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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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