Lack of Action Leaves Bears on Edge

Bourbonnais - It took less than a week of training camp for some of the plans of Bears general manager Jerry Angelo to unravel.

First, outside linebacker Marcus Reese suffered a shoulder injury, then strong side linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer went to the sidelines with a concussion.

Now there is concern at cornerback, where Jerry Azumah has sat out two straight practices. The team is saying only that Azumah was being rested. Last year he missed several practices with what they thought was a stinger and in the end it was a neck injury which required surgery.

The Bears opted in the off-season not to bolster their depth with a major acquisition at linebacker, and when they let cornerback R.W. McQuarters leave in free agency they left themselves dangerously thin at cornerback, as well.

By missing starters at those positions, they've been forced to call on shaky backup help.

Angelo had plenty of opportunities in the off-season to acquire a veteran linebacker. They did bring in LeVar Woods from Arizona and this week re-signed former Bear draft pick Leon Joe.

Yet they had the chance to add so much more.

"We talked to Warrick Holdman, we talked to Anthony Simmons, those two in particular,'' Angelo said. "We were really talking about the minimum salary.

"If we had a need we would have been more aggressive with the money.''

Holdman and Simmon were told they had to compete for the position with Hillenmeyer.

Bears lost Brian Urlacher last year for seven games and went 0-7 without him. So they've shown what happens when their linebacker depth is taxed. Joe Odom, Reese, Joe, Jeremy Cain and Woods are virtually the same as last year's backup group.

At cornerback, Angelo admits to some concern if something happened to Azumah, Charles Tillman or Nate Vasher.

"I'm only concerned if we lose one of our three,'' Angelo said. "Then that's a concern, We have enough numbers and enough quality with the next tier of corners that we should have a pretty good four and five. Todd McMillon's been that guy and he's with us.''

Beyond that former Arena Football League cornerback Rashied Davis has made two interceptions and been burned deep throughout camp. Alfonso Marshall hasn't recovered from a knee injury yet and McMillon's ability must be questioned. He once was benched in favor of former Bear Reggie Austin when given starting duties.

Depth is a difficult commodity to come by in the salary cap era, but there were players available at both linebacker and cornerback and the Bears chose something less from the bargain bin.

Now they have to hope for good health at both positions, and recent history shows the chances of this to be extremely low.

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