BOURBONNAIS -- Nickel cornerback Kelvin Hayden's season-ending torn hamstring is the first significant detour the Bears have stumbled upon since the start of training camp.
Now they'll find out in a hurry if young Isaiah Frey can maintain the impressive pace he's set early in camp.
Frey, a sixth-round draft choice in 2012 out of Nevada, will get first crack at replacing the veteran Hayden, who won the nickel job from D.J. Moore halfway through last season and finished eighth on the team with 40 tackles, while recovering 3 fumbles and intercepting 1 pass.
"I think Isaiah has got to come out and continue to do what he's doing -- make plays," coach Marc Trestman said Wednesday. "When he gets the opportunity to be in the right place and do the right thing, he's doing that. He certainly is in the competition right now to be that guy. But we've got a long way to go. It's early in training camp. It will take care of itself as it moves along.
"He is certainly exciting us the way he has played consistently over the first two weeks of this thing."
The 23-year-old Frey had interceptions in practice on Monday and Tuesday and has taken a lot of first-team reps after spending all of his rookie season on the practice squad following an unspectacular first training camp.
"He's going to have a much larger role and have to step up, and I think he's capable," safety Chris Conte said. "He's a young guy, and it's a chance for him, especially on Friday night (in the preseason opener), to prove what he can do and show the coaches that he can handle the responsibility. And more importantly, show the players that he knows what he's doing and he can make plays. I think he can do that."
But Frey's first concern on Wednesday was for Hayden, who was injured in Saturday night's practice at Soldier Field. The severity of his injury wasn't announced until the end of Wednesday's 9 a.m. practice.
"You hate to see that happen," the 5-foot-11, 190-pound Frey said. "I'm praying for him that he gets healthy real fast."
Frey's status on the defense had already increased by leaps and bounds after a solid off-season and a fast start in training camp. Now he has the opportunity to become a regular on defense in all passing situations.
"I'm not really thinking about that right now," he said. "I'm just doing what the coaches ask me to do. A good friend of mine, a good teammate, injured himself. I can't even explain how much (Hayden) helps. He helps me continuously and he is going to continue to help me.
"(Now) I've just got to be reliable. I just have to do what they ask me whether it's special teams or playing corner or playing nickel. I have to go out there and do my job."
At nickel back, Frey will spend most of his time covering a slot receiver, operating in the middle of the field in the thick of the action, and he has demonstrated a knack in training camp for being around the ball.
"He's a very humble kid," Conte said. "He's a pretty quiet kid, (but) I think he has the right mentality and attitude. He's always wanting to get better. He's in his playbook all the time and learning. So I think he's going to do well.
"That nickel position, the ball always finds him," Conte added. "I think it's just part of playing the position, and he's a talented guy, so he definitely has what it takes to play it."
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