Between now and next Tuesday at 5 p.m., 23 players who were on the practice field inside the Walter Payton Center on Monday afternoon will be ex-Bears.
"It's never easy," Bears coach Marc Trestman said of next week's final cutdown to 53 players, "because they're either letting go of a dream that they've had or they've got to overcome their adversity (of being cut) here and move on."
The last chance for all those players on the bubble is Thursday night at Soldier Field against the Cleveland Browns.
Most starters will not play a single snap for the Bears, but that leaves plenty of time for the bubble boys to make their final case.
"This is a big game for the guys who are playing," Trestman said. "There's still competition for positions on the team, and there's competition for positions in this league. There's great value in this game on multiple levels."
Armando Allen, who was the Bears' No. 3 running back last season and averaged 4.6 yards on 27 carries, is fighting an uphill battle. He rushed for 12 yards on 3 carries in the preseason opener and caught 1 pass for 3 yards, but a hamstring injury has prevented him from playing in the last two games.
Meanwhile, his main challenger, undrafted rookie Michael Ford, returned a kickoff 100 yards and has carried 30 times for 101 yards and caught 7 passes for 52 yards.
Allen went through a full practice Monday and hopes he will be 100 percent Thursday night, when his performance could determine his future.
"Every game means a lot," said Allen, who originally signed with the Tampa Bay Bucs as an undrafted rookie out of Notre Dame in 2011. "You always want to get a chance to go out there and perform at the best of your ability.
"I don't have any worries or anything hovering over my head. I just want to get out there and make plays and do what I can do best."
Despite a solid career at LSU, the 5-foot-10, 216-pound Ford went from being one of the most highly recruited high school players in the country to an undrafted free agent, just like Allen.
"It's definitely humbling because you know you hit that rock-bottom point and you're like, 'Oh, my God, what am I going to do now?'" Ford said. "You've got to pick yourself up and keep grinding, keep working."
Thursday night may be his last chance to prove to the NFL teams that passed on him that they made a mistake. He said that having played well so far doesn't matter.
"I don't buy into that," he said. "I just have to keep coming out here and keep getting better and better. You see Matt Forte having a great game every time, (Michael) Bush having a great game.
"So I have to keep focusing on those guys and keep getting better with them."
The Allen-Ford decision could come down to special teams, a critical area for most backups. Allen was one of the Bears' more productive special-teams tacklers last season, while Ford is getting his first experience covering kicks.
Allen's absence has provided Ford with greater opportunities, which the rookie appreciates. But he said he hopes their battle can be decided on an even playing field.
"You definitely have to take advantage of those (extra chances)," Ford said. "But being a team man, I hope (Allen) comes back and he gets to get in that rotation and keeps fighting and fighting just like me."
May the best man win.
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