Part 1:

The Bears fourth quarter miracle comeback last year against the Cleveland Browns was a catalyst in igniting the Bears to a 13-3 regular season record in 2001. The Bears were down by one touchdown with only 28 seconds remaining on the clock. On the Bears last possession, as quarterback Shane Matthews stood in the pocket the game clock reached zero.

Shane Matthews then launched a pass into the corner of the end zone, the Hail Mary pass was tipped in the air, and a diving James Allen made a spectacular circus catch forcing the game into overtime.

The Bears went on to win the game in overtime. For Bears fans this is old news. But did you know the two key players in the fourth quarter comeback James Allen and Shane Matthews served on the Bears practice squad earlier in their careers? The Bears 13-3 NFC central division championship would not have become a reality without the help of Allen, Matthews, and other former practice squad players such as Todd McMillon, Robert Newkirk, and Ahmad Merritt, who will be featured in part two of this series tomorrow.

A relatively new facet to the NFL, the practice squad, which was developed in 1989, allows any NFL team to carry five extra players at any time in order to practice with the team. The practice squad is another tool used to develop young talent without having to use a spot on the 53-man roster.

The Bears have produced quite a few NFL starters off their original practice squad the most famous of which looks to be former Jacksonville wideout Keenan McCardell. McCardell, who was released earlier this week as salary relief for the Jaguars served on the Bears practice squad in 1993. Since then, McCardell has gone on to accumulate four 1,000-yard receiving seasons with Jacksonville, while being named to the AFC pro bowl team twice. The Bears have also produced current NFL starters Jim Finn FB (Indianapolis), Todd Burger OG (Washington), Chris Draft LB (Atlanta), and Bob Christian FB (Atlanta).

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