The battles heat up

While <!--Default NodeId For Anthony Thomas is 741795,2003--><A HREF=[PlayerNode:741795]>Anthony Thomas</A> returned to practice Friday the first major scuffle of the training camp broke out between <!--Default NodeId For Roosevelt Williams is 722139,2003--><A HREF=[PlayerNode:722139]>Roe Williams</A> and <!--Default NodeId For Ahmad Merritt is 722187,2003--><A HREF=[PlayerNode:722187]>Ahmad Merritt</A>. Both players are in fierce competitions at their respective positions to make the roster.

"It's pretty warm out, but everybody is working hard, trying to make an impact," Williams said of the two players playing tug of war with each other's facemasks.

The second-year cornerback is competing for the nickel job with rookie Charles Tillman and veteran Todd McMillon.

"I think that you always feel pressure of one sort or another. That's part of the game," Williams said. "But it surely hasn't hurt my confidence at all. If anything, it's made me want to work harder to prove what I can do. I plan on being out there and making an impact this season. I'm healthy know what I'm doing, and I'm ready to play."

The team had high hopes for Williams after drafting him in the third-round of the 2002 draft, but an ankle injury in training camp slowed his progress. He made on the field as injuries in the secondary mounted. However, the results were mixed at best.

The low point of the season came at Green Bay. On the last play of the half Damon Moore intercepted a Brett Favre pass, which was fumbled, lateraled and batted around before Williams eventually scooped up the ball. With nothing but open field in front of him, Williams looked like his running in slow motion as Javon Walker tackled him from behind leaving the Bears with a one possession lead instead of a 20-7 advantage.

Williams was embarrassed by the play and it drove him to be quicker.

"My main focus right now is on quickness and reaction time," Williams said. "I talked about that quite a bit last year. The speed of the pro game is just so different from what it was in college.

"I feel that I've comeback completely from last year's leg injury. It took a while to return to feeling 100%. This year, I feel that my speed has returned and I'm ready to show everybody just what I can do."

Merritt is in a similar position in terms of battling for backup role and a roster spot. With Marty Booker, David Terrell and Dez White being locks to make the team the fourth and fifth receiver slots are wide open.

There are two things that Merritt has going for him in the competition with several other receivers. This is his third season in the Bears offense and he is a special teams contributor.

Rookie Bobby Wade has a similar build and is also a threat in the return game, so it will likely come down to who performs better between them in the preseason.

"Ahmad Merritt is a great player," said Wade. "He's a fast, quick guy and there's a lot I can learn from him. But it's just a matter of who gets a shot and who's able to get it done early.

"Hopefully I'll have my turn and when that time comes, I'm going to put my best foot forward. I'm sure Ahmad will too."

Here comes the train
Anthony Thomas missed three days of practice with back spasms before returning to the field Friday. Although soreness is expected after not being hit since last year, the team decided to take things slowly with their starting running back.

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