We could talk about him for a while.”
Minor roster shakeup
The Bears added three players Saturday.
The team signed linebackers Xavier Adibi and K.C. Asiodu as well as defensive end Aston Whiteside. The Bears also waived defensive tackle Ronnie Cameron and cornerback Jeremy Ware and placed defensive Alex Brown on the reserve/retired list.
Adibi has appeared in 38 games with eight starts over four seasons wit Houston (2008-10) and Minnesota (2011). The 6-foot-2-inch, 242-pound linebacker has recorded 55 tackles (41 solo), two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and 13 special teams stops after being selected by the Texans in the fourth round (118th overall) of the 2008 draft out of Virginia Tech.
Asiodu has appeared in 11 contests over two seasons with the St. Louis (2009) and New Orleans (2010), recording nine special teams tackles. He spent part of the 2011 preseason with Green Bay but was released before the regular season.
Whiteside entered the NFL this season as an undrafted free agent with Dallas out of Abilene Christian University.
The progression of defensive tackle Stephen Paea has been noticeable this camp, and the second-year man from Oregon State seemed poised to build on his progress from the second half of last season.
But that coronation will have to wait a bit. Paea sprained an ankle in Saturday’s practice and was seen sporting a walking boot on Sunday.
Paea doesn’t think the injury will sideline him for long.
“I’d rather rest it out and have a quick recovery than make it worse,” Paea said.
Paea should be able to get back on the field in time for the season opener, but his absence will give other defensive line hopefuls such as Thaddeus Gibson more of a chance to make an impression.
Another one of the defensive lineman, recently acquired defensive tackle Brian Price, also was seen leaving the practice field with the aid of a trainer on Sunday. So just as the linebackers are starting to see a depletion in their ranks, so too are injury problems beginning to mount in the ranks of the defensive line.
CHICAGO — Anyone anticipating a preview of the Bears’ new-look offense will have to wait another week.
With heavy rain pounding Soldier Field during pregame warmups, the Bears decided to sit quarterback Jay Cutler and running back Matt Forte in their preseason opener against Denver on Thursday night.
Wide receiver Brandon Marshall saw limited action, and the Bears managed only 41 yards in the first half of a 31-3 loss.
“We were going against a tremendous defense,” said quarterback Jason Campbell, who started in place of Cutler and finished 4 of 5 passing for 13 yards. “We’re not going to do anything to really show our hand or show what we have right now.”
The Bears’ first-team defense played two series and provided a timely turnover on Denver’s opening drive. Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, playing in his first game since January 2011, drove his team deep into Bears territory.
The Bears defense, which led the National Football League in red zone interceptions (six) in 2011, came up big again when safety Major Wright picked off a Manning pass at the Bears’ goal line.
Denver was not deterred. A Michael Bush fumble on the ensuing drive set up a 28-yard field goal by Matt Prater to give the Broncos a 3-0 lead with 6:40 remaining in the first quarter.
Lance Ball later gave Denver a 10-0 edge with a 2-yard run to cap a seven-play, 57-yard drive with 3:28 remaining in the opening half.
The Bears were held to just two first downs in the first half; they included one from a Denver defensive penalty.
The only Bears first-team unit to see extended playing time was the offensive line, which played the majority of the first half. The group was responsible for two sacks and three penalties.
Left tackle J’Marcus Webb suffered through a particularly rough start. The 23-year-old was beat badly on a Robert Ayers sack of Josh McCown and was also called for a false start deep in Bears territory.
Defensively, the Bears found several bright spots. First-round draft choice Shea McClellin displayed great closing speed to sack Denver backup and former Bear Caleb Hanie in the open field, and defensive end Cheta Ozougwu also found his way into the Broncos’ backfield for a sack.
“We didn’t play as well as I thought we would tonight, but I did see some things I liked,” said coach Lovie Smith. “Shea did some good things tonight. Any time you get a sack and it’s your first play … you’re going to remember that.”
Things quickly got out of hand in the second half. The Broncos added two third-quarter touchdowns after methodical drives to make it 24-0.
The Bears didn’t get on the board until 11:29 remained in the game; Robbie Gould hit a 47-yard field goal.
Rookie wideout Alshon Jeffery provided the lone offensive highlights for the Bears. The South Carolina product hauled in four passes for 35 yards and showcased his ability to block out cornerbacks with his 6-foot-3-inch frame.
“Offensively, we couldn’t establish anything with the run and the protection wasn’t very good,” Smith said. “We’re not ready for prime time yet.”
Preseason games usually don’t offer many scintillating storylines, but when the Bears and Denver Broncos kickoff at 7:30 p.m. tonight there should be a few interesting plots to follow, even if it’s only early August.
So here are a few reasons why you might want to watch the first couple series and well beyond that.
1. Cutler and Marshall, together again
Based on the first couple weeks of training camp, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler and receiver Brandon Marshall appear to still that same chemistry from their days in Denver together. But we’ll finally get to see them on the field, against another team, with tackling involved. It would be a pleasant sight for Bears fans to see them link up a time or two. Imagine that: a legitimate No. 1 receiver for the Bears.
