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D.J. Williams sustains calf injury

Posted by Larry Mayer on July 31, 2013 – 7:22 pm

Bears coach Marc Trestman said that starting middle linebacker D.J. Williams is “week-to-week” after being carted off the field with a calf injury early in Wednesday’s practice.

“He’s had a very good first week,” Trestman said. “He’s totally locked in, been all business, excited about being here. When these things happen, you just have to move on. I anticipate he’ll be ready to go when the doctors clear him and hopefully that will be sooner than later.”

Williams was replaced on the No. 1 defense by rookie second-round draft pick Jon Bostic. Last season at Florida the 6-1, 245-pounder started all 13 games at middle linebacker, registering 68 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, three sacks and two interceptions.

“I’m just trying to get better each and every day,” Bostic said. “There is still a lot of stuff I’ve got to learn. I’m not perfect in any area at all. I see that every day on film. So I’ve got to pick one thing out each and every day on what I want to get better on.”

Asked if he would be ready to start the season opener Sept. 8 against the Bengals if needed, Bostic said: “I’m really just talking it day-by-day. I’m not really looking ahead to then. I’m just looking forward to watching film today and trying to get better on the stuff for tomorrow.”

Trestman was eager to watch tape of the young linebacker’s performance in Wednesday’s practice.

“Bostic had a lot of reps, not only at the linebacker position but also on special teams because he has to be a dominant special teams player,” Trestman said. “Until I look at the tape I can’t evaluate his performance today, but I know he was working at it. He was giving great effort and on a couple occasions I saw him do very well when I was focused in on him.”

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Offense comes up big in red zone

Posted by Larry Mayer on July 31, 2013 – 5:45 pm

The Bears defense boasts several talented Pro Bowlers. But the unit could have used a step ladder or an NBA power forward during a red-zone drill late in Wednesday’s practice.

Taking advantage of a size differential, Jay Cutler threw touchdown passes to 6-3 receiver Alshon Jeffery, 6-4 receiver Brandon Marshall and 6-6 tight end Martellus Bennett.

“We’re very lucky,” said coach Marc Trestman. “We thank [general manager] Phil [Emery] every day when we come off the field that he was able to bring in guys with this kind of size and girth, and we’re going to do our best to try to put them in a position to have success.”

Jeffery leaped high in the back of the end zone to snare the ball over 5-11 safety Major Wright, while Marshall hauled in a jump ball over 6-2 cornerback Charles Tillman in the corner.

“It’s good to have a situation like that where you can throw some fades into the side of the end zone,” said offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer. “And when you have to cover 53 yards in the end zone, it makes it tough.”

Other big targets in the Bears passing game include tight end Fendi Onobun (6-6) and receivers Terrence Toliver (6-5), Marquess Wilson (6-4) and Marcus Rucker (6-4).

“We’re got some big dudes out there,” Cutler said. “You just kind of have to put it up high, and they understand football, which makes it nice.”

Cutler has especially enjoyed bonding with Bennett, a complete tight end who signed with the Bears as a free agent after spending his first five seasons with the Giants (2008-11) and Cowboys (2012).

“He’s a joy to play with on and off the field,” Cutler said. “He brings a little bit of energy. He brings some edge to the huddle and he’s like a Brandon Marshall [in that] he’s really smart out there, understands defenses and knows where the holes are. It makes it easy on me.”

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Britton works with No. 1 unit at left tackle

Posted by Larry Mayer on July 31, 2013 – 4:31 pm

The Bears were down to their third left tackle Wednesday as Eben Britton worked with the first team after Jonathan Scott exited practice with a sore knee. Scott had been filling in for starter Jermon Bushrod, who suffered a strained calf Monday.

“That’s what football is all about,” Britton said. “Guys might go down and you just have to be ready to step in there and get the job done just as well as the [starters].”

Britton signed with the Bears in April after appearing in 37 games with 30 starts the past five seasons with the Jaguars. The 6-6, 308-pounder was selected by Jacksonville in the second round of the 2009 draft and started 15 games at right tackle as a rookie. Hampered by injuries in 2010-11, Britton appeared in 11 games with five starts at left guard last season.

Practicing with the No. 1 offense meant facing perennial Pro Bowler defensive end Julius Peppers.

“That was a lot of fun,” Britton said. “When you go against a guy like him, you’ve got to make sure your technique is right. Like we always say on the O-line, take little steps. It just makes you better playing against a guy like Julius.”

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NFL introducing new Pro Bowl format

Posted by Larry Mayer on July 31, 2013 – 3:10 pm

The Pro Bowl this season will feature a new format based on major changes proposed by NFLPA President Domonique Foxworth designed to make the game more fan friendly.

