Corey Wootton was the clear-cut leader as the top backup to starters Israel Idonije and Julius Peppers before he suffered torn meniscus in his right knee in the preseason opener. His absence means he'll have a lot of catching up to do when he returns, and it gives free-agent Vernon Gholston and undrafted rookie Mario Addison a chance to move up on the depth chart.
"I'm not too worried about that," Wootton said. "I'm just trying to get healthy, and when I'm healthy I can be a great player, and that's all I'm trying to do."
--LT J'Marcus Webb was unable to make it through Friday's practice and was replaced by Frank Omiyale, last year's starter at that spot. Webb was moved to the left side this year so rookie Gabe Carimi could start at right tackle.
--DE Mario Addison, an undrafted rookie from Troy, has gotten more practice reps with the second team since Corey Wootton suffered torn cartilage in his right knee in the preseason opener, and Addison has impressed coaches with his pass-rush ability.
Starter Greg Olsen, above average as a pass catcher but not the kind of blocker Mike Martz prefers in his offense, was traded to the Panthers for a third-round draft choice. Brandon Manumaleuna, at one time an excellent blocker, was waived when he failed his physical because of lingering knee problems. Desmond Clark, all but forgotten last season, his 12th in the NFL, was brought back as insurance, but has already been hampered by nagging injuries.
That leaves the pair of 6-foot-7 veterans to battle it out. At 267 pounds, Davis is seven pounds heavier than Spaeth but both would look right at home on an NBA team given their almost lanky appearance. Neither caught a pass in the preseason opener, but that's not why either of them is on the field. They're blockers first, although both have enough athleticism to become adequate receivers.
OTHER BATTLE FRONTS
This one was a media creation and an overreaction to backup QB Caleb Hanie not getting any practice reps on the Monday after a disappointing performance in the preseason opener.
When rookie Nathan Enderle took all of Hanie's reps, there was speculation that Hanie would be demoted. False alarm. Hanie was back in his customary spot the rest of the week and had by far his best practices of camp later in the week.
He was much quicker and more decisive with his reads, driving the ball with authority and displaying a crispness that was previously lacking. Twice in the span of a few plays in 11-on-11 Thursday night, Hanie launched perfect strikes way downfield to Johnny Knox and Kris Adams for what would have been long touchdowns.
"I think everything's finally catching up -- feet and brain and everything," Hanie said. "I'm just trying not to overthink things and just go out and throw the ball. I'm going to miss some reads, but as long as I'm decisive in everything, that's all that matters. We can fix all the other stuff."
Because free agents weren't allowed to practice this year until Aug. 4, Hanie missed the first four days of practice, even though he re-signed with the Bears as a restricted free agent. He was able to go to meetings but missed all the physical reps.
"At first you don't think it's going to matter that much," he said. "And the first two days of practice I felt really good. (But) then after a lot of installs start piling up on you, you start losing some things here and there. It definitely hurt just not getting in a rhythm as fast as everybody else. But it's still not an excuse. You still should be ready to go."
If he didn't know it before, Hanie is now aware that quarterbacks under offensive coordinator Mike Martz have to be able to respond to tough coaching, which he has done.
"It's all about how you respond to Mike, and how he wants to do his coaching," Hanie said. "You just try to do exactly what he says and listen kind of with a filtered ear and take it from there.
"The thing about this game is you've got to be really resilient and you've got to have a short memory, especially as a quarterback. It goes for interceptions and stuff like that, but it works for this tough situation, too. In my mind right now it's like it never happened, so I'm rolling forward. That's all I can do is look ahead."
First-round pick Gabe Carimi is the starting right tackle and continues to impress with his run blocking, which is ahead of his pass blocking as the Bears expected, but they're happy with his work ethic and appears entrenched. ... Second-round defensive tackle Stephen Paea is getting second-team reps, mostly at the 3-technique, but he's also gotten a look at nose tackle with starter Anthony Adams having missed more than a week. ... Third-round safety Chris Conte is playing and practicing well enough to have locked down a backup spot and, with the Bears' history of turnover at that position, he is likely to see some game action. ... Fifth-round QB Nathan Enderle, who normally is relegated to the third team, took all the second-team reps last Monday, a schedule the Bears will keep for the remainder of the preseason. ... Sixth-round linebacker J.T. Thomas got some first-team reps early, before re-signed free agent Nick Roach was allowed to practice, and Thomas, who normally works with the twos, saw some first-team reps last week after Lance Briggs was injured.
--LB Lance Briggs has missed four days of practice with a bruised knee and did not play Monday night.
--NT Anthony Adams did not play in Monday night's second preseason game because of a lingering calf injury that also kept him out of the opener.
--DE Corey Wootton had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee after suffering torn cartilage on the opening kickoff of the preseason opener. He is expected to be out another three weeks.
--CB Zack Bowman suffered a concussion in the third quarter of the preseason opener and did not practice the following week. He did not play Monday night.
UNERESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--QB Todd Collins won't be back and shouldn't have been around last season as his postseason performance showed.
--LB Pisa Tinoisamoa is an oft-injured player and would only be back on a one-year deal at the Bears' price.
--LB Rod Wilson is a solid special teamer who has never made much of an impact on the defense and will likely be replaced by a younger player.
--RB Garrett Wolfe never found a niche in the offense but earned his keep as a special teams coverage guy. That won't be enough to bring him back.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS
DRAFT CHOICES SIGNED
--QB Gabe Carimi (1/29): 4 yrs with 5th-yr option; terms unknown.
--DT Stephen Paea (2/53): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--S Chris Conte (3/93): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--QB Nathan Enderle (5/160): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--LB J.T. Thomas (6/195): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS RE-SIGNED
--NT Anthony Adams: UFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--DB Corey Graham: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--LB Brian Iwuh: UFA; terms unknown.
--LB Nick Roach: UFA; terms unknown.
--RB Kahlil Bell: ERFA; terms unknown.
--TE Desmond Clark: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--QB Caleb Hanie: RFA (tendered at $1.2M with no compensation); $1.2M/1 yr.
--G/C Edwin Williams: ERFA; terms unknown.
--RB Marion Barber: FA Cowboys; $5M/2 yrs, guarantees unknown.
--DE Vernon Gholston: FA Jets; terms unknown.
--QB Matt Gutierrez: FA; terms unknown (subsequently released).
--WR Sam Hurd: UFA Cowboys; terms unknown.
--DT Amobi Okoye: FA Texans; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--P Adam Podlesh: UFA Jaguars; $10M/5 yrs, guarantees unknown.
--TE Matt Spaeth: UFA Steelers; terms unknown.
--C Chris Spencer: UFA Seahawks; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--NT Tank Tyler: FA; terms unknown.
--WR Roy Williams: FA Cowboys; terms unknown.
--WR Devin Aromashodu: Not tendered as RFA/Vikings; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--S Josh Bullocks: UFA Raiders; terms unknown.
--WR Rashied Davis: UFA Lions; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--DT Tommie Harris (released).
--LB Hunter Hillenmeyer (released).
--C Olin Kreutz: UFA Saints; terms unknown.
--S Danieal Manning: UFA Texans; $20M/4 yrs, $9M guaranteed.
--TE Brandon Manumaleuna (released/non-football injury).
--P Brad Maynard: UFA Texans; terms unknown.
--TE Greg Olsen (traded Panthers).
--OT Kevin Shaffer (released).
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