The Waiting Game

Sit back and relax. That's the best advice for a Bears fan come Saturday. If you're interested in who Chicago will draft, don't sit on the edge of your couch waiting for the choice. The Bears have the 29th overall pick. It's going to take some time.

It's uncharted territory for the Bears, who in the past seemed destined for a top 10 choice after another dismal season. Not this year.

Chicago, coming off a 13-3 campaign, is in front of only Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Super Bowl champion New England in the first round. It's easy to remember some names from the past -- David Terrell, No. 8 last season, Brian Urlacher, No. 9 in 2000, Cade McNown at No. 12 in 1999 and Curtis Enis at No. 5 in 1998.

The Bears haven't drafted this low since they took Rashaan Salaam with the 21st pick in 1995. "The first thing we need to address is who's going to be there at 29 and look into the crystal ball and which players we're comfortable with taking," said Bears general manager Jerry Angelo, who will be in charge of his first draft in Chicago. "Most teams have four or five needs at the end of the year. Some needs are greater than others. We'd like to upgrade in some areas if we can. A lot of times you take the best player available and usually he's at one of those positions." Angelo said it's unlikely the team will trade up, so here are a few names that have been floating around Halas Hall for about the last two months:

* Dwight Freeney, defensive end, Syracuse. He's undersized at 6-foot-1 and 260 pounds, but Freeney had 17 1/2 sacks last season. He's said the Bears have expressed a lot of interest.

* Lito Sheppard, cornerback, Florida. A top corner is on the Bears' wish list, especially since Walt Harris (the No. 13 pick in 1996) went to the Colts. Sheppard was also the Gators' top punt-return man.

* Edward Reed, safety, Miami (Fla.). The four-year starter was an All-Southeastern Conference and All-American pick the past two seasons. The Bears could use Reed since Tony Parrish left for San Francisco.

* Mike Pearson, offensive tackle, Florida. The Bears released Blake Brockermeyer, who could be another lost starter to the 49ers. Bernard Robertson, last year's fifth-round pick, could fill the need, but Pearson's a steady performer who has been mentioned as a possibility.

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