Picking up the pace

The Bears and Rams were all smiles as Lovie Smith made his return to Macomb, but Friday morning things got a bit more physical.

On the last snap of practice Brock Forsey took a handoff and reached the end zone. That's when the fireworks started between FB Bryan Johnson and St. Louis LB Tommy Polley.

"We ran a run play to the left and I was blocking the linebacker and the running back cut it back and we had already scored," Johnson said. "And then he just gave me a little push and I was going to ask him what's going on and then it just started happening."

In actuality, Johnson ripped Polley's helmet off his head, which caused both teams to crowd the end zone. The sides were eventually separated and practice came to an abrupt end.

"It was already scheduled to be the last play so it just ended off like that. But it's nothing personal we're just out there playing hard," Johnson said.

With a scrimmage less than 24 hours away, today's scrum could be a preview of the main event.

"When you start competing, that's going to happen a little bit," Smith said. "The guys all broke it up and we'll come back out this afternoon and you won't have any of that."

Kicking into gear: Jerry Azumah's absence leaves two holes to fill.

Mike Green worked with the first team defense at nickel back and appears to be the favorite to win the job.

"I've played both positions ever since I've been here," Green said. "I've been at the nickel back and I've been playing strong safety, so I feel good at both positions."

The competition at kick returner is far from decided and there's a lot to live up to considering Azumah led the NFL with a 29.0 yard average per kick return along with reaching the end zone twice. He was arguably the Bears biggest offensive weapon in 2003.

Ahmad Merritt, Bobby Wade, Daryl Jones and Jason McKie took reps, but Bernard Berrian and Nathan Vasher were drafted as insurance and appear to be the frontrunners.

"Bernard Berrian was drafted with that purpose. Nathan Vasher, both of those guys were good returners in college, so they'll get the first crack," Smith said.

Vasher, who only returned two kicks in college, is adjusting to his new responsibility after primarily a punt returner at Texas.

"On punt return seems like they're right on top of you. On kick return it seems like you have a chance to visualize and see where things are opening up," Vasher said. "That comes with repetition every day in practice so I'm back there every day and trying to do a good job at it."

Going Deep: Rex Grossman completed passes of over 50 yards to Marty Booker and Ahmad Merritt in seven-on-seven drills.

"Rex has been great since Day One," Smith said. "We're expecting a good year from him and each day I think he gets a little bit better at something."

Injury Update: WR Jamin Elliot returned to the field Saturday after missing time with a hamstring injury. A day after injuring his knee in practice, CB Josh Minkins had his right knee in a boot and was on crutches.

Quote to Note: Yes, we let him go out there. We thought maybe there's still a chance. So we just let him do a little bit of non-contact work and he looked very good when he did it. But we found out otherwise and went to the next stage." – Lovie Smith on letting Jerry Azumah practice before knowing the results of the second MRI, which revealed a herniated disk in his neck.


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