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Weems excited about expanded role

Posted by Larry Mayer on November 29, 2012 – 5:23 pm

With Devin Hester ruled out of Sunday’s home game against the Seahawks due to a concussion, Eric Weems will become the Bears’ primary return specialist.

The six-year veteran took over for Hester in last Sunday’s 28-10 win over the Vikings, averaging 21.7 yards on three kickoff returns, well below his 25.3-yard career average.

“It was good to get him in there and knock the dust off,” said special teams coordinator Dave Toub. “I expect him to be a lot better this week. I expect him to take a little more of a jump and hit the ball a little bit faster up the field. He’s excited about the opportunities he’s going to get this week.”

Weems possesses a different skill set than Hester, who has averaged 8.0 yards on 26 punt returns with a long of 44 yards and 25.5 yards on 18 kickoff returns with a long of 38 yards this season.

“He’s a lot more north and south, good vision, strong, up-the-field player whereas Devin is going to try to make you miss, run around you and a lot of times get to the edge,” Toub said.

Weems signed with the Bears in March after spending his first five NFL seasons with the Falcons. The 5-9, 195-pounder, who was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2010 as the NFC’s special teams representative, excelled in Atlanta both on the kick return and coverage teams.

Weems ranks second on the Bears in special teams tackles with 10, one behind Blake Costanzo.

“[Weems] has been great,” Toub said. “He’s been a leader for us. He and Blake go back and forth and they are always competing: ‘Who made the tackle? Who is getting doubled? Who isn’t?’ It’s a lot of fun as far as the coverage goes and it’s good to get Weems in the return game.”

Toub has enjoyed working with Weems, who is a feisty agitator on the field. Against the Vikings, he drew a 15-yard penalty against cornerback A.J. Jefferson for a shove after the whistle.

“He’s tough,” Toub said. “He’s real quiet at practice and he’s kind of different. When it’s game time, he’s a lot more vocal, and when he blocks you he lets you know about it.

“He kind of ticks some people off sometimes, and something they push him back and they can’t believe this guy is beating them. He’s a fun guy to be around. He’s been a pleasure to have.”

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Hester, Spencer won’t play Sunday

Posted by Larry Mayer on November 29, 2012 – 4:30 pm

Bears receiver Devin Hester (concussion) and guard Chris Spencer (knee) have been ruled out of Sunday’s home game against the Seahawks after sitting out Thursday’s practice.

Four other players were limited Thursday, all with ankle injuries: Linebacker Lance Briggs, tight end Kellen Davis, running back Matt Forte and cornerback Charles Tillman. Briggs and Forte both told reporters that they expect to play Sunday.

If Forte does play, he’ll line up behind an offensive line that’s assured of starting its third different combination in as many weeks after left guard Lance Louis was placed on injured reserve.

“It doesn’t change my approach at all,” Forte said. “You’ve just got to trust those guys up front. They’re getting a lot of reps in practice right now so that they know what to do in the game.”

Forte hated to see Louis suffer a season-ending knee injury in last Sunday’s win over the Vikings.

“I think this was his contract year, and to lose him for the rest of the season is tough,” Forte said. “I’m just praying for him and I know he’ll come back strong.”

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Jennings, Tillman 1-2 in Pro Bowl voting

Posted by Larry Mayer on November 29, 2012 – 1:21 pm

Ten Bears rank in the top five at their respective positions in the latest fan balloting for the NFC Pro Bowl team.

Tim Jennings (189,791 votes) and Charles Tillman (137,031) are the top vote-getters at cornerback, while Henry Melton (155,377) leads all defensive tackles.

Brandon Marshall (263,700) is second behind the Giants’ Victor Cruz (352,611) at receiver and Major Wright (71,532) is second behind the Packers’ Charles Woodson (78,503) at strong safety.

Kick returner Devin Hester (67,585) and special teams standout Blake Costanzo (36,790) are third; inside linebacker Brian Urlacher (86,345) is fourth; and defensive end Julius Peppers (109,090) and outside linebacker Lance Briggs (99,901) are fifth.

Pro Bowl voting will continue online and on mobile phones via NFL.com/probowl through Monday, Dec. 17. The teams will be announced at 6 p.m. (CT) on Wednesday, Dec. 26 on NFL Network’s “NFL Total Access.”

