Happy Return to Returns for Wade

INDIANAPOLIS - The Bears paraded in J.J. Moses and Derek Abney in an attempt to find a punt returner. It turns out they may have already had one the roster.

Third-year wide receiver Bobby Wade broke his first return of Saturday night's 24-17 win over Indianapolis for a 54-yard touchdown and 7-0 first-quarter lead.

"It's just a matter of getting the right kick, really,'' said Wade, who came into the game with three punt returns for 21 yards in the first two preseason games.

"The punts we've been getting (prior to Friday) have been hanging high The guys (blockers) haven't had the opportunity to get the returns started, which is a big deal.''

Wade had a high punt from Hunter Smith that wasn't returnable one snap before his touchdown. He got creamed a split second after the catch by the Colts' Kelvin Hayden.

However, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against the Colts' Jason David on the play gave Wade another chance to catch a punt, break a few tackles and go for the score.

"You know you're only going to get a certain amount of returns a game in preseason,'' Wade said. "You're obviously trying to put a lot more stress on yourself to try to make a play.''

Bears coach Lovie Smith called it a timely TD.

"We needed for Bobby Wade to step up and tonight he gave us a look at what he can possibly do,'' Smith said. "We knew, of course, that Bobby could do it. But you have to eventually do it and he made a couple guys missed and there was good blocking on the play, I might add.''

Wade had hoped to return punts his rookie year of 2003, and got the opening day assignment against the 49ers. He made a costly first-half fumble that led to a San Francisco score and triggered a rout. After that game, coach Dick Jauron and special teams coach Mike Sweatman refused to put Wade back on returns.

"The coaching staff we had here at the time wasn't really big on playing rookies anyway,'' Wade said. "So I didn't get another chance.''

Eventually R.W. McQuarters emerged that season as one of the league's best return men, but the Bears cut him before this season for salary cap purposes.

Wade started getting ready immediately, even if the Bears were planning to look at a lot of candidates.

"I caught thousands of balls this off season just to get comfortable again,'' Wade said. "Last year I wasn't even working out back there.

"I had a lot of rust; a LOT of rust. That's a tough position. It's one of the hardest positions to play, to be back there on an island and have to catch a ball and still keep aware of the returns and where the positions -- the blockers -- are. If you're not comfortable back there that's key.''

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