The AFC/NFC format will be scrapped with players being selected without regard to conference in voting by fans, coaches and players. The all-stars will be assigned to teams through a draft, in which two leading vote-getters will join two NFL.com fantasy football champions to draft players.

Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders will serve as alumni team captains and assist the Pro Bowl team captains and fantasy football champions in the draft process.

“As players, we wanted to keep the Pro Bowl to honor excellence in individual performance and connect with the fans in a different environment,” Foxworth said. “To do that, I worked with a group of players to map out new ideas.”

The game itself will also feature several changes. A two-minute warning will be added to the first and third quarters with the ball changing hands after each quarter, increasing the opportunities for quarterbacks to direct two-minute drills.

There will be no kickoffs or kickoff returners voted onto the Pro Bowl team. A coin toss will determine which team is awarded possession first and the ball will be placed on the 25-yard line at the start of each quarter and following scoring plays.

Beginning at the two-minute mark of every quarter, if the offense does not gain at least one yard, the clock will stop as if the play were an incomplete pass. This rule will make the team with the ball attempt to gain yardage toward the end of each quarter.

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Jennings keeps coming up big

Posted by Larry Mayer on July 30, 2013 – 5:50 pm

Pro Bowl cornerback Tim Jennings is the smallest player on the Bears roster. But what the 5-8, 185-pounder lacks in size, he more than makes up for in toughness and determination.

“He’s super competitive,” said defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. “A guy that size, to compete at that level, whether it’s the run game or the pass game, he plays with a chip on his shoulder.”

Jennings enters the season looking to build on a career year. He had nine interceptions in 2012, becoming the first Bears player to lead the NFL in picks since Mark Carrier had 10 in 1990. Jennings’ nine interceptions are tied with Roosevelt Taylor for the second most in team history.

Jennings set a Bears single-season record with three multi-interception games against the Colts, Panthers and Texans. He returned one of his picks 25 yards for his first career touchdown versus Carolina, fueling a 23-22 comeback win. Jennings also broke up a team-high 16 passes, including two that were intercepted by teammates.

“He’s a pleasure to coach,” Tucker said. “He’s a guy that you can count in. You know what you’re going to get from him each and every day out here. I think that’s a mental approach first and foremost with him and then on top of that he does have outstanding athletic ability.

“So you take a great mental approach with mental toughness and wanting to prove yourself every day and you take that with athletic ability, then that’s how you get Tim Jennings.”

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Briggs progressing as play-caller

Posted by Larry Mayer on July 30, 2013 – 4:34 pm

Assuming a role that formerly belonged to Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs is making steady progress as he adapts to calling defensive plays for the first time in his 11-year NFL career.

“It’s getting better and better each day,” said Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. “I think he’s gaining confidence in what he’s doing. The players are gaining confidence in him getting us lined up. He’s doing a great job with the checks and the adjustments.

“Our players are commenting on it in between series on the sideline, saying, ‘Hey, Lance, you’re doing a great job’ or ‘that was a great check.’ It’s a work in progress, but it’s been getting progressively better and that’s what you want to see.”

Briggs is also adapting to several new faces in the linebacker room. With Urlacher retiring and Nick Roach signing with the Raiders, the Bears revamped the position by inking veterans D.J. Williams and James Anderson in free agency and drafting Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene.

“It’s competitive in that room, but they do work with each other and they’re a fun group to be around, a loose group,” Tucker said. “But they take tremendous pride in their ability to play the game, and so as a coach when you walk in a room like that you have to be on top of it.

“They’ll ask great questions and we get a lot done each and every time we go into the meeting room. We go into meetings at one level and we come out at a higher level.”

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Tucker will never stop selling system

Posted by Larry Mayer on July 30, 2013 – 3:05 pm

Mel Tucker is entering his first season as Bears defensive coordinator. But regardless of how long he remains in that role, he’ll never stop trying to get players to buy into his system.

“You’re selling yourself every day,” Tucker said. “I learned that a long time ago. Every day you’re selling the program, you’re selling yourself, you’re selling the scheme, you’re selling the technique and fundamentals. Each and every day you’re selling, and that’s never going to stop as a coach.”

Tucker joins the Bears after spending the last five seasons as an NFL defensive coordinator with the Browns (2008) and Jaguars (2009-12). In 2008, Cleveland tied for third in the NFL with 31 takeaways and second in the league with 23 interceptions. Tucker served as Jacksonville’s interim head coach for the final five games of the 2011 season and returned as defensive coordinator on Mike Mularkey’s staff in 2012 while adding the title of assistant head coach.

