Bears hurting at safety, running back

Updated 12/24/2012 4:20 PM

Reinforcements are expected this week at safety and possibly running back because of injuries from Sunday's victory at Arizona.

Free safety Chris Conte's hamstring injury probably means his season is over, and, with Craig Steltz already on injured reserve, the only remaining healthy safeties are strong safety Major Wright and Anthony Walters, who finished the Cardinals game.


"(We're) concerned," coach Lovie Smith said. "We lost good players in Craig Steltz and Chris Conte, so we have to adjust. Anthony Walters stepped in (Sunday), and we have a couple other options."

Moving cornerback Zack Bowman to safety is a consideration. He has the requisite size (6-feet-1, 196 pounds), and he recovered a fumble for a touchdown in Arizona.

Since he was signed as a free agent Oct. 16 the former Bears draft choice has been a standout on special teams, tied for third on the team with 10 tackles.

"He's made plays just in general in the positions we've put him in," Smith said of Bowman. "Even the first time we played Minnesota, Tim (Jennings) took a couple plays off, they went right at him and he made a good play on a deep ball. Special-teams wise, he's made a lot of plays."

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Featured runner Matt Forte was unable to finish Sunday after spraining his ankle for the third time this season.

He said he'd be ready for the Lions, but if not it's unlikely the Bears would go into Detroit with just 5-8, 190-pound Armando Allen and Kahlil Bell, who was re-signed a week ago. Michael Bush (ribs) already on I.R.

"Depth at running back is a concern also," Smith said. "When you have a player that goes down, it makes you shuffle things. Hopefully Matt will be OK."

Still going strong:

Long snapper Patrick Mannelly, who has played more seasons and more games for the Bears than anyone in franchise history, will continue to add to his record next season.

The 15-year veteran from Duke signed a one-year contract extension Monday, a day after he played in his 230th game.

The 37-year-old, 6-5, 265-pound Mannelly said he has no retirement plans for the near future.


"I want to play until they say I can't do it anymore," he said. "As I told (special-teams coordinator) Dave Toub, one day he'll tap me on the back and say, 'You're done.' I'm fine with that."

Before suffering a season-ending torn ACL in Game 10 last season, Mannelly had missed just three games in the previous 13 years.

He has been a near-flawless performer on the Bears' special teams, which traditionally have ranked among the league's best during the past nine years under Toub.

"(Mannelly) epitomizes what we're looking for in a Chicago Bear: excellence in performance and great leadership," general manager Phil Emery said.

What to do:

Even if the Bears defeat the Detroit Lions at noon Sunday, they'll have to wait roughly 3 hours for the outcome of the Vikings-Packers game to determine whether they qualify for the playoffs.

Will they wait around in Detroit for the later game to end or follow normal protocol and fly back immediately after their game?

"Hadn't gotten that far," coach Lovie Smith said. "There are a lot of other things that have priority before that. We're just going to concentrate on taking care of business. We haven't made any decisions like that."

Welcome back, maybe:

Coach Lovie Smith hopes to have linebacker Brian Urlacher and defensive tackle Henry Melton back Sunday.

Urlacher has missed three games with a pulled hamstring, and Melton has missed two games with a chest injury.

"Brian is a quick healer," Smith said. "He's made a lot of progress. We have to get to the practice week and see where he is."

Melton practiced all last week but was limited. Urlacher was unable to practice during the week but did some pregame work Sunday.

Making room:

With the Bears expected to add a safety or a running back Tuesday, wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher was waived Monday.

The undrafted Ohio State product played in 21 games but just five this season when he had 1 catch for 7 yards. He had 27 receptions for 276 yards and 3 touchdowns last season.


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