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updated: 9/1/2011 11:58 PM

Bears' Sanzenbacher taking nothing for granted

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Undrafted rookie wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher was possibly the biggest success story of training camp, so much so that coaches are no longer shocked when he makes a big play.

"Maybe early on (we were surprised), but since Day One he's made plays," coach Lovie Smith said. "We feel like we have a pretty good handle on where he is."

Sanzenbacher had 4 catches for 50 yards and returned 5 punts for 31 yards in Thursday night's victory over Cleveland.

It would be a shock if the 5-foot-11, 180-pounder isn't on the final roster after cuts are made by 5 p.m. Saturday, but he's not assuming anything.

"It's going to be a tough wait obviously knowing at any time you could get a call and it can go either way," Sanzenbacher said. "But it's part of the game; it's what you've been waiting for. This has been the longest interview process. It started in January, so I guess I'm glad to finally be at this moment.

"I'm grateful for the opportunities that I did get because as an undrafted free agent, the coaches gave me every chance in the world to make this team. So it's on nobody but me, whatever happens."

Sanzenbacher also had an apparent 65-yard punt-return touchdown called back because of a holding penalty on Nick Reed.

Getting there:

The jelling of the offensive line is a work in progress, which coach Mike Tice knew going in, and for the most part, he has been pleased with the progress.

"My expectations were for them to get better every day in practice and every week in the games, and they've done that to this point," Tice said before the preseason finale. "We haven't had many practices where I felt like we took a step backwards.

"Now, we have had a couple, a handful, where, at the end of the day you're (peeved) and say, 'We just wasted that day.' But in the overall scheme of things, I feel like we've taken strides every day, and that's been great.

"That's what you're looking for because this is a long haul. We're looking to be playing our best ball at the end and playing good enough in the opener to win. If we keep doing what we're doing we're going to be solid and competitive in the beginning and hopefully really good at the end."

Finishing strong:

Running back Robert Hughes, a local product from Chicago's Hubbard High School and Notre Dame, was the game's leading rusher with 69 yards on 16 carries (4.3-yard average) and scored on 2- and 1-yard runs.

"It felt great because I was in there with some of the guys who are in similar positions as I am," said Hughes, who remains a longshot at best to make the team.

"I don't look at that," he said. "Those are things I can't control."

Filling in nicely:

With neither No. 1 long snapper Patrick Mannelly nor backup Desmond Clark playing because of injuries, defensive end Jake Laptad, an undrafted rookie from Kansas, handled those duties flawlessly.

Late in the first quarter, after snapping the ball to punter Adam Podlesh, who boomed a 55-yard kick, Laptad tackled the Browns' James Dockery for a 4-yard loss.

Battle royal:

Wide receiver Johnny Knox did nothing to hurt his chances of retaking his starting spot from Roy Williams, who came in with a lot of fanfare but had as many drops as catches in the preseason.

"We feel pretty good about our rotation," coach Lovie Smith said. "Johnny Knox will be a big part of what we do this season."

Knox caught 2 passes for 33 yards, including a 19-yard TD in his one quarter of play and ended the preseason with 6 catches for 86 yards. Williams, who did not play Thursday, had 2 preseason catches for 33 yards.

"It's going to go throughout the season," Knox said of his competition with Williams. "He's a great receiver. I feel the same way about myself. So there's going to be competition each day through practice and through the games."

Injury update:

Running back Kahlil Bell limped off in the second quarter with an injury to his right ankle, safety Craig Steltz suffered a hip injury later in the second quarter, and rookie safety Chris Conte suffered a concussion in the third quarter. None of them returned.

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