The Pro Bowl will be played on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013, a week before Super Bowl XLVII, and televised live on NBC at 6 p.m. (CT) from Aloha Stadium in Honolulu.

The all-star squads are based on the consensus votes of fans, players and coaches. Each group’s vote counts one-third toward determining the 43-man rosters that represent NFC and AFC. NFL players and coaches will cast their votes Dec. 20-21.

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Former Bear McRae passes away

Posted by Larry Mayer on November 29, 2012 – 12:24 pm

Former Bears cornerback Bennie McRae, who ranks fourth in franchise history with 27 interceptions, passed away on Thanksgiving Day in Columbia, Md., after a lengthy illness. He was 72.

McRae spent nine of his 10 NFL seasons with the Bears from 1962-70 after arriving as a second-round draft pick from Michigan. He was a key member of the 1963 NFL championship team and led the Bears in interceptions in 1964, 1967 and 1968.

According to his obituary in a Virginia newspaper, McRae is survived by his wife, Suzanne A. McRae; children, Kellan McRae-Johnson, Robby Harris, Ronnell McRae-Scott, Tony McRae, Bennie McRae and Danielle Burroughs; 15 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

McRae’s funeral will be held at 1 p.m. Friday at Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Temple (3100 Butternut Drive) in Hampton, Va. The family is requesting donations be made to the Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Temple Youth Center Building Fund in lieu of flowers.

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Marshall wants to face Seattle’s best

Posted by Larry Mayer on November 28, 2012 – 4:40 pm

Seahawks cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman are facing four-game suspensions for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. But the appeals they filed won’t be heard this week, meaning both will play Sunday against the Bears.

And that’s just fine with receiver Brandon Marshall, a physical 6-5, 230-pounder who is eager to see how he fares against the 6-4 Browner and the 6-3 Sherman.

“It’s different because it’s not what we call the prototypical corner,” Marshall said. “They present some different challenges, but I am excited about this match-up. I am happy they are playing. I am really excited they are playing. That’s good for the game, and I am ready to compete.”

There’s little doubt that quarterback Jay Cutler will continue to target Marshall, whose 81 receptions are 59 more than the Bears’ next wide receiver, Earl Bennett, who has 22. But the size the Seahawks boast at cornerback could force the Bears to make some changes.

“Brandon’s usually the biggest guy out there outside and he kind of does what he wills and throws guys around,” Cutler said. “It’s a different match-up for him. Bigger guys are going to grab, pull and get up in his face, so we’re going to have to attack it a little different. I’m going to talk to ‘B’ to see what he’s comfortable running.”

The way Marshall performed in last Sunday’s win over the Vikings, it probably wouldn’t have mattered if Minnesota’s cornerbacks were seven-feet tall. The Bears receiver caught 12 passes for 92 yards, often with defenders draped all over him.

“He’s a special player,” Cutler said. “I knew it from Denver playing with him. He makes things easy for me. He’s a competitor. He wants the ball at all times and whenever he gets in that zone I think he was in Sunday, just feed him the ball, find a way. If B’s not No. 1 in your progression, go to him anyway. He just makes it happen.”

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Six Bears sit out practice with injuries

Posted by Larry Mayer on November 28, 2012 – 4:35 pm

Six players sat out practice Wednesday as the Bears began to prepare for Sunday’s home game against the Seahawks with a padded workout.

Linebacker Lance Briggs (ankle), tight end Kellen Davis (ankle), receivers Devin Hester (concussion) and Alshon Jeffery (knee), guard Chris Spencer (knee) and cornerback Charles Tillman (ankle) did not participate. Running back Matt Forte (ankle) was limited.

“We have a lot of guys that didn’t practice,” said coach Lovie Smith. “We haven’t been in that situation very often. We hadn’t been in it at all this year, but the rest of the guys had to step up, which they did.”

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Bears elevate Trahan from practice squad

Posted by Larry Mayer on November 28, 2012 – 3:54 pm

The Bears on Wednesday promoted linebacker Patrick Trahan from the practice squad to the 53-man roster and re-signed defensive end Aston Whiteside to the practice squad.

Trahan spent the first 12 weeks of last season on the Bears practice squad before recording five special teams tackles in the final five games. The 6-2, 236-pounder was waived Sept. 8 and then re-signed to the practice squad two days later, where he remained until being elevated Wednesday.

