Twenty-two Bears who are on the roster for Thursday night's preseason finale will not make the final 53 -- which must be determined by 8 p.m. the next day.
"It's tough," said Bears coach Lovie Smith of the decisions. "We all dream about, if you're an athlete, making that game-winning play at the end or just being on an NFL team. That's the dream of everybody that comes here. Some of them, you have to cut that dream short a little bit. It's hard telling them that, but that's just a part of it."
Most of the decisions will have already been made by the time the Bears and Browns kick off Thursday's 6:30 p.m. exercise, but it's possible one or more players could take advantage of their last chance. There are decisions to be made at almost every position.
Jay Cutler, Jason Campbell and Josh McCown will be the Bears' first, second and third, barring some sort of disaster. No. 4 Matt Blanchard, the graduate of Lake Zurich High School who was a longshot, was waived Sunday.
Running back (4):
With the release of Kahlil Bell, Lorenzo Booker and Armando Allen are battling for the No. 3 spot behind Matt Forte and Michael Bush. It's possible both could make the team, but probably not if Tyler Clutts hangs on as the only fullback. Harvey Unga, a RB/FB hybrid is a longshot at best.
Wide receiver (6):
Brandon Marshall, Earl Bennett, Devin Hester, Alshon Jeffery and Eric Weems are locks. Rashied Davis and Dane Sanzenbacher are the leading contenders for the No. 6 spot, although there is no guarantee that the Bears will keep more than five. Davis is the better special-teams player, but Sanzenbacher is likely to contribute more to the offense. The practice squad is the best chance for Brittan Golden and Joe Anderson to stick around.
Tight end (4):
Kellen Davis and rookie Evan Rodriguez are the only sure things, although Matt Spaeth is a safe bet. Coaches love the special-teams option and attitude that Kyle Adams brings to the game. He's the kind of player who's tough to cut. They could keep four, but that's not enough for undrafted rookie Brandon Venson to make it -- although the practice squad is an option for the Glenbard West graduate.
Offensive line (9):
Some have speculated that Chris Williams could go from competing for the starting left tackle spot to being cut, but that would be surprising given his versatility. He's started games at both tackle spots and left guard. J'Marcus Webb, Chris Spencer, Roberto Garza, Lance Louis and Gabe Carimi should start opening day, left to right. Edwin Williams has started at both guard spots and can play center. But unrestricted free agent Chilo Rachal could get the nod as the swing guard. The potential of tackles James Brown and possibly Cory Brandon could give them the edge over one of the veterans. Coaches like the feistiness and tenacity of guard Ricky Henry, but he and tackle A.J. Greene appear to be the losers in the numbers game.
Defensive line (9):
Eleven were on the Week 17 53-man roster last season, but that's high by at least one. The top three ends are clear-cut: Julius Peppers, Israel Idonije and rookie Shea McClellin. Same with the top three tackles: Henry Melton, Stephen Paea and Matt Toeaina. DE Corey Wootton probably gets another year to establish himself, and one pass rusher from the group of Cheta Ozougwu, Chauncey Davis and Aston Whiteside has a chance. At tackle, late trade acquisition Brian Price has not impressed, leaving the door open for Nate Collins, Jordan Miller or DeMario Pressley to walk through.
Joining Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs and Nick Roach as sure things are Geno Hayes and Blake Costanzo. After that, it's a dog fight for what might just be one spot. Dom DeCicco probably makes it, if he's close to returning from a groin injury, but young J.T. Thomas and Patrick Trahan have both made plays in the preseason, and as the Urlacher injury situation has made abundantly clear, the Bears need to start developing some young linebackers. Xavier Adibi is a longshot.
Four are certain: Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings, Kelvin Hayden and D.J. Moore. Veteran Jonathan Wilhite should stick, but there's little chance that both rookie draft choices, Isaiah Frey and Greg McCoy, or Cornelius Brown make the 53.
With rookie Brandon Hardin already on injured reserve and Chris Conte (shoulder) iffy, there's room behind Major Wright and Craig Steltz for Anthony Walters, but Mark Legree and Jeremy Jones have an uphill fight.
If punter Adam Podlesh (hip) cannot join place-kicker Robbie Gould and long-snapper Patrick Mannelly on the opening-day roster, rookie Ryan Quigley has shown enough to get a shot at the job.