Bears Youngsters Biding Their Time

Despite Chicago's first victory of the year not all Bears are happy with the situation. Playing time is becoming an issue for three young players. David Terrell, Anthony Thomas and Dustin Lyman are all eager to contribute, but have struggled to get on the field consistently.

Injuries have played a role in the development or lack their of for the trio. Thomas went down with a knee bruise in the first game, which caused him to miss the rest of the preseason schedule. Lyman, who led the team in receiving (4 catches for 62 yards) in the preseason opener, went down the following week with an ankle injury. Terrell missed part of training camp over a contract dispute then missed the Bears 3rd preseason game with a shoulder sprain. However, if Jerry Angelo's philosophy to build the team around young players then players such as Terrell, Thomas and Lyman should all see more action.

Thomas caught an eight-yard pass on the first play of the game against Minnesota and wasn't called upon again the rest of the game. "I expected to at least get one (carry), but I guess they (the coaches) had different plans," Thomas said.

The second round draft choice went through a similar scenario in Baltimore when he saw his only three carries in the 4th quarter, on consecutive plays. Frustration is beginning to sit with Thomas.

"No reason (why I didn't play more) they didn't tell me nothing. I just expected to play a little more, so I prepared myself that way and after that one play I didn't go back in I didn't no what was the problem.

The Bears running game struggled in the preseason and the problem has continued into the regular season. Chicago has 103 rushing yards, which the worst in the NFL of any team that has played two games. Therefore, the lack of playing time for Thomas raises questions about the Bears confidence in him.

"I'm going to talk and try to see what's going on see what I'm doing wrong. Obviously it's got to be something because I know I should be seeing a little more playing time then this."

Offensive coordinator John Shoop said Thomas has a chance to be a complete running back, but he wasn't there yet. One criticism the coaching staff might have of Thomas is that he does not know the blocking schemes on passing situations.

"Well he's a big, physical guy," Shoop said. "Everybody's different. He's learning his assignments like everybody is. Physically he's got it to block. He's got it. Mentally he works his tail off to get it."

Another former Wolverine is also trying to cope with not playing every down. Terrell, who was the Bears leading receiver in the preseason (10 receptions for 89 yards), has caught three passes for just 19 yards. The 8th overall pick expects a lot of himself, as well as the team. With Marcus Robinson coming back healthy against Minnesota and Marty Booker having consecutive nine reception games Terrell could continue to fin playing time scarce.

The Bears track record with 1st round draft choices over the last decade has been less than stellar. Dick Jauron knows he cannot allow Terrell's name to be added to that list and must keep the wideout's attitude in check.

"We'll watch it and the great thing about David (Terrell) is he wants to play," Jauron said. "He's got to understand that he is contributing and he is contributing. You don't need to make nine catches I mean it would be nice to do it, but he made a catch for a first down he blocked very well in the game. He gives us all the things we're looking for when we drafted him and as he gets more into it and understands the game more he'll catch more balls. But, the fact that he is blocking, that he is a tough guy, that he does catch the ball when we throw it to him and that he is learning. He is contributing."

Unlike Thomas and Terrell, tight end Dustin Lyman is in his second year in the league. He was the Bears third round choice out of Wake Forest a year ago. However, the college linebacker was converted back to his high school position of tight end. Lyman didn't adjust well in his opening campaign with only one reception.

However, Lyman seemed to be on his way to seeing significant playing time after Kaseem Sinceno went down with a season ending against Tennessee, but Lyman sprained his ankle in the same game. The injury sidelined him for the remainder of the preseason and he has been inactive both regular season games.

"I had a feeling I was going to be inactive because I wasn't really in the game plan that week (against Minnesota) in practice," Lyman said. "It wasn't a big surprise game day, you know it was disappointing sure because I had never been in this position as long as I've been playing football. I've been a guy who's on the field and it takes a little getting used to, but I'm trying to get used to this (not playing)."

Chicago's bye week could help Lyman distinguish himself in practice. "The next couple of weeks should be good for Dustin (Lyman), you know he's coming back off the injuries," Jauron said. "(He) looked a lot better last week had a lot better week last week, so in the next two weeks he'll have a chance to get healthier and get more reps out there and challenge for an active spot on Sunday."

Jauron said what Lyman needs most is playing time. "Well it's going to be getting a chance to perform. I mean the truth always is you lose that spot, hopefully you've got a bunch of hungry guys behind you and when they get the chance to get in there; if they perform then you're not going to demote them. Unless it's clear the guy coming back is clearly superior to them. So, he got to show (what he can do) he's a young player a very young player still learning the position, but he does have talent."

The Bears have not finished over .500 in five years, while not making a playoff appearance since 1994. Chicago will need young players like Terrell, Thomas and Lyman to become consistent contributors for the team to have a chance at winning this year and in the seasons to come.


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