The Bears got down to the required 53-man roster limit Saturday.
They did so by waiving linebacker J.T. Thomas and wide receiver Terrence Toliver, waiving offensive tackle Cory Brandon and defensive tackle Corvey Irvin with injury settlements and waiving/injured safety Brandon Hardin.
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Thomas played in all 16 games last season and was eighth with 6 special teams tackles.
But the drafting of Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene and the signing of D.J. Williams and James Anderson in free agency left room for only one linebacker who played predominantly special teams -- Blake Costanzo.
Costanzo tied for second last season with 11 special teams tackles, 1 less than leader Eric Weems. Costanzo also filled in late last season, starting one game at strong-side linebacker when Nick Roach moved from that spot to take over at middle linebacker when Brian Urlacher was hurt.
But Costanzo's primary value is in special teams coverage. The seven-year veteran has recorded double-digit special teams tackles four times, including 26 with the Bills in 2008.
"He's seen everything," said Bears special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis. "He's seen how to block. He's seen how to tackle. He's seen how to play certain returns. I think it's his savvy more than anything else, and his will. He's so strong-willed. He's so understanding of our part of it that he's like another coach on the field."
The 6-foot-5, 204-pound Toliver, a first-year player from LSU, was the Bears' third-leading receiver in the preseason with 7 catches for 63 yards. But the Bears chose to keep promising seventh-round pick Marquess Wilson instead. The 6-foot-4, 184-pound Wilson caught 5 passes in the preseason for a team-best 96 yards and is only 20 years old with a high upside. Toliver could be signed to the Bears' practice squad, which they can begin formulating today at 11 a.m.
Brandon suffered a fractured fibula and ankle ligament damage in Thursday night's preseason finale. He will have surgery next week and faces a rehab of roughly three months.
Irvin, a third-year player who has seen action for the Bucs, Jaguars and Panthers, has a left ankle injury that is not as serious as Brandon's.
Hardin suffered a fractured scapula in the final preseason game and could miss his third straight season because of injuries. He is likely to receive an injury settlement in the near future. Hardin spent last season on injured reserve after being drafted in the third round out of Oregon State, where he missed his entire senior season with a shoulder injury.
For now, the Bears are going with backup tight ends Steve Maneri and Kyle Adams behind starter Martellus Bennett, although they might be looking to pick up another team's castoff. Bennett is an every-down player with excellent receiving skills. The 6-foot-7, 280-pound Maneri is primarily a blocker and Adams is a jack of all trades who has been a key special teams player.
"Being able to do as much as I can, play a little fullback, split out and play the tight end position (in addition to special teams) helps me a lot," he said. "The more you can do the better, the more valuable you become."
Three undrafted rookies are on the 53-man roster -- running back Michael Ford, cornerback C.J. Wilson and defensive tackle Zach Minter. The Bears kept all six draft picks.
BEARS 53-MAN ROSTER
Quarterbacks (2): Jay Cutler, Josh McCown.
Running backs (3): Matt Forte, Michael Bush, Michael Ford.
Fullbacks (1): Tony Fiammetta.
Wide receivers (6): Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Earl Bennett, Joe Anderson, Eric Weems, Marquess Wilson.
Tight ends (3): Martellus Bennett, Steve Maneri, Kyle Adams.
Offensive linemen (9): Jermon Bushrod, Matt Slauson, Roberto Garza, Kyle Long, Jordan Mills, Jonathan Scott, James Brown, Eben Britton, Taylor Boggs.
Defensive line (9): Corey Wootton, Henry Melton, Stephen Paea, Julius Peppers, Shea McClellin, Nate Collins, Zach Minter, Cheta Ozougwu, Cornelius Washington.
Linebackers (6): Lance Briggs, Jon Bostic, James Anderson, D.J. Williams, Khaseem Greene, Blake Costanzo.
Safeties (4): Chris Conte, Major Wright, Craig Steltz, Anthony Walters.
Cornerbacks (6): Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings, Isaiah Frey, Zack Bowman, Sherrick McManis, C.J. Wilson.
PK: Robbie Gould.
P: Adam Podlesh.
LS: Patrick Mannelly.
RS: Devin Hester.
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