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Hester, Weems upset by Pro Bowl snub

Posted by Larry Mayer on August 1, 2013 – 4:15 pm

Even if Devin Hester leads the NFL in kick returns or adds to his all-time touchdown record, the only way he’ll go to the Pro Bowl this season is by buying a ticket to the game.

As part of radical changes to the Pro Bowl, the NFL announced Wednesday that kickoffs will be eliminated from the game and return specialists no longer will be part of the all-star teams.

As you’d expect, Hester isn’t very happy about the decision. The eight-year veteran, who holds the NFL’s all-time record with 17 kick return touchdowns, will be used exclusively as a return specialist this year after doubling as a receiver the previous six seasons.

“It’s something that my family looks forward to every year as well as me preparing and training,” said Hester, who has been selected to three Pro Bowls since joining the Bears in 2006.

“As a returner, that’s a goal that you set. If you don’t make the Super Bowl, then hopefully you have something else that you can fall back on and say, ‘I accomplished that.’ As far as taking it out, it [stinks]. For a person like me that’s only doing returns, it’s one less goal I have to [achieve].”

Eric Weems, who returned 13 kickoffs for the Bears last season and was voted to the Pro Bowl as a special teams player with the Falcons in 2010, feels Hester’s pain.

“That’s ridiculous if you ask me,” Weems said. “I thought everyone had equal opportunity. If a guy shows that he’s one of the top kick returners or punt returners in the league, he should have the opportunity to go to the Pro Bowl. That’s a third of the game gone.

“I’m very shocked by it, and I can see why Hester’s upset also. That’s what he’s doing out here. That’s him. That’s his DNA. If he returns six or seven kicks for touchdowns, he needs to go to the Pro Bowl, regardless of any situation. I’m shocked by it. That’s ridiculous.”


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Bears flip-flop tackles Webb, Britton

Posted by Larry Mayer on August 1, 2013 – 3:30 pm

As part of an ongoing evaluation process, the Bears again shuffled their offensive linemen in Thursday’s practice, flip-flopping J’Marcus Webb to left tackle and Eben Britton to right tackle.

“It’s not too hard, just a little change of footwork and hands,” Webb said. “Anywhere coach needs me to play, I try my best. In this offense you’ve got to be able to play both sides, and anytime things happen you’ve got to step up and be ready when you’re called upon.”

After starting 12 games at right tackle as a rookie in 2010, Webb opened all 32 games at left tackle the past two seasons. He was shifted back to the right side this offseason after the Bears signed veteran free agent left tackle Jermon Bushrod, who has been voted to the last two Pro Bowls.

With Bushrod (calf) and Jonathan Scott (knee) sidelined Thursday with minor injuries, Britton worked with the first-team offense for the second straight day.

“You just have to accept [injuries] as part of training camp,” said coach Marc Trestman. “Fortunately, ‘Bush’ will be back and Jonathan will be back and we’ll have a whole group in there.

“The injury situation, we can turn a negative into a positive by working guys at different positions and see where we might be in the season. We’ve still got eight or nine practices here [in Bourbonnais] before we leave, and we’ll use every day to try to get better.”


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Bostic aims to prove himself to vets

Posted by Larry Mayer on August 1, 2013 – 2:55 pm

Learning a new defense and impressing his coaches aren’t Jon Bostic’s only goals in training camp. The rookie linebacker is also trying to show his veteran teammates that he belongs in the NFL.

“I’ve just got to come out and prove myself every day to them,” said the second-round draft pick from Florida. “They’ve been in this league for a long time. So I’ve got to come out here and earn their respect. It’s not going to be given.”

Since D.J. Williams exited Wednesday’s practice with a calf injury, Bostic has been lining up with the first-team defense at middle linebacker. In that role, he has joined a unit that features perennial Pro Bowlers such as Julius Peppers and Lance Briggs he has admired for a long time.

“I really don’t look at it as getting thrown in the fire,” said Bostic, who started all 13 games at middle linebacker for Florida last season. “I’m out there with a lot of guys I’ve pretty much watched on TV the last 10 or 12 years, however long I’ve been watching football.

“To be in there with them, I’ve got to pick it up. I’ve got to go out there and make sure I’m in my playbook off the field so I’m not making any mistakes when I’m out there.”

To help with the assimilation process, Bostic has picked the brains of veteran linebackers Briggs, Williams and James Anderson, a trio that has combined to play 26 NFL seasons.

“You really don’t get too much of a chance to come into a meeting room like that with that many veterans who have played that many years of football,” Bostic said. “Really I’m just trying to learn from them every day. I’m always asking them questions: why we do this, why we do that, why he may have done this in this situation. I’m learning from them.”


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Wootton exits practice with hip injury

Posted by Larry Mayer on August 1, 2013 – 2:09 pm

Bears defensive end Corey Wootton is day-to-day after leaving Thursday’s practice with a hip injury. He’s scheduled to undergo an MRI, but the injury is not believed to be serious.

Also sitting out Thursday were tackles Jermon Bushrod (calf) and Jonathan Scott (knee), middle linebacker D.J. Williams (calf) and defensive end Cheta Ozougwu (hamstring). Cornerback Tim Jennings was excused for personal reasons and linebacker Lance Briggs was given the day off to rest.

“We’re in a little bit of a ‘next-man’ situation,” said coach Marc Trestman. “We’ve got young guys that are moving into roles, where they’re playing around more experienced players.

“We have high expectations for them. We don’t have freshmen here and we don’t have guys being redshirted. Everybody has got to be ready to play and the guys know that. They’ve got to step it up and they’ve got to be around guys who can help them learn it. We think we’re getting that done.”

Trestman put an emphasis on special teams Thursday and was pleased with the results.

“Our second-level and back-end players, our linebackers and d-backs and our receivers did an outstanding job in individual drills,” Trestman said. “It was highly competitive. They made it very important. We want special teams certainly to be just as important as our offensive and defensive periods, and the level of effort was simply excellent.

“A lot of veterans in those groups working, a lot of guys who have been around here working hard and not only physically exerting themselves but there’s a lot of coaching going on by veterans to help these younger guys get ready. It was very evident to me out there today.”


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