Even bigger chance for Frey to impress Bears coaches
The hamstring injury that nickel cornerback Kelvin Hayden sustained in Saturday night's practice at Soldier Field will result in even more playing time for Isaiah Frey, who already was having an outstanding camp.
Drafted in the sixth-round last year out of Nevada, Frey made little impact in 2012 and was essentially redshirted, spending the entire season on the practice squad. But a year in the system has made a big difference for the 6-foot, 190-pounder.
"He's having a very competitive camp," coach Marc Trestman said. "He's been very consistent throughout. He's continually playing at a high level, making plays, knocking passes down and creating opportunities for himself.
"He's in a terrific competition with other guys on this team. He's shown himself every single day. He's done a lot of good things."
Hayden is listed as week to week. When he's back to 100 percent and if Frey continues to improve, the Bears will have nice depth behind starters Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings, who both went to the Pro Bowl last season.
The safety position is deep and could be special if young starters Chris Conte and Major Wright build off last season's solid play.
"We just want to be a great defense overall," Hayden said when asked if the secondary, which had 6 of the team's NFL-best 9 defensive touchdowns in 2012, might become the team's strength.
"It's all about rush and cover. If those guys up front put a lot of duress on the quarterback, then it forces us as a secondary to go out there and make plays when the quarterback makes mistakes.
"And even if they do catch the ball, the play isn't over. We can still strip it out, take the ball away. We hold ourselves as an elite group. But we can't say we're the best on the defense, because the defense (as a whole) is the star."
On the mend:
Corey Wootton dressed for Saturday night's practice a day after suffering a hip injury, but he participated only in some individual drills and was inactive during 11-on-11 team work.
The fourth-year defensive end hopes to play in Friday's preseason opener, but the team will exercise caution to guard against a re-injury.
"There's still a lot more I want to prove out there," said Wootton, who became a starter for the first time midway through last season and was third on the team with 7 sacks. "The biggest thing is just to get healthy and be on the field."
Wootton credits former defensive coordinator/defensive line guru Rod Marinelli, who is now with the Dallas Cowboys, for helping him have a breakout season. He's glad Mike Phair was retained as defensive line coach.
"My first two years I struggled getting used to the tempo and getting used to pass rushing and using my hands and things of that nature," Wootton said. (Marinelli) always stayed on me and believed in me.
"Coach Phair worked with the ends mostly, so I was always working with him the past two years, and we built a good relationship. He learned from coach Marinelli, so we're doing the same drills, pretty much same everything."
The business side:
Martellus Bennett has amused and entertained all who will listen to his observations on football and anything else, and he has kept practice lively by mixing it up with defensive backs.
But the talented tight end is serious when it comes to doing his job, according to coach Marc Trestman.
"I absolutely love it because he knows how to be a pro," the coach said. "If you could see him in the meetings, he is up and front; he takes meticulous notes, he asks tremendous questions. He does everything right.
"That's something you don't see. He knows how to have fun with football. He's got a great sense of humor, and we enjoy it."
After Sunday's off-day, the Bears have their first scheduled afternoon practice Monday at 3:15 back at Olivet Nazarene University.
Following Tuesday and Wednesday's 9 a.m. practices, the team is off Thursday when it departs for the preseason opener on the road against the Carolina Panthers on Friday at 7 p.m.
Then, after an off-day Saturday, training camp winds down with a 3:15 p.m. practice Sunday and 9 a.m. practices Monday and Tuesday before heading back to Lake Forest for the remainder of the preseason.