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Urlacher remains on track for opener

Posted by Larry Mayer on August 28, 2012 – 5:15 pm

Bears coach Lovie Smith reiterated Tuesday that middle linebacker Brian Urlacher remains on track to return to face the Indianapolis Colts in the Sept. 9 season opener at Soldier Field.

“Just like we’ve said all along, I expect to see No. 54 out on the field next week in practice and playing against the Colts,” Smith said. “Brian is making a lot of progress.”

Urlacher underwent arthroscopic knee surgery Aug. 14. He sat out the entire offseason program while recovering from a knee injury he suffered in last year’s season finale in Minnesota.

The eight-time Pro Bowl participated in the first four training camp practices in Bourbonnais, but hasn’t worked out with his teammates since July 31.

The timetable for punter Adam Podlesh’s return is less certain. The sixth-year pro will miss his second straight preseason game with a hip flexor injury he sustained Aug. 18 against the Redskins.

“I have no idea when he’ll be back.” Smith said. “I’m not trying to give you the standard answer of, ‘Hey, they’re getting better,’ but he is getting better. He’s making progress. We’re seeing him do things. He can’t punt the ball right now. But we’re encouraged by his progress.”

Asked about playing in the season opener against the Colts, Podlesh said: “Nobody has ruled that out yet. It’s a possibility. [But] we’re going to be smart about how we get myself back on the field. It’s been going well. Every day has been positive, which is good.”


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Bears making Price feel at home

Posted by Larry Mayer on August 28, 2012 – 5:00 pm

Acquired in a trade with the Buccaneers July 26, defensive tackle Brian Price appreciates how Bears players and coaches have accepted him so quickly as one of their own.

“I’m just very fortunate to be here,” Price said Tuesday. “You can feel it in the air here. I love it here. It’s my new home. Words can’t express how I feel to be here.”

Price has struggled in recent months dealing with the death of his 33-year-old sister, Bridget James, who was a victim of a hit-and-run automobile accident in May in Los Angeles.

“We show support and we’re there for all of our players, Brian and anyone else,” said coach Lovie Smith. “We have a great locker room that welcomes guys coming in. If you want to play football, play with a great group of teammates, this is the place for you. I’m glad Brian is seeing that.”

Price has shown improvement after a slow start in training camp and needs to perform well in Thursday night’s preseason finale in Cleveland to enhance his chances of making the 53-man roster.

“He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do,” Smith said. “We’ve seen him improve as a ballplayer. That normally helps your mental state also; how it’s going on the football field for you. Brian’s one of the guys. [Teammates have] opened their arms to him. He has made some plays. We’ve seen flashes of what we’ve brought him [here] for. This will be an important game for him.”


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Bears games to be broadcast in Spanish

Posted by Larry Mayer on August 28, 2012 – 4:19 pm

The Bears and WLEY-FM “La Ley” on Tuesday announced a new radio partnership that will bring Bears football games to Chicago’s Hispanic radio listeners.

Beginning this season, WLEY-FM “La Ley” will broadcast all Bears games on 107.9 FM in Spanish with the on-air team of Jose Luis Marquez “El Pitufo” and Liz Liz “La Dama del Deporte.”

“We’re really excited about the opportunity to bring the Bears closer to the Hispanic fans that we have,” said team president and CEO Ted Phillips.

“We know there are a lot of Hispanic fans. To us, this is the first step in what we hope will be a longer and deeper relationship so that we can get involved more in the Hispanic communities and provide more touch points for our fans so they can get closer to the team and the station.”

The Bears are the 14th NFL team to offer broadcasts of their games in Spanish, joining the Cardinals, Panthers, Cowboys, Broncos, Texans, Jaguars, Chiefs, Dolphins, Vikings, Raiders, Eagles, Chargers and 49ers.

“It’s a great opportunity for the Chicago Bears and ‘La Ley’ to reach out to the community and our great fan base that loves the Chicago Bears,” said center Roberto Garza, whose family emigrated from Mexico to Rio Hondo, Texas, about a year before he was born.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to be able to reach out into that community and expand on what they know about football and expand on their passion and loyalty to the Chicago Bears.”


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Walters pushing to earn roster spot

Posted by Larry Mayer on August 27, 2012 – 3:25 pm

As an unheralded second-year pro, safety Anthony Walters looks at every preseason game as another chance to prove he deserves a spot on the Bears’ 53-man roster.

