The Rookies, The Veterans

While the Bears are back at Halas Hall, there are still jobs to be won or lost in the coming weeks.

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Wide receiver Bobby Wade's 54-yard punt-return touchdown was a pleasant surprise against the Colts. Open auditions have been held for R.W. McQuarters' successor with marginal results. But Wade may have changed all that on one play.

Bernard Berrian entered the game as the No. 1 punt returner, but Wade's style is more conducive to the role, according to special-teams coordinator Dave Toub.

"We want Bobby to be that guy; that's why everybody was really happy when he did that," Toub said of Wade's weaving escape act, during which he appeared to have almost everyone on the Colts' coverage team tackling air. "The thing about Bobby is he can make you miss. He doesn't run so upright. Bernard's still a good punt returner; I think we've got two guys that can do it."

At the start if training camp, Wade was content to concede the punt-return gig to a teammate while he concentrated on his role in the offense. "If someone else can do it better," Wade said last month, "that's fine with me."

But it could be that Wade does it better than anyone else.

"I just really hope so," he said. "But that's hard for me to say, that I'm the best guy here. Rashied Davis (4 returns for 38 yards vs. the Colts) is a good returner. He did well, and Bernard still has potential. I'm just trying to play mistake free, not trying to be the guy who loses the job, just controlling what I can, catching the ball and (take advantage) when I get an opportunity make a play. (Saturday) night was a good opportunity to make a play."

In his first NFL game in 2003, Wade lost a fumbled punt inside his 10-yard line and was benched for the next four games. He hasn't returned a punt for the Bears in a regular-season game since.

But that's likely to change soon.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Before the start of training camp, Bears right guard Terrence Metcalf, a newly anointed starter, said it would take an act of God to take his job away.

"I don't care what kind of competition I've got," the fourth-year veteran said. "The only thing that's going to stop me is if God takes me out with an injury, and I mean that."

Going into today's final training-camp practice at Olivet Nazarene University, Metcalf has been the picture of health. But he's not yet entrenched as the final piece in a veteran offensive line that boasts 36 years of NFL experience among the other four starters: left tackle John Tait (seven), left guard Ruben Brown (11), center Olin Kreutz (eight) and right tackle Fred Miller (10).

Metcalf won't say that he's locked up the job because he hasn't eliminated fifth-year veteran Roberto Garza from the competition.

"I think it's a little bit too early," the 6-foot-3, 318-pound Metcalf said. "The thing I listen to is my teammates. It seems like they're pretty comfortable with what I'm doing. They haven't been complaining, and cats are telling me things are pretty good. But you can never be too comfortable because I don't know what's going to happen."

Offensive coordinator Ron Turner said the competition at right guard is still undecided.

"Terrence has done a nice job. But so has Roberto, so we're giving him some looks (with the first team)," Turner said. "Early in camp we couldn't get (Garza) reps at guard because of injury at center (to backup A.J. Ricker). (Garza) had to stay at center. We're getting him a little more reps at guard keeping that competition going."

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Bobby Wade got a leg up on winning the wide-open punt-return job when he zigzagged 54 yards through the Colts' coverage for a touchdown Saturday night.

"We needed for Bobby Wade to step up," coach Lovie Smith said, "and tonight he gave us a look at what he can possibly do."

ROOKIE REPORT: Second round WR Mark Bradley continues to put up the best preseason numbers of any Bears receiver. He had a team-best 49 receiving yards Saturday night on three catches. He's led the team in receiving yards in each of the team's three preseason games.

--Fourth-round quarterback Kyle Orton (6 of 10, 67 yards) once again overcame a slow start to finish strong in the third preseason game.

--LB Rod Wilson suffered a left knee contusion late in the first half Saturday night and did not return.

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

INJURY REPORT: WR Eddie Berlin is expected out 6 more weeks with a partially torn groin muscle.

--FB Bryan Johnson (off-season foot surgery) could be back in a week.

--FB Jason McKie (torn pectoral) is progressing faster than expected and could be back in late August.

--LB Marcus Reese returned Saturday night after suffering a mild shoulder separation the first week in camp, but he reinjured the same shoulder.


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