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updated: 8/31/2011 7:12 PM

Whose bubble will Bears burst?

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  • Defensive end Nick Reed chases Tennessee quarterback Jake Locker during the Bears' third preseason game on Aug. 27. Reed is hoping for a good showing Thursday against Cleveland to secure a spot on the team's 53-man roster.

      Defensive end Nick Reed chases Tennessee quarterback Jake Locker during the Bears' third preseason game on Aug. 27. Reed is hoping for a good showing Thursday against Cleveland to secure a spot on the team's 53-man roster.
    Associated Press

  • Defensive tackle Marcus Harrison is one of the Bears on the bubble heading into Thursday's preseason finale vs. Cleveland.

      Defensive tackle Marcus Harrison is one of the Bears on the bubble heading into Thursday's preseason finale vs. Cleveland.
    Associated Press

  • Marcus Harrison chases down Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers last season.

      Marcus Harrison chases down Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers last season.
    STEVE LUNDY | Staff Photographer

 
 

Don't tell Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli that the dreaded fourth preseason game, like tonight's contest against the Browns, is a waste of time.

He won't hear of it.

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"People kind of look at it like, 'Awww, I don't even want to go,'" Marinelli said. "It's not meaningless. These men have worked for six weeks and been beat up and doing the dirty work and fighting to get through camp, and now they're getting an opportunity.

"They're tired. They're sore. We had two heavy practices Monday and Tuesday, and they did that and now they've got to go play. Guys who can go out there and show what they can do ... to me it's real exciting to get a chance to watch these men compete. It really is."

Coach Lovie Smith and his staff may already have a very good idea who their final 53 will be, but that doesn't mean their minds can't be changed. And that doesn't mean a player on the bubble can't make one final push to get over the top.

Marinelli has the perfect example of a player who made the roster by his performance in the final preseason game: Corey Smith, 2002, undrafted rookie, Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

If the name sounds familiar that's because Smith was one of three men who drowned off Florida's Gulf Coast near Clearwater on March 1, 2009, when their 21-foot fishing boat capsized.

"I had Corey in Tampa, and it was a deep group," said Marinelli, who was the Bucs' defensive line coach. "I was just looking for one more guy at the end for camp, and I just want someone tough. I don't want a guy quitting or moping or pouting. Tough. And I'll say this right now, he was as tough a guy as I've ever coached.

"That last preseason game, he had an ankle that big," Marinelli said, holding his hands about a foot apart. "It was ugly. (But he said) 'Strap it up,' and he played great. He played like he wasn't hurt, and he made our team. We cut a third- or fourth-round pick. (Smith) was a heck of a player. He went from there to the Niners and then he ended up with me in Detroit. He just refused (to concede)."

The Bears have a handful of players whose fate could be determined by their performance tonight. To those players -- guys like wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher, tight end Kyle Adams, defensive tackle Marcus Harrison and defensive ends Mario Addison and Nick Reed, linebacker Dom DeCicco and offensive linemen Levi Horn and Johan Asiata -- tonight's game could be a turning point in their lives.

That's what Marinelli will remind his guys when he talks to them.

"I try to just talk about the importance of it, how much I value this (final preseason) game," he said. "How much I respect this game; these last games."

So should those players still on the bubble.

"There are some spots still open," Smith said. "We have an idea of what the 53-man roster will look like, but (this is) just one last look for the players."

Sanzenbacher appears to have done enough to grab the sixth wide receiver spot, but he knows nothing's for sure until the final cuts are announced by 5 p.m. Saturday.

"You never stop proving yourself or trying to get a spot, especially when you're in my position," the undrafted rookie from Ohio State said. "You can't rest on anything."

Adams, undrafted out of Purdue, has a shot because he's shown that he can play H-back and fullback besides tight end, and he's made an impact on special teams.

"It could be nerve wracking, but you've just got to enjoy it," the 6-foot-4, 255-pound Adams said. "It's an opportunity. Each of us rookies are living out our dream, so it's awesome."

At least for one more night.

• Follow Bob's Bears reports via Twitter @BobLeGere and check out our Bear Essentials blog at dailyherald.com.

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