“I came in undrafted, so you never know what’s going to happen,” Walters said Monday. “Every opportunity I have I try to take advantage of and I’ve had a couple since I’ve been here.”

Walters joined the Bears as an undrafted free agent from Delaware in 2011. After spending the first five weeks of the season on the practice squad, he was promoted to the 53-man roster. The 6-1, 207-pounder recorded one special teams tackle in four games before being placed on injured reserve with a hamstring injury.

Walters appears to be the fourth safety on the depth chart behind starters Chris Conte and Major Wright and top reserve Craig Steltz. Rookie Brandon Hardin was placed on injured reserve Sunday, seemingly enhancing Walters’ odds of earning a roster spot. But with final cuts looming Friday, he isn’t planning on buying green bananas.

“They haven’t really said anything about it,” Walters said. “I don’t have an apartment yet, I’ll tell you that. I’m just still living where they pay for it. I’m not really sure.”

Walters preserved last Friday night’s preseason win over the Giants by deflecting a David Carr pass to teammate Isaiah Frey, who intercepted the ball in the end zone with 1:06 remaining. Walters has also been contributing on special teams, a necessity for most non-starters.

“If you want to make the roster, it’ll be through special teams,” Walters said. “I learned that last year, and right now special teams are just as important as defense.”


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Weems ‘shows us a lot’ in debut

Posted by Larry Mayer on August 23, 2012 – 4:47 pm

After watching Eric Weems excel on special teams with the Falcons the last five seasons, Dave Toub was happy to see the 5-9, 195-pounder make his Bears debut Saturday night against the Redskins.

“I knew what he can do, but it was good to see it on our team making plays for us,” said the Bears special teams coordinator. “That was impressive I thought.”

Weems played against the Redskins after sitting out the preseason opener versus the Broncos with an ankle injury.

“He did really good,” Toub said. “He had the sprained ankle the first week, but it was good to see him out there. He’s still not even 100 percent and he showed us a lot.”

In five seasons with the Falcons, Weems recorded 41 special teams tackles and averaged 25.6 yards on 113 kickoff returns with one touchdown and 10.6 yards on 77 punt returns with one TD.

The Bethune-Cookman product was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2010 and returned a kickoff 102 yards for a TD in a 2011 playoff game against the Packers.

“He is going to be a four-phase player,” Toub said. “He is going to be a starting gunner for us. He also will play on kick return. Either he is going to be the kick returner or maybe on the front line or the off returner. But we’re expecting him to play all four phases for us.”


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Bush will stay ready in backup role

Posted by Larry Mayer on August 22, 2012 – 3:47 pm

Every second-stringer wants to start, but you won’t hear veteran running back Michael Bush complaining about being stuck behind starter Matt Forte on the depth chart.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time in the same situation,” said Bush, who signed with the Bears in March after spending his first five NFL seasons primarily as a backup with the Raiders. “There are enough balls to go around.

“You can’t get frustrated on the sidelines whether you’re playing or not because eventually it’s going to come around to where you need to be ready. It’s going to be your turn to play. I’m not a guy that’s going to fuss about it. When it’s my turn, I’m going to be ready for it.”

Bush certainly was ready last year in Oakland when starting running back Darren McFadden suffered a season-ending foot injury in October. Bush stepped in and rushed for 99, 96, 157 and 109 yards in his first four games, ultimately finishing the year with a career-high 977 yards.

With the Bears, Bush plans to feed off Forte’s success this season.

“If he’s out there and does a great job, I want to come in and answer as well,” Bush said. “We’re competing just to do good amongst each other, but not for who’s starting.”

While Bush insists that he’s a complete running back and not just a short-yardage specialist, offensive coordinator Mike Tice doesn’t need to be convinced about the 6-1, 245-pounder.

“I don’t see him as a goal-line back,” Tice said. “I see him as a guy that’s going to go out there and make plays for us. He happens to be a bigger guy, so it makes sense to put him in those situations, short-yardage and goal-line. But there are other things that he does very well and we’re not going to shy away from calling anything with Michael.”


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Urlacher declines to discuss article

Posted by Larry Mayer on August 22, 2012 – 1:40 pm

Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher on Wednesday declined to confirm a newspaper report that he went to Europe in May or early June for an alternative treatment on his left knee.

“I heard about that,” Urlacher said when asked about the article. “Are there any quotes from me in there? I didn’t think so. Or anybody else for that matter? I didn’t think so. It doesn’t matter what I did or what I haven’t done. This is where we’re at now, so this is all that matters.”

