In some ways, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli's handling of young defensive linemen like rookie Shea McClellin is like a major-league manager who is cautious about overextending an inexperienced pitcher.
McClellin already has 2 sacks playing mostly in nickel in the Bears' seven-man D-line rotation. And he has been able to contribute a bit even in non-passing situations, but Marinelli doesn't want to burn him out.
"He's played a little bit more in our base, at times," the defensive coordinator said. "He's done a nice job in there. (But) especially with young guys, you try to keep them around 30-some snaps because the season is so long.
"And that's the benefit when you rotate people over a long season. They're able to practice more, and they're able to improve during the week. If you get too many (game) reps at times, you start beating them up, and they wear down, and they can't practice as well, and the development really kind of stops at that point.
"So I like to keep them at a certain amount of snaps."
The night life:
Overall with the Bears, quarterback Jay Cutler has been mediocre in prime-time contests, losing seven of 13 games and compiling a 72.0 passer rating.
But he has been excellent on Monday nights. Cutler is 4-1 as a starter on Monday Night Football with 11 TD passes and just 3 interceptions, for a passer rating of 99.4.
"It's fun," Cutler said. "You get an extra day to prepare. You're the only game on TV. I think the guys get up for the games a little bit faster."
The Bears under coach Lovie Smith are 7-2 on Monday nights but just 8-8 on Sunday nights and 2-3 on Thursday nights.
As a Bear, Cutler is 1-4 on Sunday nights with a 70.1 passer rating. He's 1-2 on Thursdays with 1 TD pass and 10 interceptions for a 34.2 passer rating.
Been there, picked that:
The last time the Bears and the Dallas Cowboys played, a 27-20 Bears victory at Cowboys Stadium on Sept. 19, 2010, nickel corner D.J. Moore got the first 2 interceptions of his NFL career, both on deflected passes.
"I remember catching tipped passes pretty much," Moore said. "Everybody else was tackling pretty hard, and I was just a beneficiary of being in the right place at the right time."
Moore finished with 4 picks that season and got a team-best 4 more last season. He's still looking for his first this year, while teammate Tim Jennings already has 4.
But Moore hasn't conceded the title.
"He's jumping out right now," Moore said. "It happens in bunches. I'll just keep running around, and eventually I'll catch up with him."
Defensive end Julius Peppers (foot) and long snapper Patrick Mannelly (ill) returned to practice Friday.
Linebacker Brian Urlacher (knee/coach's decision) and fullback Evan Rodriguez (knee) did not practice. Wide receiver Earl Bennett (hand) and running back Matt Forte (knee) were again limited.
Among seven Cowboys who did not practice Friday were five starters: center Phil Costa (back), defensive end Kenyon Coleman (knee), nose tackle Jay Ratliff (ankle), linebacker Anthony Spencer (shoulder) and fullback Lawrence Vickers (illness), plus punter Chris Jones (left knee).