Monday Night Camp Report

BOURBONNAIS -- At this rate, the Bears might not have enough players to scrimmage the Rams this week.

Names like Urlacher, Booker, Thomas, Clark and Azumah were absent again from Monday morning's practice at training camp. The list seems to be growing each and every day, and could impact who the Bears use when they head to Macomb, Ill., Thursday through Saturday to scrimmage the Rams.

Hamstring injuries continue to be the norm. Linebacker Brian Urlacher, receivers Marty Booker, Jamin Elliott and Justin Gage, and tight ends Desmond Clark and John Gilmore are nursing some sort of hamstring injury.

"No more injuries, so I guess that's a plus," Bears coach Lovie Smith said Monday, opening up his press conference. "I know you're wondering about some guys, but most of them are still day-to-day."

The loss of top players with hamstring injuries is bad enough, but the Bears sent cornerback and Pro Bowl kick returner Jerry Azumah (neck stinger) to Pittsburgh to get a second opinion. Azumah, who injured his neck Thursday morning at practice, had an MRI Friday, which showed no serious damage to the neck or shoulder.

"He's in Pittsburgh working with a specialist," Smith said of Azumah. "It's just a second opinion. Right now I don't know anything more. I like to play Dr. Smith from time to time, but right now I really can't."

Smith said it was a mutual choice by Azumah and the team to send him to Pittsburgh. Azumah led the NFL in kickoff return average and touchdowns in 2003.

Defensive end Alex Brown (right calf), guard Mike Gandy (groin), offensive tackles Aaron Gibson (knee) and John Tait (groin) missed Monday's first practice. Gibson and Tait, however, returned for the afternoon practice session.

Anthony Thomas (side) was another big name who was missing from practice Monday. The A-Train missed the entire weekend of practices and was out again Monday. Thomas, who has rushed for 2,928 yards in three seasons, has had numerous back issues, including spasms, during his brief career in Chicago.

"I don't know for sure what it is, but we still don't think it's very serious," Smith said of Thomas, the second-string running back. "Now we're just going to have to hold him a little bit."

* Happy camper: Bears guard Rex Tucker, a Pro Bowler in 2001, is excited about the team's new offensive scheme under first-year offensive coordinator Terry Shea.

The Bears will utilize their tight ends in the passing game, have receivers running deeper routes (remember John Shoop?), use some shotgun formations and use running backs as receivers.

"I couldn't be happier with it," Tucker said. "I'm completely impressed with it. It's really awesome. They use every athlete, every part of the field, every style of moving the ball. I think it's fantastic."

* New-look Bears: Call it an experiment, but veteran defensive tackle Bryan Robinson worked out at left defensive end Monday. It was probably because Alex Brown was held out, but Robinson played end for five seasons before being moved inside.

It appears Robinson will be used at both and tackle in the season because of the amount of substitutions that will be called for with a high paced defense.

"You just want to keep four guys fresh at all times," Robinson said. "Just giving to the offense and if you can do that you'll be successful.

Steve Edwards has been taking advantage of the injury bug on the offensive line. The tackle/guard ran plays with the first-team offense Monday.

Also, guard Terrence Metcalf worked out with the first team ahead of veteran Ruben Brown.

"We're just looking at different combinations really," Smith said "We gave Terrence some reps yesterday and he had an excellent practice. Right now, we're a new staff rolling people in. If you play well, you get more reps."

Change in plans: The Bears have cancelled the Tuesday morning practice originally scheduled for 8:40 a.m. There will be only practice one tomorrow staring at 7:10 p.m.


Bear Report Top Stories