2. Peyton Manning puts his neck out there
It’ll be the star quarterback’s first game since January 2011 after undergoing major neck surgery. Will he hold up? How will he look in his first appearance with Denver after Indianapolis released him?
3. The Bears’ receiver battle
This will go long into the night, well past the first series and first quarter. Dane Sanzenbacher and Brittan Golden are fighting to make the team. They’ll treat this game like it’s a playoff game. Both have had solid camps. Also worth keeping an eye on is rookie receiver Alshon Jeffery. The talented second-round pick has had his fair share of bright moments in camp. Bears fans would love to see he and Marshall emerge as a fun combo for Cutler to throw to the next few years.
4. Forte makes his return
Bears running back Matt Forte suffered a season-ending knee injury late last year, and he took the team’s playoff hopes with him when he went to the sidelines. But he hasn’t shown ill effects in coming back at camp. He might only get a couple touches, but if he looks like he did last year, Bears fans will be pleased.
5. Can Campbell be mmm, mmm good?
When Cutler went down with a thumb injury last year, backup Caleb Hanie — who’s actually now with Denver — was awful as his replacement. Backup quarterbacks seemingly always play at some point. The Bears signed Jason Campbell this offseason; he has been a starter for much of his first seven seasons. If Cutler goes down again, Campbell will have to show his value. He’s looked comfortable at camp. A nice showing tonight would appease fans.
6. Can the Bears’ safeties flourish?
I really think is a huge question mark. Do you trust Major Wright and Chris Conte? A veteran back there would make things more comfortable. Guys behind them to keep an eye on include Craig Steltz and rookie Brandon Hardin.
7. Will someone on the offensive line step up?
Offensive coordinator Mike Tice said Monday that no one had stood out in the battle for two jobs on the line. Gabe Carimi and J’Marcus Webb are listed as the starters at the tackle spots on the unofficial depth chart; we’ll see if anyone in the trenches boosts their stock against Denver.
Veteran players with established roster spots often view preseason games with dread.
That emotion isn’t shared by those battling for a place on the 53-man roster. Each is trying to earn an extended look from the coaching staff.
Here’s a look at a few players hoping to make an impression in the preseason opener against Denver on Thursday:
• Brittan Golden, wide receiver: Golden has shined in camp thus far, catching nearly everything thrown in his direction. Although he’s a long shot to make the roster in an unusually deep receiving corps, Golden may make some noise on special teams. If he does, he’d make headway toward a spot on the team’s practice squad at the very least.
• Brandon Hardin, safety: The third-round pick out of Oregon State likely isn’t in danger of getting cut. But he’s been put in several pivotal positions on special teams, as well as being asked to factor into the safety rotation. Hardin’s play has been up and down in camp, and he’d certainly like the opportunity to establish some consistency.
• Edwin Williams, offensive lineman: The emergence of undrafted free agent James Brown as a viable option leaves Williams’ status as a reserve offensive lineman in flux. Brown wouldn’t likely make it through waivers, so Williams needs to show he’s worthy of one of the three or four offensive line backup slots sooner rather than later.
• Jonathan Wilhite, cornerback: Tim Jennings has established that he’s going to be the starter opposite Charles Tillman. Both Wilhite and Kelvin Hayden were brought in to push Jennings or possibly unseat him. Neither has made a strong impression in camp, and the Bears might choose to go young if Wilhite or Hayden don’t make an impact.
• Dom DeCicco, linebacker: DeCicco, a second-year safety out of Pittsburgh, is really only learning the position, but he established himself as something of a special teams dynamo in his rookie campaign. There might be more opportunities for him to get on the field, should he prove capable: The Bears are rather thin at linebacker behind the starting trio of Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs and Nick Roach.
Bears coach Lovie Smith indicated that the preseason game is an excellent opportunity for younger players to make an impression.
“It will be important for a lot of the guys that they have the ability to show us exactly what they are,” Smith said. “We’re looking to get guys into a game. Even for the veterans, we’re starting over. A new year, and everybody for the most part will play a little bit.”
Urlacher was excused for what Smith indicated said “personal reasons.” Urlacher has not practiced in nearly a week.
Wide receiver Devin Hester missed practice with an illness. Linebacker Jabara Williams and defensive tackle DeMario Presley were dressed but did not participate.
“Guys are going to miss days here and there,” Smith said.
The revolving door of the back end of the Bears roster continued on Tuesday.
The Bears released offensive tackle Tyler Hendrickson and replaced him on the roster with defensive end Derek Walker, who played at the University of Illinois.
Walker, who graduated from Glenbard East High School in Glen Ellyn, played most recently with the Chicago Rush of the Arena Football League. He was signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by Washington in 2009. Walker also spent time with Seattle and San Francisco, but has not played in an NFL game.