Whiteside was on the Bears practice squad the first five weeks of the season after entering the NFL this year with the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent from Abilene Christian.

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Carimi didn’t sulk after getting benched

Posted by Larry Mayer on November 28, 2012 – 2:23 pm

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler praised teammate Gabe Carimi Wednesday for how the second-year pro from Wisconsin dealt with losing his starting right tackle job last week.

Rather than sulking, Carimi was ready to play when called upon last Sunday against the Vikings. After guards Chris Spencer and Lance Louis both exited with knee injuries, Carimi played the position for the first time in his career, lining up at right guard in a 28-10 win.

“It can’t be easy, especially for a young guy like that,” Cutler said. “To get [demoted] like that, it was tough on him. I talked to him. Coach [Mike] Tice talked to him. I’m sure [general manager] Phil [Emery] and some other guys talked to him. We felt like he just needed a little break.

“The NFL’s weird like that. You never know when it’s going to happen. Guys go down and now he’s back at guard. It wasn’t too long before he got back in there.

“He stepped in there and did a nice job for us, Maybe this is his position, I don’t know.”

Tice was also impressed with how Carimi responded.

“He came to me and acted with great maturity,” Tice said. “Originally he was disappointed and upset. But he bounced back and he understands this is a business and when performance is not up to expectation or performance is not up to a winning level, then changes have to be made.

“But I was glad that he kept in a good mind frame and went in there and did a nice job. He looked good pulling around there.”

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Cutler, Marshall surprised by Allen hit

Posted by Larry Mayer on November 28, 2012 – 1:10 pm

Having played against Jared Allen twice a year in the AFC West, Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall agreed that the cheap shot the Vikings defensive end delivered last Sunday was out of character.

On Antoine Winfield’s interception return early in the second half, Allen launched himself into the head of Bears guard Lance Louis, who suffered a season-ending knee injury on the play. The NFL has reportedly fined Allen $21,000 for the illegal hit.

“He’s not that type of player,” Cutler said. “I was surprised by it, to be honest. He’s not that type of guy. He plays extremely hard. He usually does things the right way. I’ve always respected him. It kind of caught me off guard.

“You look at the play and he hit him in the head. He did all of the things he shouldn’t do. Whether there’s a fine, it’s going to be up to the league office. But I don’t think it’s indicative of the player or person he is.”

As Broncos teammates, Cutler and Marshall played two games a year in 2006-07 against Allen, who spent his first four NFL seasons with the Chiefs before being traded to the Vikings in 2008.

“He has always been a competitor and a good sport, so that shocked me seeing that play,” Marshall said. “I know he plays aggressive and he plays physical, so I wasn’t surprised by him cracking back. But to launch at Lance’s head, that was a little shocking.”

On Monday, coach Lovie Smith and defensive end Israel Idonije called the block “unnecessary.”

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Cutler misses practice due to concussion

Posted by Larry Mayer on November 15, 2012 – 4:40 pm

Jay Cutler’s status for Monday night’s game in San Francisco remains uncertain after he was held out of practice Thursday due to the concussion he sustained in last Sunday night’s loss to the Texans.

“I know you have a lot of Jay Cutler questions, but there’s not a whole lot I can say except for—as I said yesterday—he’s getting better,” said coach Lovie Smith. “I don’t know if he’ll be able to go this week or not. He did not practice today and that’s about all I can really tell you.”

Cutler, who must be cleared by Bears doctors and an independent neurological consultant before he can participate in practice or a game, has improved each day this week.

“He’s feeling better and it normally goes like that,” Smith said. “You get better each day with an injury, with just how you’re feeling. That’s why you’re optimistic and you have to take it each day, and we’re hopeful tomorrow he’ll be better than he is today.”

Like Cutler, defensive end Shea McClellin did not practice Thursday after suffering a concussion against the Texans. Defensive tackle Matt Toeaina (calf) also sat out. Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (hand) was limited and defensive tackle Henry Melton (back) practiced without restrictions.

The Bears are hoping that Jeffery will be able to play after missing the last four games.

“He’s a good football player,” Smith said. “He was really playing good football for us when he went down. I know we can’t wait to get him out there. As you look at the timetable that we kind of had in mind when he went down, this is getting about close to that time, so we’re hopeful. We could use him.”

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