As far as Urlacher and the Bears are concerned, nothing has changed since he addressed the media last Thursday, two days after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery. He still expects—as he did then—to be ready to play in the regular-season opener Sept. 9 against the Colts.

“Our goal is Sept. 9,” Urlacher said at the time. “Sept. 9 is all I care about. That’s my goal. That’s what we’re shooting for. The whole time that’s been our goal.”

Urlacher sat out the entire offseason program while recovering from a knee injury he suffered in last year’s season finale in Minnesota. The eight-time Pro Bowler participated in the first four training camp practices but hasn’t worked out with his teammates since July 31.

“This stuff is important, but that game [against the Colts] is more important than any of the stuff we’re doing right now,” Urlacher said last Thursday. “Same thing with the offseason. It’s important, but I want to be ready for the games that count.”


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Toub ‘very concerned’ about Podlesh

Posted by Larry Mayer on August 21, 2012 – 5:16 pm

Bears special teams coordinator Dave Toub is worried about the left hip injury that punter Adam Podlesh sustained in Saturday night’s preseason win over the Redskins.

“I’m very concerned,” Toub told reporters Tuesday at Halas Hall. “It’s a bad injury for a punter to have, a hip flexor, whether it’s his kicking leg or the opposite leg. We’re concerned. He’s going to see a couple specialists and we’ll figure out what we need to do.”

Podlesh suffered the injury while chasing Brandon Banks on a 91-yard punt return touchdown.

“It’s a common injury for kickers,” Toub said. “Sometimes they get it when they’re kicking; it’s on their kicking leg and that’s even worse. We’re fortunate it’s on his opposite leg. It’s more of a stabilizer for him.”

With Podlesh ailing, undrafted rookie Ryan Quigley will handle punting duties Friday night when the Bears visit the Giants at MetLife Stadium. Quigley averaged 39.4 yards on five punts in the first two preseason games.

“He’s going to get a good shot this week,” Toub said. “This is going to be a good test for him. He gets to play with the ones. He hasn’t done that all season. He’s going to be our punter for this game. We’ll see if he can handle it.”


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Conte vows to return for opener

Posted by Larry Mayer on August 21, 2012 – 4:57 pm

Chris Conte isn’t sure when he’ll return from the shoulder injury he suffered in Saturday night’s win over the Redskins. But the Bears safety expects to be back before the Sept. 9 season opener against the Colts.

“It’s not a big deal,” Conte told reporters Tuesday at Halas Hall. “I don’t plan on missing any regular season games, but it’s [frustrating because] preseason was going well and you want to keep on getting better and playing in the preseason. But it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.”

Conte was injured in the second quarter while making a routine tackle on Washington running back Evan Royster. The 2011 third-round pick from California exited after registering three tackles.

“It’s a day-to-day thing,” Conte said. “Just as long as I have range of motion and strength, I should be good.”

In other news Tuesday, the Bears waived/injured defensive tackle DeMario Pressley. Pressley signed with the Bears in May after appearing in eight games with the Saints (2009) and Panthers (2011), recording 20 tackles.


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Wright feels his teammates’ pain

Posted by Larry Mayer on August 21, 2012 – 2:54 pm

Having been slowed by injuries since he entered the NFL, Major Wright can empathize with fellow safeties Chris Conte and Brandon Hardin after both were hurt in Saturday night’s preseason win over the Redskins.

“That’s always frustrating,” Wright said Tuesday at Halas Hall. “I dealt with it for two years. It’s something that you’ve just got to deal with, put in your past and just build on whatever you’ve got going on. Things happen. You’ve got to get over it and come back stronger.”

Wright has had trouble staying healthy since he joined the Bears in 2010 as a third-round pick, missing five games as a rookie with a pulled hamstring and four contests last year due to neck, hip and shoulder injuries.

“You can’t let it affect how you play,” Wright said. “This is the game you’ve been playing for how many years—for me all my life—and I can’t change the way I’ve been doing things all my life.”

With the status of Conte (shoulder) and Hardin (neck) uncertain, it appears that Wright could be teaming with versatile five-year veteran Craig Steltz at the safety position with the No. 1 defense.

“It’s always next man up,” Wright said. “Every man has got to be ready to play at any time.

“Craig is a vet. He’s one of the older guys in the room. Everybody looks up to him because he’s been in this defense for so many years. It’s good. We both communicate. We feel like we’re on the same page in every defense.”


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