Bears' safeties to get long look against Seahawks
With the Bears' starters getting their most extensive playing time of the preseason Friday night against the Seahawks, it gives a handful of players an opportunity to prove they deserve to be with the No. 1s when the regular season starts.
The safety positions provided the most wide-open competition when training camp began in late July. And, according to coach Marc Trestman, no final decisions have been made.
With Chris Conte and Craig Steltz expected to see their first game action Friday after missing most of training camp with injuries, those decisions might be even more complicated now.
"We worked all the guys in," Trestman said Wednesday after the final practice before the team flew to Seattle. "Chris (Conte) got a bunch of work back there as well. We'll rotate them around and still keep working this process of figuring out who they're going to be."
Strong safety Ryan Mundy and free safety Danny McCray started each of the first two games and have been with the ones more often than anyone else, but Trestman has declined to anoint them the starters.
Conte shouldn't be counted out yet, despite a disappointing 2013 season and the subsequent shoulder surgery that kept him out of the off-season program. He started 31 games over the previous two seasons and nine in 2011, his rookie season.
"He's had a good week of practice," Trestman said. "He's running around. He's involved in terms of what we're doing. He's going to play (vs. Seattle). We haven't decided how much yet, but he'll be out there and he'll be competing, and he's back in it to try to show us what he can do and we're excited to have him back."
The last time Chris Williams was on the playing field he provided one of the preseason's most exciting plays with a 73-yard TD catch and run in the preseason opener.
But he suffered a hamstring injury on the play, which has kept him from competing for a backup receiver position and the return-specialist job, which also is wide open after Eric Weems was cut.
Veteran Darius Reynaud, who returned 3 kicks for touchdowns in 2012, was added to the kick-return mix Monday.
Micheal Spurlock is the only player on the roster who has returned a punt this preseason, but his 5 attempts have netted just 9 yards. In seven previous seasons, the 5-foot-11, 210-pound Spurlock has averaged 24.2 yards on kickoff returns and 9.6 yards on punt returns.
"We're working through those things as we go," said special-teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis. "Spurlock is here. He's had some production in the league, so he's really the first one at bat right now. We're trying to see where Chris Williams is at. We've got some other candidates also, so we've just got to work through it."
Williams hasn't gotten any game action on returns, but he should get looks in the final two preseason games. At 5-8 and 175, he's the smallest player on the roster, but maybe the fastest.
"The speed obviously shows up," DeCamillis said. "We saw it on that one (TD) play. We just have to see him in some live-bullet situations to see how he's going to catch punts in the National Football League and kickoffs."
Trestman is anxious to see what Williams can do to boost a return game that has been uninspiring.
"We need to see him be productive," Trestman said of the former Canadian Football League star. "He was when he was playing the last time as a receiver; he made some plays, and he was productive in practice.
"We want to see that certainly come into play again on Friday night. Hopefully we'll give him an opportunity to get a couple returns and see what he can do with the ball in his hands as well."
As for the No. 3 wide receiver spot left vacant after the fractured collar bone suffered by Marquess Wilson?
Seventh-year veteran Josh Morgan is the current leader, and he leads the club with 77 receiving yards on 5 catches. Talented but enigmatic veteran Santonio Holmes will play if he picked up enough of the playbook this week.
"Josh will get the first shot at it," Trestman said.
As recently as 2012, the 6-1, 220-pound Morgan started 15 games for Washington and caught 48 passes for 510 yards (10.6-yard average) and 2 touchdowns.
He seems capable of providing what Trestman is looking for in that spot: consistency and versatility.
"I don't know that we're looking for anything but guys that can get lined up and be flexible to do it in different places," Trestman said. "We've got guys who can do that … certainly Josh can do that.
"And then it's just to perform. When you (are targeted), have an opportunity to make a play -- and that goes for practice as well, do the things we need to do on the perimeter in our run game, and be as effective as you can be with what we're asking you to do."
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