One Day at a Time for Manning

Making the jump from Division II to the NFL can be overwhelming, but Danieal Manning has the talent to succeed on one of the best defenses in the game. How quickly he can make a difference is uncertain.

Although the Bears drafted Manning with the future in mind, the second round pick out of Abilene Christian could work his way into the starting lineup as a rookie. He will have an opportunity to compete with incumbent Chris Harris at free safety.

"We have a starting rotation at all positions. Everything starts over," said Coach Lovie Smith. "I wish we didn't have to play anyone and we could be NFC North champions this year, but they make us play. So we're going to have to do it. All guys will have to establish themselves again, (prove) exactly what type of player they want to be in the league."

Manning has the benefit of learning behind Pro Bowler Mike Brown, who can provide guidance on the field and in the film room. The work has already helped Manning's game.

"He's a good football player and he'll get better and better each day he practices," Smith said.

While the speed of the game is the biggest difference between college and the pros, the five-foot-11, 201-pound Manning certainly hasn't looked out of place practicing with other NFL players.

"What we've seen from Danieal is that he has excellent range, has great speed, he can cover a lot of ground, he's a physical player too," Smith said. "He's eager to learn. It will be fun watching him grow. I think he should end up being a pretty good football player. All the signs are pointing toward that direction."

Opportunity Knocks
The Bears signed Dante Wesley to a two-year $2 million free agent deal because of the reputation he earned with the Carolina Panthers as a standout special teams player. However, the six-foot, 200-pound cornerback has flashed good hands during his brief time with the Bears.

Nathan Vasher, Charles Tillman and Ricky Manning are locked in as the top three cornerbacks on the depth chart. Despite going his first four years in the league without an interception, there could be room for Wesley to work his way into the dime package.

"(Wesley) has (defensive back) skills. He hasn't gotten a chance to play in the past," Smith said. "But we like the improvement he's made so far and hopefully he'll continue to do that. We know what he can do on special teams and he'll show up even more once he puts on pads."

Back on Top
Mike Ditka coached the Bears to a victory in Super Bowl XX. Now he can lay claim to the Arena Bowl XX title after the Chicago Rush beat the Orlando Predators 69-61 on Sunday. Ditka has been a minority owner of Chicago's AFL franchise since 2004.

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