“You always want to get buy-in,” Tucker said. “That never stops. So each time I have contact with these guys, not just myself but the coaches, we want to build these relationships with these guys. We want to make sure that they know we care about them. We want to make sure that we’re for them, that we’re here for them each and every time we have contact with them.

“It’s in the hallway, it’s at the cafeteria, it’s in the meeting room, it’s on the field. Whatever it is, we’re always selling ourselves and selling the program to the players.”

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Tucker impressed with rookie Bostic

Posted by Larry Mayer on July 29, 2013 – 7:42 pm

It’s impossible to project what type of NFL player Jon Bostic will become after only four training camp practices. But Mel Tucker has been impressed with the rookie linebacker to this point.

“He’s steady, he’s solid, he doesn’t get rattled, he’s super smart and he really wants to be good,” said the Bears defensive coordinator. “He’s got a lot of work to do and he’s getting better and better every day, so I really like him. I’m really glad we have him.

“I think he has a chance to be a superb player, but it’s a work in progress. We told him, ‘compete to play, compete to stay, work to get better each and every day,’ and that’s the position we’re taking. We don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves because we just have a long way to go right now.”

The Bears selected Bostic in the second round of the draft with the 50th overall pick. He was a three-year starter and four-year contributor at Florida, where he recorded 237 tackles, 19.5 tackles-for-loss, eight sacks and five interceptions in 51 games.

Last season the 6-1, 245-pounder started all 13 contests at middle linebacker for the Gators, registering 68 tackles, 6.5 tackles-for-loss, three sacks and two interceptions. In training camp, Bostic has been lining up at the same position with the second-team defense.

“He needs to work on everything like we all do,” Tucker said. “But I really like his demeanor. We know he has athletic ability, height, weight and speed, but he does have an excellent demeanor. He does have leadership ability, leadership qualities.

“He’s smart. He doesn’t make the same mistake twice. He asks good questions and he works hard at it. Those guys are fun to coach and those are guys that can get better fast.”

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Scott focused on winning a title

Posted by Larry Mayer on July 29, 2013 – 6:33 pm

When starting left tackle Jermon Bushrod suffered a minor calf strain early in Monday’s practice, veteran Jonathan Scott was ready to replace him at a moment’s notice.

“At this juncture right now it’s a team effort, trying to win a world championship,” said Scott, who has appeared in 70 games with 35 starts in seven NFL seasons. “It’s what’s expected of a pro.”

Scott started five of the final six games at right tackle last year in his first season with the Bears. He joined the team after playing for the Lions (2006-07), Bills (2008-09) and Steelers (2010-11).

Scott insists that moving to the left side of the line doesn’t require much of an adjustment.

“It’s not hard,” said the 6-6, 318-pounder. “I played left tackle and right tackle throughout my career, throughout college. I think that’s just one thing the good lord has blessed me with, having the ability to be ambidextrous and be able to play both. I think the organization realizes that I have that skill set and I just have to go out here and do it.”

After starting at left tackle for the Steelers in their Super Bowl XLV loss to the Packers to cap the 2010 season, Scott is determined to help the Bears win a title regardless of what position he plays.

“I know I have the ability to compete,” Scott said. “I just want to be in a position where I’m ready to play anything. If I’ve got to play guard or center, I’m even taking long snaps with the punters. My own personal goal is that I was so close to winning a world championship and I’m not leaving this league until I get one.”

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Conte aims to take game to next level

Posted by Larry Mayer on July 29, 2013 – 5:25 pm

Entering his third season with the Bears, safety Chris Conte knows that the Bears are counting on him to continue to develop and improve his game.

“As a player, I think more is expected of me this year,” Conte said. “I’m more of a veteran guy. I have to be a little bit more responsible, have it together on the field and be prepared and kind of help the younger guys out.”

Selected in the third round of the 2011 draft out of California, Conte appeared in 14 games with nine starts as a rookie, recording 47 tackles and one interception. The 6-2, 203-pounder started all 15 contests he played last season, compiling 86 tackles and two interceptions.

While expectations are high for Conte, the only pressure he’s feeling is internal.

“I’m putting the pressure on myself,” Conte said. “I want to be the best player that I can be, and I want to take my game to that next level. So I don’t feel added pressure from anyone but myself. I want to be the best I can be, and I think I have a lot of potential and I want to make that happen.”

Conte is enjoying playing for first-year coach Marc Trestman, whose expertise is on the offensive side of the ball, unlike predecessor Lovie Smith, Conte’s coach in his first two seasons.

“It’s a little different just because Lovie was so invested [in the defense],” Conte said. “It was his defense. But [Trestman] spends a lot of time with us. He comes over and makes sure things are going well and things are the way he wants it. He has a hand in everything that is going on.”

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