Vasher Returns

As the Bears entered their final round of organized team activities, the team had a surprise participant. Cornerback Nathan Vasher took to the field after missing several voluntary workouts over a contract dispute.

"We wanted to communicate to management what my concerns were and what was important to me as a member of this team," the 2004 fourth round pick told the Daily Southtown.

Vasher led the team with eight interceptions and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl in 2005. The interception total was tops among cornerbacks in the NFC and gives him 13 career picks, which is the most by a player in franchise history after two seasons in the league.

Even though Vasher has two years remaining on his rookie deal, he's looking for an extension. The 24-year-old is due a base salary of $425,000 in 2006 followed by $460,000 in 2007.

While the Bears have been willing to reward players that break in with the organization, the general rule has not been to do it after just two years. MLB Brian Urlacher received a nine-year, $56 million deal with two years left on his rookie contract. The difference from the team perspective is that Urlacher had played three seasons in the league.

Coach Lovie Smith's policy has established that a player needs to be around to keep his starting job. LB Lance Briggs and RB Thomas Jones have yet to attend an OTA, but when they reported to mini-camp earlier this month both worked with the second team.

The Bears signed Ricky Manning to a five-year $21 million free agent contract in the off-season to be the nickel back. Manning, who will make $9 million over the next two seasons compared to approximately $900,000 for Vasher, is currently working with Charles Tillman in the starting rotation.

However, Vasher knows nothing is set in stone at this point. When training camp opens on July 27, it will provide an opportunity to show he's still at the top of his game.

"Coach Smith always has told us that when the season begins, the best players will play, and I believe he'll continue to go by that," Vasher said. "Having a fair shot to start is all we can ask for. So if I have to win my way back out there, then that's just the way it is. I'm confident enough in my abilities."

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