Tackling the Challenge

Bourbonnais - Marc Colombo has a deeper appreciation for the game than most players because his career nearly ended before it really began.

"It takes on a toll on you mentally, you just kind of sit back and see everything and I felt I became a stronger player because of it."

The ‘it' Colombo is referring to is a knee injury that kept him off the field for nearly two years. He dislocated his left kneecap in his sixth career start of his rookie season. Nerve damage complicated the healing process, which took multiple procedures to get corrected.

Although the Bears finished 5-11 in 2004, one of the season's greatest triumphs was when Colombo returned to action, appearing in eight games and starting two.

The six-foot-8, 317-pounder had been working with the second team offensive line at right tackle, but when Fred Miller sat out practice on Thursday, he got a chance to get reps with the first team.

"We're really trying to develop our depth at all the positions, so it was good to see Marc," said head coach Lovie Smith. "This time last year he was on the sideline working out with (trainer) Tim (Bream), so he's come a long ways."

Being a former first round pick doesn't guarantee the 26-year-old will make the team, but that hasn't stopped him from competing as if he has a chance to start.

"That's my ultimate goal for camp, is to be a starter so it felt good to get out there and go against the first team," Colombo said.

While the injury came with a price, Colombo feels he's come along way since November 18, 2002.

"I'm a lot better player than I was a few years ago," Colombo said. "I'm a lot stronger and I'm lot wiser."

Injury Update
Fred Miller got the day off to rest his right ankle, which nagged him over the final part of 2004. He's expected back at practice on Friday, but he'll periodically be given time to rest the ankle.

The linebacker corps is getting thinner by the day. Hunter Hillenmeyer suffered a concussion during Tuesday's evening practice and missed practice Thursday. He's expected to sit out Friday and possibly the weekend. Joe Odom worked with the first team defense in place of Hillenmeyer.

No timeframe has been set forth by the team for how long a left shoulder dislocation will keep Marcus Reese out, but it could be up to two weeks.

TE Dustin Lyman tweaked his ankle toward the end of practice and will be reevaluated before being cleared to return.

FB Marc Edwards returned to work from a hamstring injury, while center A.J. Ricker continues to sit with an ankle injury.

Practice Notes
With NFL referees on hand for practice, Charles Tillman drew their attention on more than one occasion. He didn't agree with flags being thrown for pass interference or defensive holding, which comes as no surprise.

"That's normally how it goes, defensive backs complaining to the officials," Smith said. "But they're just here to help us. It's another phase of what we want to get accomplished. It's one thing for us to call the fouls that we have, but these are the guys that will be calling it during the season, so it's good to get a chance to deal with them."

Nathan Vasher became the latest defensive back to be schooled by veteran wideout Muhsin Muhammad. During an eleven-on-eleven drill, Vasher looked to have tight coverage on Muhammad as the ball went in the air. However, Muhammad used his body to get into position for a leaping grab along the sideline.

Despite the lesson, the Bears have lofty goals for their interception leader from last season.

"He's the best player that we have playing the football in the air," Smith said. "Five interceptions last year. He has to have a better year this year than last. He's expecting quite a bit from himself and we're doing the same."

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