Long TD run can only help Thompson's shot at Chicago Bears' roster
As long as football is played under existing rules, no one can ever top Deonte Thompson's 109-yard touchdown return of a missed field goal Saturday night.
Thompson's name won't go down in the record books because his coast-to-coast return was in a preseason game, but the Chicago Bears' wide receiver demonstrated his rare explosiveness. And for him that could be the difference between making the final roster and getting a pink slip on Sept. 2, when NFL roster are whacked from 90 to 53.
"It's great," Thompson said. "Just showing I can make plays with the ball in my hands; just got to keep doing what I do."
For most of his five-year NFL career and his two seasons with the Bears, most of Thompson's contributions have come as a kickoff-returner. Through the first 10 games last season, he had just 2 catches for 14 yards, which gave him a career total of 19 catches.
But in a five-game stretch near the end of last season, while Alshon Jeffery was suspended for four games and Eddie Royal was hurt, Thompson caught 20 passes for 235 yards and 2 touchdowns.
"Dowell (Loggains) knows what I can do," Thompson said of the Bears' offensive coordinator. "I think he believes in me. I just (have to) continue to do what I'm doing. I think I had a pretty solid camp, now just keep stacking days."
Thompson caught 5 passes for 64 yards from rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky in the first preseason game, which makes him the Bears' leading receiver in the exhibition season.
He also returned 3 kickoffs in the first game for 88 yards, a 29.3-yard average. In 2015, his first year with the Bears, Thompson returned 14 kickoffs for a 29.2-yard average, second in the NFL.
But Thompson is far from a roster lock. Backup running back Benny Cunningham also is a veteran kickoff returner with an impressive resume, and electric rookie running back Tarik Cohen could be a factor.
Another few degrees of difficulty were added for Thompson when the Bears signed three veteran wide receivers in unrestricted free agency: Victor Cruz, Kendall Wright and Markus Wheaton.
Thompson took it as a challenge.
"Just bringing in more competition," he said. "Like I always say, 'Cream rises to the top.' No matter who you bring in, the best players play. So you just have to come out and compete every day."
None of the Bears' wide receivers have emerged as difference-makers thus far, which means Thompson is in the thick of a position battle that could go down to the wire.
"We've got room for improvement," Bears coach John Fox said of the wide receivers after evaluating Saturday's game. "But, all in all, we made a step forward everywhere with the first offense."
Thompson's productivity in the first two games has improved his odds of making the team, but he says he came to camp just as confident as he is now.
"I feel the same way I did when I first came in the building," he said. "I know what I can do; they know what I can do. So I just do what I do every day, just continuing to make plays and just being me."
That 109-yard return has to help. But Thompson said it almost didn't happen, for a couple of reasons, the first being that the Cardinals would have Phil Dawson attempt a 63-yard field goal.
"Actually drew it up on the sidelines," Thompson said. "It was quick. They said on the sideline, 'Hey D.T., go back there and, if they miss it, bring it out. The rest is history; just made it happen."
But he almost didn't.
"My foot was (almost) at the end line," Thompson said. "I didn't know that until I watched the tape. I almost stepped out."
What else does a guy have to do to make a football team?
"Just keep putting it on film," Thompson said. "That's it, put it on film."
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