Kicking Things Around

The kicking competition could be among the most tightly contested in training camp. The backfield situation could get ugly, while Lovie Smith glows about the athletic ability of one of his rookies.

Ohio State's Josh Huston called the Bears and asked for a job after he didn't hear from any team during the draft.

"That one was easy, Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said.

Huston backed up Mike Nugent for most of his college career and played against Bears incumbent kicker Robbie Gould, who is now his competition.

"(Gould) is a good kicker," Huston said. "He made a lot of clutch field goals against us and has a big leg. I was impressed with him when he was at Penn State and he's only gotten better."

Huston's forte is his leg strength, which resulted in touchbacks on 49 of 70 kickoffs last year, his only season as the starter.

"Everyone looks at my kickoffs," Huston said at the recent rookie mini-camp. "All my friends say, 'You're going to have all these touchbacks in the NFL,' and I say, 'Hey, boys, it's a little different. You're moving back five yards, you've got a brand-spanking-new ball and (you're kicking) off an inch tee.' Those are three things that you've got to adjust to and we're getting adjusted to it. I hit some good balls, but you're not going to see the 75 percent touchback ratio like you do in college."

Unfriendly Competition
Neither of the two contenders is pleased with the competition at running back between incumbent Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson.

Jones, who is perhaps the hardest worker on the team, declined to participate in the off-season weight-lifting program at Halas Hall. He rushed for a career-high 1,335 yards last season but has two years left on a four-year, $10 million deal that has been a bargain for the Bears. Jones isn't happy that he's making so much less money than Benson, the fourth overall pick in the 2005 draft, who has a five-year, $35 million contract. The veteran would welcome a trade and a new, more lucrative contract, and Benson wasn't happy with the 67 carries he got last year.

QUOTE TO NOTE "Mark has staggering numbers. How many guys do you know can vertical (jump) 42 inches? Dominique (Wilkins), David Thompson. He has great quickness and explosion and hopefully we'll see that from him as he starts to rush the passer." -- Bears coach Lovie Smith on fifth-round DE Mark Anderson, a potential situational pass rusher.

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