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Wootton striving to build on career year

Posted by Larry Mayer on August 14, 2013 – 12:25 pm

No Bears player will be happier to step on the field for Thursday night’s preseason game against the San Diego Chargers than defensive Corey Wootton.

After a strong start to training camp, the four-year veteran suffered minor hip and calf injuries that forced him to miss some practices and last Friday night’s preseason opener in Carolina.

“It’s definitely frustrating, especially the way I started the first two days and having to be out for some time,” Wootton said. “But it feels good now to be back out there and getting after it.”

After being selected by the Bears in the fourth round of the 2010 draft out of Northwestern, Wootton was slowed by injuries early in his career. But the 6-6, 270-pounder had a breakout season last year, playing in all 16 games for the first time with seven starts and recording seven sacks.

A year later, Wootton is competing for a starting defensive end position with 2012 first-round draft pick Shea McClellin, although both are expected to see considerable playing time regardless of who wins the job. Wootton also figures to get some reps at defensive tackle in passing situations like he did last season.

“The big thing is working on my hands and pad level every day,” Wootton said. “It’s a big thing for me, especially because I’m a tall guy. I’m just working on it every day and trying to be the best I can.”


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Garza empathizes with rookie linemen

Posted by Larry Mayer on August 14, 2013 – 11:07 am

It’s been 12 years since Roberto Garza entered the NFL as a fourth-round draft pick with the Atlanta Falcons, but the veteran center still can empathize with Kyle Long and Jordan Mills.

The two rookie linemen were elevated to the starting unit this week in practice, with Long lining up next to Garza at right guard and Mills replacing J’Marcus Webb at right tackle.

“We’ve all been through learning the offense in training camp and making those rookie mistakes,” Garza said. “We have to learn from our mistakes. Kyle and Jordan are doing a hell of a job of going in there and stepping up and going against the ‘ones’ and making that transition. It’s an evolving process. But those kids are both very talented and have a bright future ahead.”

Garza remembers the challenges he faced when he left Texas A&M-Kingsville to join the Falcons.

“You’re trying to learn the offense, you’re trying to do things the right way, and then you’re going against the best guys in the world,” Garza said. “So there’s not a lot of room for error. As soon as you start to think, the play’s over with. It happens so fast. You want to do it right and you’re trying.

“Sometimes you just don’t do it. You’ve just got to learn from it, not make the same mistakes twice. Sometimes you get so involved in everything you’re doing, you kind of lose control. But definitely these guys are level-headed and doing a great job of letting the play go and going onto the next.”

Long and Mills have both praised Garza for the help he has provided them. The 12-year NFL veteran feels that it’s his duty to assist young players.

“When I first [joined the Bears], I was in my fifth year and I had Olin [Kreutz], Ruben [Brown], Fred [Miller] and John Tait,” Garza said. “I had guys that had started in the NFL for a very long time. They took me under their wing and taught me a lot of things, so now I feel it’s my turn to share all the knowledge that they passed on to me; how to do things, how to work, how to learn, how to study, and how to bring your best out when it’s needed.”


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Ford could get expanded playing time

Posted by Larry Mayer on August 14, 2013 – 10:42 am

With backup running backs Armando Allen (hamstring) and Harvey Unga (rib) sidelined by injuries, undrafted rookie Michael Ford could get expanded playing time in Thursday night’s preseason game against the Chargers.

“It’s an opportunity because guys went down, so I’ve got to step up and play that role,” Ford said. “But you never know. Matt [Forte] might get more touches, [Michael] Bush might get more touches. I’ve just got to stay ready.”

Ford joined the Bears after playing in 37 career games with five starts at LSU, scoring 14 touchdowns (13 rushing and one receiving). Last season the 5-10, 216-pounder ranked second in the SEC in kickoff returns, averaging 27.5 yards on 20 returns. Ford, who entered the draft following his junior season, had four kickoff returns of 40 yards or longer, including an 86-yarder that set up a TD against Arkansas.

In last Friday night’s preseason opener against the Panthers, Ford rushed for 15 yards on six carries including a four-yard touchdown, caught three passes for 35 yards and returned one kickoff for 25 yards.

To supplant Allen as the third running back behind Forte and Bush, Ford will have to prove he can contribute on special teams, something he did at LSU.

“It’s not an adjustment,” Ford said. “I did that in college. Coming out here, the only adjustment is picking up all the little details and getting them right and getting the fundamentals down.”

Asked what he hopes to show coaches Thursday night against the Chargers, Ford said: “That I have the focus I can play on this level, I can block, I can catch, and just do the things that I need to do to play.”


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Bears break camp after walkthrough

Posted by Larry Mayer on August 14, 2013 – 10:15 am

The Bears will break camp after three weeks at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais following a walkthrough practice Wednesday that is not open to the public or the media.

“We’ve had great fan support,” said coach Marc Trestman. “We’ve had great weather. We’ve been able to operate each and every day to the max and execute the plan of what we wanted to get accomplished in training camp: moving people around, getting our offense installed, having to go up against a terrific defense each and every day, seeing our young players develop; a lot of good things.”

When asked to specify what he’s seen in training camp to indicate that the Bears will be ready for the Sept. 8 season opener against the Bengals, Trestman pointed to the performance of veteran players on both sides of the ball, the veteran defense and the growth of young players.

The Bears coach mentioned eight players by name: veterans Roberto Garza, Alshon Jeffery and Matt Forte, and rookies Jon Bostic, Khaseem Greene, Jordan Mills, Cornelius Washington and C.J. Wilson.

Trestman is especially encouraged by how players have learned the new offense.

“I think their focus has been very good,” he said. “We played the whole game last week [in Carolina] without, offensively, a pre-snap penalty in the noise and silent count and multiple-snap counts, so that’s a positive thing. But just the work ethic of the team I think was built. We’ve got a chance to have a real strong backbone.

“It won’t be the same team as it was last year, but we think it can be better. We’re working to be better and that’s a good thing. That’s all we’ve tried to do each and every day. The players have cooperated. We’re excited to get back to Soldier Field. I’m sure a lot of us are excited to get back home and see our families.”


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