Fullback Tyler Clutts is Exhibit A when it comes to the importance of the final preseason game.
It’s a matter of going through the motions for most players, but for others, like Clutts last year, employment in the NFL hang in the balance.
Clutts was a member of the Browns a year ago when that preseason also ended with the Bears playing Cleveland. After the preseason finale he was cut by the Browns and signed to their practice squad.
But the Bears, who were impressed by his performance, signed him to their 53-man roster. He wound up playing all 16 games for the Bears last season with eight starts.
“It was tough,” Clutts said. “I came out of that game feeling confident about my spot with the team. They had other plans, but it all worked out for the best. If I had not taken that last game seriously, I may not have had a job after that.”
As the only true fullback on the roster, and as a valuable member of special teams, Clutts’ situation is only a little more secure this season. There are 20-some players who will be suiting up with the Bears for the last time Thursday night in Cleveland. It will be the final opportunity for some to make their case to be NFL players.
“It’s a chance for all the guys that are unsure of their position to either solidify their spot with that team, or to go give the 31 other teams a final look at them,” Clutts said. “For me, it ended up that the fourth preseason game was against the team that I ended up on for the rest of the year. It worked out really great for me.
“It’s really an important game. That’s the game that sticks with the personnel guys, and that’s what you leave your mark with.”
In seven previous NFL seasons, Rashied Davis has established himself as an excellent contributor on special teams and a reliable backup wide receiver. But, for the 33-year-old Davis, who played four seasons in Arena Football before joining the Bears in 2005, that might not be enough this year at a position crowded with talent.
“I’ve been here before,” said Davis, who’s never enjoyed the luxury of having a guaranteed roster spot. “This is not adding any extra stress to my life. It is what it is at this point.
“You can’t really do anything about it other than perform. Coaches are going to make the decisions that they feel are the best for the team and all you can do is make that decision hard for them.”
If Davis does get bad news before Friday night, when NFL teams have to make their final cuts to 53, it will be a unique experience — but one he’s better equipped to handle than most.
“I personally have never been cut,” Davis said. “So I don’t really know what it’s like to have to deal with that. It would be difficult if it happened to me or anybody else.
“But for me it will probably be easier than it would be for a rookie. I’ve been blessed. My wife and I have done well with the money that we’ve made. It will afford us to make a good transition out of the football life. So for me, it won’t be as hard as it would be for a rookie — I guess.”
Running back Armando Allen spent most of the 2011 season on the Bears’ practice squad but got into two games and rushed for 48 yards on 15 carrries (3.2-yard average). But it may come down to a decision between him and Lorenzo Booker for the No. 3 running back.
“I’ll just go out there and make those catches and runs like they want to see me make and protect well and play great on special teams,” he said. “It’s the only thing I can do to better myself.”
For second-year safety Anthony Walters, injuries to other players at his position have helped solidify his status, although his future is uncertain. Rookie free safety Brandon Hardin is on injured reserve with a neck injury and starting free safety Chris Conte is hoping to be back from a shoulder injury in time for the regular-season opener, but that’s questionable at this point.
“That just opens up doors for me,” said Walters, who spent six games on the Bears’ practice squad last season and played in four before a hamstring injury landed him on injured reserve. “I came in undrafted (out of Delaware), so you never know what’s going to happen.
“I don’t have an apartment yet, I’ll tell you that.”
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