Lets Make a Deal

Lake Forest - The Bears have put an emphasis on playing the field position game. The organization put their money where their philosophy is on Friday by singing Brendon Ayanbadejo to a two-year contract extension.

Ayanbadejo, who would have become an unrestricted free agent at season's end, is now signed through 2007. The worth of the deal has not yet been determined. He was originally acquired in a preseason trade with the Miami Dolphins for TE John Owens and a conditional draft pick.

The third-year veteran leads Chicago in special teams tackles this season and forced a fumble in the season opener that was recovered by a teammate and led to a Bears touchdown.

Despite just being with the team for a little more than two months, he's already made an impression on head coach Lovie Smith.

"Well coming in we knew quite a bit about him as far as how he's played in the past down at Miami with his special teams," Smith said. "We put a big emphasis on it and he's been exactly what we'd hoped he would be. He's our top special teams point getter right now."

The Bears punt coverage ranks sixth in the NFL, while the kick return unit is 11th.

"We're really pleased with how our special teams play and he's a leader of that group," Smith said.

The road to NFL stability has not been an easy one for Ayanbadejo. After a brief stint with the Falcons as an undrafted free agent out of UCLA, he signed with the Bears in 2000 and was cut before the team went to training camp.

He spent three seasons in the Canadian Football League prior to playing in his first NFL game.

Hard work and persistence has paid off for Ayanbadejo, as he was named a 2004 Pro Bowl alternate in Miami.

In two seasons with the Dolphins, the 6-1, 228-pounder led the squad in special teams tackles while also adding 20 tackles and one interception while starting two games on defense in 2004. He has 52 career special teams tackles.

Medically Speaking
Ruben Brown didn't practice all week and will not play against New Orleans. It will be the fourth straight game the Bears have had to start Roberto Garza in place of Brown at left guard and there has been little drop off.

"Ruben continues to get better but we're still holding him out," Smith said. "Hopefully, maybe next week he'll get a little bit closer to that."

Brad Maynard (calf) saw limited work on Friday for the first time this week and was removed from the injury report.

"We're not going to kick Brad a lot through the course of the week but he'll be able to go," Smith said.

Maynard is netting 36.8 yards per punt, which is down from his career-high 38.7 mark set last season. His numbers are unlikely to improve because the injury will not get better without rest in the off-season.

"It probably will be there for the most of the time," Smith said. "But again, I'm 47 and my back is bothering me and it will be with me the rest of my days. I deal with it and it's no big deal. Same thing with Brad back there."

DT Tommie Harris (groin) returned to practice Friday after sitting Thursday. He's also been removed from the injury report.


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