Notebook: Conte, Ratliff day to day

In our Tuesday notebook, we discuss the Chicago Bears injury situation, which includes the potential loss of three defensive starters, expectations for rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller and more.

The Chicago Bears picked up a big victory on Sunday night over the San Francisco 49ers but it came at a cost, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.

CB Charles Tillman (triceps) was placed on injured reserve yesterday, ending his season. The Bears are also weathering injuries to S Chris Conte (shoulder) and Jeremiah Ratliff (concussion). Both are day-to-day.

“Right now it’s day-to-day,” coach Marc Trestman said today. “I’m hopeful that it’s not serious. After the next couple days I think we’ll know more on Thursday as to how [Conte] is going to practice and if he’s going to practice.

“The same thing [with Ratliff]. We’re still a couple days away from really seeing what the injury report will be on these guys.”

If Ratliff can’t play, rookie Will Sutton will take his place in the starting lineup. Danny McCray will replace Conte if he’s unable to suit up.

DE Trevor Scott (foot) and CB Sherrick McManis (quad) were also knocked out of the Week 2 contest.

With Tillman gone and McManis banged up, the Bears were left with just two healthy cornerbacks on the roster. This forced the team to place fourth-round rookie safety Brock Vereen at nickelback against the 49ers. It’s a scenario the team would like to avoid in the future.

“We really think of him as being in the safety position,” said Trestman.

As a result, the club today elevated CB Isaiah Frey from the practice squad to the 53-man roster. Frey served as the team’s nickelback for all 16 games last year, picking up 47 total tackles, one pass defended and no interceptions.

Roster Shakeup

The Bears also elevated WR Rashad Ross from the practice squad. Ross is a second-year player who went undrafted last year and spent time on the practice squads of the Titans and Chiefs. He is an experienced return man and will likely take over as the club’s primary kick returner, as Senorise Perry has done very little in that role.

The club waived RB Shaun Draughn and WR Chris Williams, and terminated the contract of vested veteran TE Matthew Mulligan. Draughn was responsible for the blocked kick in the first quarter against San Francisco, while Williams was an emergency pick up last week due to injuries to Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.

With Eben Britton on the roster and healthy, the team had no use for Mulligan, who was serving as the extra edge blocker. The Bears still have one roster spot available.

Full(er) of Promise

With Tillman’s career in doubt, the time has come for Kyle Fuller to take on the full-time role as the club’s No. 1 cornerback. He set the bar high in the second half on Sunday, intercepting two Colin Kaepernick passes that propelled the Bears to victory.

“Since college, I’ve always thought to myself, ‘you’re one play away,’” Fuller said today. “I’ve tried to make sure I’m prepared. Really just coming in here and getting reps, working the game, knowing what your opponents are going do, knowing yourself, things you need to get better at, things like that.

“I definitely feel like I have a lot of confidence but at the same time I’m always going out there trying to get better. You can always get better. Always staying humble, and it just comes down to building on it and getting better.”

Fuller may have downplayed his performance but a showing like that against one of the league’s premiere quarterbacks has elevated expectations for the first rounder.

“I told him it’s not about starting. It’s not about making the Pro Bowl,” Brandon Marshall said following Sunday’s contest. “For him, he needs to have Hall of Fame on his brain because that kid can play.”

Luckily for Fuller, he’ll have Tillman arguably the greatest cornerback to every play in Chicago – to mentor him the remainder of the season.

“I hate to see that for Charles. A guy that I was definitely learning a lot from, but I also feel I can still learn a lot from him,” said Fuller. “Just seeing the way he plays the game, the things that he does out there on the field, the way he carries himself, the things he does in the meeting rooms. There’s so much that you can take from a guy like him.

“Being the type of person that he is and the player that he is, he loves the game of football. I’m sure he’ll be around, trying to help us out as much as he can. I’m definitely going to be one of those guys who’s going to try to get as much knowledge from him as I can, to make me a better player.”

Fuller has big shoes to fill and the weight of an entire city is now on his shoulders. How does the 22-year-old rookie plan on dealing with it?

“I think I’m going to continue to handle it the same way I’ve started.”

Decision-Making Process

In Week 2, Marshall (ankle) and Jeffery (hamstring) were game-time decisions after not practicing during the week. The two worked out on the field at Levi’s Stadium about two hours before the game, after which Bears brass chose to activate both players.

“We expected to play the game without them. We were never sure whether they were going to be healthy enough or feel good enough to play. So the game plan was already in place,” Trestman said. “Then once they got done working out, we visually observed how they were running, how they were working. They looked pretty much at full speed and then it was a matter of how they felt when they got back in the locker room.

“I think Brandon was pretty sure of himself very early on. The guys said they had seen him work and said he planted on both ankles and felt strong. I’m happy they played, certainly. They made difference-making plays, not just the touchdowns, but being out there. Alshon drew two or three [pass interference calls], which helped field position.”

Jeffery was noticeably hobbled, although Trestman said he didn’t do any further damage to the hamstring.

“He did [avoid a setback], with nothing lingering, so hopefully we’ll see more improvement as the week progresses,” said Trestman. “I don’t think he was 100 percent. I think with the extra days off, that’s really going to help him. He did everything he could to play, he wanted to play, moved well enough to play during the workout but certainly I don’t think he was 100 percent.”

“I assess [the risk] by what the trainers say, the doctors say. These guys want to play. Certainly you always run the risk – everyone’s playing with something and when you play with something, there’s always a chance that some other part of your body will compensate and you could injure another part of your body. But that’s part of this game. Thankfully it didn’t happen.”

Fullback in the Fold

The Bears yesterday re-signed FB Tony Fiammetta, who was released a week earlier. Fiammetta has been dealing with a hamstring injury sustained in the preseason and has yet to play a down for the Bears this year.

Trestman said Fiammetta will not only help the rushing attack but also give special teams a much-needed boost.

“Tony Fiammetta is an excellent player and we haven’t had a chance to use him because of the hamstring injury,” said Trestman. “A healthy Tony Fiammetta comes into play on special teams – and we need that right now – and certainly the 15 or 20 percent of the time as a lead back. I know Matt likes running with Tony leading the way.”


Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his fourth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.


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