Training Camp: The Battles, The Rookies

As training camp comes to a close, the battle for roster spots continues. We detail the most heated (and most recent) battle, other close competitions and the take a look at how the draft picks have performed.

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Since Eddie Berlin's partially torn groin muscle will sideline him for at least six weeks, there is a chance that someone like unheralded second-year player Carl Ford could sneak onto the roster.

Ford remains a long shot, but he had 3 catches for 56 yards in the preseason opener, including a 43-yard touchdown. He added a 20-yard catch in Game Two.

"It's big for him, to get out there in game situations and make plays," offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. "That's what it's all about. You get guys that practice great who don't make plays in games, but it was good to see Carl step up and make some plays. He's got very good hands, he's got good quickness, and he's got pretty good football speed."

Go-to guy Muhsin Muhammad will be the focus of the passing attack, but it's open competition behind him.

Justin Gage and Bobby Wade, the Bears' No. 2 and No. 3 receivers, respectively, did not have a single catch between them Monday night against the Dolphins, and Gage was blanked again in the second game, while Wade had one catch for seven yards, and that was in the second half.

"Some games you have opportunities to make plays, sometimes you don't," Turner said. "But both of them are having real solid camps, and we feel good about both of them."

After an impressive debut (5 catches, 131 yards) rookie Mark Bradley followed up with four catches for 63 yards but also had two big drops late in the Rams game last Friday night.

Speedy Bernard Berrian had two catches for 22 yards in the second preseason game after catching three for 65 yards in the opener.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Why go work at a job when you can still play a game?

If Marc Edwards' football career ended today, he could live with that. He has already played eight years and 124 games in the NFL, starting 77, and he has a Super Bowl ring from the 2001 season with the New England Patriots. So he could get on with his life and have a full career to reflect on. The 6-foot, 249-pound fullback has already begun preparing for a possible career after football in mutual fund wholesaling, but he isn't in a hurry to change professions.

"I'm trying to see if there's any gas left in the tank, but I know the end is sooner than later," the 30-year-old Notre Dame graduate said. "I'm getting to the point where it's almost time to move on."

But not yet. Edwards has started the first two preseason games, even though the free agent wasn't signed until the day before training camp opened.

Edwards has benefited from an epidemic of injuries. Last year's starter Bryan Johnson is still out after undergoing offseason foot surgery; backup Jason McKie won't be back for a few weeks because of a torn pectoral muscle; and Keith Belton, who backed up Edwards in the opener, was out for Game Two with a sprained ankle. But Edwards is capable of winning a job with the Bears on merit. His familiarity with the West Coast offense, blocking proficiency and veteran experience provide a security blanket for the Bears even in a supporting role.

Edwards caught three passes for 21 yards in the preseason opener, but his primary role in Ron Turner's offense, just as almost every fullback's is in the West Coast scheme, is to provide an escort through the line for the tailback and keep the quarterback from getting killed. The Bears threw 41 passes against Miami and allowed no sacks.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Evidently, in the case of rookie wide receiver Mark Bradley, first impressions don't count for much.

During spring mini-camps and OTAs (organized team activities), Bradley looked as if he was trying catching the ball wearing brass knuckles. Passes clanked off his hands at an alarming rate. But, when the lights came on last Monday night in the second-round pick's first professional game, he caught everything thrown to him and sometimes did spectacular things after the catch.

Bradley's 131 receiving yards on five catches set a Hall of Fame Game record that had stood for 35 years.

"Mark Bradley's going to be a star in this league," since-injured Bears quarterback Rex Grossman said. "He's got an explosive ability after he catches the ball that not a lot of people have. He's a great route runner, has good hands and kind of just has a feel for the game."

Bradley's second catch, which came on a short Chad Hutchinson pass midway through the second quarter, exemplified his immense athleticism and speed. The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder from Oklahoma took a toss along the sideline, slipped a tackle by a Dolphins cornerback and turned on the speed. By the time a Miami defender collared Bradley, the Bears had a 32-yard pickup, the biggest play in a 71-yard drive that resulted in a 22-yard Nick Novak field goal.

"I was expecting to come out and make positive plays," he said. "But I wasn't expecting that much of a positive deal."

In the fourth quarter, Bradley corralled a 43-yard bomb from Kyle Orton despite pass interference call against Miami. On the very next play, Bradley snared an Orton pass over the middle and turned it into a 26-yard gain. Those plays set up Doug Brien's 30-yard field goal, but Bradley wasn't finished. His 16-yard reception on a third-and-4 play kept alive a drive that resulted in Carl Ford's 43-yard TD catch that pulled the Bears within 24-20.

"Mark Bradley shined all night," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "That's the type of player we pictured him being, and that's a good start for him. Who knows how good he can be."

Despite two late drops in last Friday night's second preseason game, Bradley had four more catches for 63 yards.

ROOKIE REPORT: GM Jerry Angelo is not encouraged by recent discussions with Eugene Parker, the agent for holdout first-round running back Cedric Benson.

"We really haven't had any progress on that," Angelo said. "It's unfortunate. We're still working on it. It's just not happening."

  • Even when second-round wide receiver Mark Bradley was dropping as many passes as he was catching in the spring organized team activities, offensive coordinator Ron Turner didn't despair.

    "I know everyone talked about him in the OTAs, and all the drops that he had," Turner said. "But even at that time, even though he was dropping it, you could see he had good hands. It was a just a matter of a lack of confidence or lack of concentration or whatever, but he is getting better all the time. He's got unbelievable speed and burst. He can get to his top speed real fast. He's got a lot of ability."

    Bradley caught 4 passes for 63 yards, but he dropped a potentially game-winning throw at the goalline from Kurt Kittner with 1:55 remaining. On the next play, Bradley dropped a pass over the middle that would have provided a first down.

  • Fourth-round quarterback Kyle Orton moved up to No. 2 on the depth chart after starter Rex Grossman suffered a fractured ankle in the second preseason game last Friday night. Orton has completed 14 of 21 passes for 268 yards.

  • WR Airese Currie continues to do some work on the side as he rehabs from offseason foot surgery.

  • Bear Report Top Stories