The most notable casualties among the Bears' final 17 cuts Saturday were versatile, veteran offensive lineman Eben Britton, cornerback Kelvin Hayden and speedy big-play wide receiver/return specialist Chris Williams.
Fearing he could be claimed by another team, the Bears kept rookie quarterback David Fales on the final 53-man roster, rather than cut him and try to sneak the sixth-round pick on to the practice squad. Surprisingly, the Bears kept four running backs, hanging on to Senorise Perry and Shaun Draughn in addition to workhorse starter Matt Forte and fourth-round rookie Ka'Deem Carey.
Among the Bears' other cuts were defensive end Austen Lane, safety M.D. Jennings (with an injury settlement), center Taylor Boggs, guard Ryan Groy, linebackers Jerry Franklin and DeDe Lattimore, wide receivers Josh Bellamy and Dale Moss, defensive back Marcus Trice, defensive tackles Lee Pegues, Tracy Robertson and Brandon Dunn and cornerbacks Al Louis-Jean and C.J. Wilson, who had 2 preseason interceptions.
Britton's release wasn't a complete surprise considering he missed most of training camp and the first three preseason games after suffering a hamstring injury on July 30. But it was unexpected because Britton played in 13 games last season and started four when the Bears opened in a six-OL formation. He also stepped in at right tackle when starter Jordan Mills was injured early in the 2013 season finale.
The 6-foot-6, 308-pound Britton has played five NFL seasons and has started 34 games and is still just 26 years old. There's a good chance he could return to the Bears because of his versatility and experience, especially if there is concern that the foot injury that kept Mills out of all four preseason games is not completely healed.
Britton has started games at right tackle and left guard in the past. He started 15 games at right tackle as a rookie in 2009 after the Jacksonville Jaguars drafted him in the second round (39th overall) out of Arizona.
The injuries to Britton and Mills provided extensive playing time for NFL rookie Michael Ola, who played for Bears coach Marc Trestman with the Montreal Alouettes in the Canadian Football League. Ola made the most of it, showing versatility and athleticism to claim one of eight O-line spots. Promising seventh-round pick Charles Leno and veteran center-guard Brian de la Puente snagged the other backup spots.
The 31-year-old Hayden began 2013 training camp as the Bears' No. 1 nickel back but suffered a season-ending hamstring injury in early August. The former Illini and Chicago native (Hubbard High School) became expendable this year after the Bears used their No. 1 draft pick on cornerback Kyle Fuller and cornerback Sherrick McManis excelled in training camp and preseason.
The move also allowed the Bears to get younger at corner behind starters Charles Tillman (33) and Tim Jennings (30). McManis is 26, Hurst 23 and Fuller 22.
Williams, the 5-foot-8, 175-pound Canadian Football League import, flashed in the preseason opener with a 73-yard TD catch. But he suffered a hamstring injury on the play that kept him out of the next two games and prevented him from making a stronger bid for the vacant punt- and kickoff-return jobs.
Veteran wide receiver Santonio Holmes was signed just two weeks ago, but 32-yard TD catch and 30-yard punt return in the preseason finale locked in his roster spot. It also gave him a leg up in the competition for the punt-return job, although wide receiver Micheal Spurlock is a possibility.
Injured wide receiver Marquess Wilson (fractured collar bone Aug. 4) is on the 53 for now, but on Tuesday afternoon, he could be placed on injured reserve/designated to return, opening up an additional roster spot. In that scenario, Wilson would be eligible to return for the ninth game.
Boggs was active for all 16 games last season but played in just one. The 6-foot-3, 285-pounder was originally signed by the New York Jets as an undrafted free agent out of Humboldt State in 2011, and he spent that season on their practice squad.
Boggs could return as a member of the practice squad, which will be formed starting at noon Sunday. Lattimore, Bellamy, Wilson, Louis-Jean and Williams are other strong candidate for the practice squad.
The Bears kept six defensive ends, including 2013 sixth-round pick Cornelius Washington, David Bass and veteran Trevor Scott behind Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young.
Eleven rookies are on the roster, including all eight draft picks, Perry, Ola and undrafted linebacker Christian Jones.
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