Part 2

Besides the obvious former practice squad members who made an impact in 2001 such as James Allen and Shane Matthews, other low profile guys contributed to the Bears success last season.

Though the Bears lost their second round playoff game to the Eagles in late January, the Bears hung close for the majority of the game. In fact, in the second quarter with the Bears down 6-0, speedy wide receiver Ahmad Merritt took a handoff from quarterback Shane Matthews on a fake reverse and he sprinted down the sideline picking up crucial blocks from the offensive line for a 47-yard touchdown run giving the Bears a short lived lead at 7-6.

"The line did a great job of blocking and it was just wide open. I couldn't help but score," said Merritt. Merritt, a Chicago, Illinois product paid his dues before reaching the NFL. After spending four years at the University of Wisconsin, Merritt went undrafted and eventually was signed by the Bears. He was then sent to play in Europe in the off-season. Merritt came back to the Bears for the 2001 season and was placed on the practice squad at the beginning of the regular season. He stayed there nearly all year, until he was activated for the January 6th game against Detroit. In limited time, Merritt made two catches for 20 yards versus the Lions and served on special teams. In 2002 Merritt looks to have a spot on the 53-man roster as the probable 5th receiver for the Bears.

The Bears other members of last years practice squad such as Todd McMillon, and Robert Newkirk should serve as quality back-ups on one of the NFL's most dominant defenses.

McMillon saw action in three games last year making six tackles, while serving on special teams. With the departure of cornerback Walt Harris, McMillon looks to make the 53-man roster as a back-up corner for R.W. McQuarters, Jerry Azumah, and rookie Roosevelt Williams.

Newkirk spent time on the Bears practice squad in the 2001 season. Although, he saw limited action behind DT's Ted Washington and Keith Traylor he made the most of it. He tallied nine tackles and one sack in six games. Newkirk's season ended early because of a knee injury, but he was a part of the team's success.


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