A numbers game

Jobs will be won or lost over the course of the next few days. The decision doesn't always come down to play on the field. Players like <!--Default NodeId For Edell Shepherd is 722202,2003--><A HREF=[PlayerNode:722202]>Edell Shepherd</A> are fighting an uphill battle.

The Bears leader in receptions and yards during the preseason is Shepherd, but chances are he won't be on the roster a week from now. Shepherd caught two balls for 36 yards versus the Cardinals including a 29-yard touchdown catch.

"Edell looks like a guy that can play in the National Football League," said head coach Dick Jauron. "He's certainly performed in practice and he's certainly performed in games."

Shepherd will likely get caught up in a numbers game as he competes with a veteran, in Ahmad Merritt, and two draft picks, in Justin Gage and Bobby Wade, for two spots.

Merritt is in his third season with the Bears and each year his responsibilities have increased. As a rookie he caught just two balls. In addition to catching 14 balls last season, he took over punt and kick return duties in the second half of the year. Merritt has had an impressive training camp and exhibition season.

On the other hand the Bears spent fifth-round choices on Gage and wade. Each has flashed NFL ability, but like most rookies are inconsistent.

"We said going in that we thought it was a position that would be a strong one for us, a very competitive one and I think that it's proved out that way," said Jauron.

Jauron believes the team will cut receivers that can play in the NFL including Jamin Elliot, who was waived today. The former sixth-round pick didn't catch a ball during his rookie campaign and fell to eight or ninth on depth chart.

"I think this guy's got a chance to play in the league, whether it's this year or next year but he's talented enough," Jauron said of Elliot. "I think he's tough enough; it just didn't work out here."

Jerry Azumah was the only player to miss practice Monday. The cornerback injured his big toe in the Bears 27-17 loss at Arizona. He will miss the Bears final preseason game, but should be ready to go when the team opens the regular season at San Francisco.

"He feels significantly better than he did yesterday," said head coach Dick Jauron. "He's on medication and we hope it passes quickly."

Charles Tillman will get the start in place of Azumah.

Along with Elliot the team also waived S Julius Curry to comply with the NFL's mandated 65-man roster limit. Each team is mandated to do so by Tuesday.

The Bears, who currently have 74 players on its roster, have nine NFL Europe exemptions (Bryan Fletcher, Tyree Foreman, Teddy Gaines, Shane Grice, Jeff Grzeskowiak, Maurice Hicks, Edell Shepherd, Elijah Thurmon and Josh Warner). Teams must narrow their roster to 53 by Sunday.

Not only will the Bears face former teammates Rosevelt Colvin and Ted Washington when they travel to New England for a Wednesday match-up, but the two sides hooked up for a second trade in less than a week. In exchange for Jamil Soriano the Bears will receive a conditional draft pick.

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