Signed, Sealed & Delivered

Lake Forest – Due to be an unrestricted free agent, Roberto Garza had to face the possibility of playing for this third different team in as many seasons. However, he signed a six-deal deal on Monday that will keep him in Chicago through 2011.

"It's something we were hoping would happen last year in free agency, but now I think everything worked out the way it did and I'm very excited about getting an opportunity to be apart of this team and this franchise," Garza said.

Garza had an offer from the Baltimore Ravens pulled off the table last off-season because the team had concerns about his right knee, which has no cartilage after requiring surgery for a torn ACL. The five-year veteran signed a one-year, $900,000 contract with the Bears after playing four seasons with the Falcons and starting 31 games.

The deal reportedly included a $4 million signing bonus. While Garza might have been able to find a more lucrative offer on the open market he was willing to sacrifice for security.

"With my experience last year, it was kind of like yeah, it's not something I wanted to do," Garza said. "And it really helped out that everything has gone well this season. I'm really fortunate to be a part of this team and have the opportunity I did this year."

Garza started four games at left guard earlier this season when Ruben Brown was out with a partially torn chest muscle, and three at right guard when Terrence Metcalf had a shoulder injury.

"Roberto, of course he's done a great job with us at a couple positions," said head coach Lovie Smith. "He can do a lot of things for us, we're just excited about having him be a part of our team for years to come. He's got an outstanding future ahead of him."

Whether or not Garza's deal is a signal that Metcalf, who will be unrestricted free agent, is headed out of town remains to be seen. However, the six-foot-2, 300-pounder might be back at right guard in the Bears' divisional-round playoff game the weekend of Jan. 14-15 because of Metcalf's sprained knee.

"It just signals we have another good player to put in the mix is what it says right now, no more than that," Smith said.

Passing the Test
Before Sunday's season finale, rookie running back Cedric Benson wasn't positive what kind of response he'd get from the right knee he sprained seven weeks ago, but he came out of the game feeling better.

"I was about 95 percent sure I was OK, and a couple of hits finished the rest of the 5 percent for me," said Benson, who picked up 35 yards on nine carries. "It felt pretty good. It was a little sore (afterward), but that's expected. I made it through; did pretty good, too."

Benson said he'd be even healthier for the Bears' playoff opener.

"I'll be better in two weeks than I am right now," he said. "If (Sunday) was a playoff game, I could have made an impact. I think we showed we not only can get it done with our starting (lineup), but we can get it done with our backups, too."

While Benson has been hurt before, he'd never experienced an injury as significant as the one he suffered against the 49ers on Nov. 13.

"This was my first injury," he said. "You play with hurts all the time. I've played with cracked ribs, bruised shoulders, sprained ankles, things like that. But this was the first major injury I've ever had."

Health Beat
S Brandon McGowan, the Bears' No. 3 safety, suffered a sprained knee and could miss the divisional-round playoff game.

OL Lennie Friedman, who placed both offense and defense in the season finale, suffered a knee sprain and will be reevaluated during the bye week.


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