The six-year, $41 million contract CB Charles Tillman signed shortly before training camp began put him in a much higher tax bracket, but the fifth-year veteran said it hasn't changed him.
"I don't think it changed me as a person, as a player or as a teammate," he said. "I'm going to come out here and work hard every day. I'm going to go full speed. I'm trying to get better, trying to help the team win. I'm going to do my small part. I feel that I've still got to pay my dues. Obviously I must have done something right for the Bears to come in and re-sign me, so I just have to keep doing what I've been doing in the past and that's just work hard and pay the price."
Paying for anything is a lot easier these days for Tillman, who said he doesn't believe he and Vasher, who recently signed a five-year, $28 million deal, have to justify their salaries.
"I don't think we have to prove anything to anybody," Tillman said. "I just think he needs to go out there and play well, I need to go out there and play well and the rest will take care of itself." ...
Bears coach Lovie Smith is more confident in the depth of his roster than at any time in his four years as the Bears' head coach.
"It's the deepest one we've had," he said. "We have to see how it turns out, but we talked a lot about getting our 53-man roster as strong as we could. I would definitely say that is the case. We have good backups. You want to get in a situation where, if you have injuries, it's not a big drop-off. I think we're getting closer to that." ...
Neither CB Charles Tillman nor WR Devin Hester held a grudge a day after their tiff at the end of a practice last week.
"I think y'all are hyping it up more than really what it is," Tillman said of the tussle. "Don't instigate nothing. It wasn't nothing extra. It wasn't none of that. It was just two guys competing and got caught up in the moment, which is uncalled for by him and myself. It shouldn't have happened. We're over it, it's in the past, there's no hard feelings. Everything was left on the field. That's it."
Hester missed practice the next day with a tender hamstring unrelated to his skirmish with Tillman. The fleet wideout believes he's benefited from practicing against Tillman's physical style during camp, since that will be one tactic that opponents use to neutralize his speed in the regular season. But last week it went too far.
"It got a little too physical," Hester said, "and there's only so much that can happen. But, at the same time, we're trying to better each other and get prepared for the season. He gave me an apology. We're teammates, we're brothers, and we're both on the same team. So we're going to see each other every day. At the end of the day, I stated, 'My bad.'" ...
FS Mike Brown didn't get to play in Super Bowl XLI because of a foot injury that required surgery, and he has no desire to watch a replay of the Bears' 29-17 loss.
"Every time we see a clip of it, we're all groaning," Brown said. "We don't like looking at it. Very rarely will we even turn it on, even when we're watching film for corrections or anything. We've seen maybe 10 plays of it, just to see what we could have done better and things like that. I know I haven't watched the full game over again. Why? Why would you want to see that?" ...
DE Mark Anderson continues to show that he's more than the impact pass-rusher who led the Bears with 12 sacks last season as a rookie.
When the offense tried to get slick during one of the final training camp practices with a reverse to Devin Hester, Anderson sniffed it out and was there for what would have been a 10-yard loss in a full-contact situation.
"Devin Hester is a heck of an athlete. Mark Anderson is, too," coach Lovie Smith said. "We expect plays like that from Mark, and of course we know he's capable."
Despite common perception, Smith said Anderson, a fifth-round draft pick, has always been an effective player vs. the run.
"We gave him a limited number of reps [last season], and he was productive with it. And I think playing more will only get a lot more big plays from him," Smith said. "I think it's a misconception that he can't play the run just because he's such a good pass-rusher." ...
The Bears and Olivet Nazarene University officials are currently negotiating an extension with the second three-year agreement coming to a close with Saturday's final training camp practice, which was closed to the public and the media.
There won't be any debate about the success of the 2007 camp, considering the total attendance figures have been at least equal to and perhaps superior the first year, previously the most popular, when an estimated total of 130,000 attended.
"Some feel it's been equal to that. Some feel that it's been more," said ONU's training camp liaison Gary Griffin. "It's kind of hard to know for sure. I just know based on parking and on how early fans have been getting here (often 2-3 hours before practice starts), it definitely rivals the first year."
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Bears waived injured OT Aaron Brant, a seventh-round draft pick, and third-year FB Jon Goldsberry and added OT Steven Vieira, who spent the 2007 NFL Europa season with the Berlin Thunder.
Brant has been bothered by a left knee injury, and Goldsberry recently returned to the practice field after missing two weeks with a hamstring injury.
BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Defensive End
Alex Brown came to camp as an angry man, having lost his starting spot on the right side to Mark Anderson, but he seemed in a much better mood after Friday's penultimate practice.
"You know what, I'm fine," he said. "We've got a great team here. We'll all play. The coaches have shown that, and we'll see what happens after that."
Brown should get plenty of snaps, filling in for Anderson and DE Adewale Ogunleye in what is expected to be a three-man rotation. Brown, who at one point seemed to be coveting a trade, is optimistic about the Bears' chances of taking the final step this season.
"I want to win the Super Bowl," he said, "and to go anywhere else, I don't think there's another team out there that can beat us. We'd have to stop ourselves. At every position, we've got somebody that can totally take over a game and dominate [on] offense, defense and special teams. So we've got a chance. There's some things you can't control, [like] injuries, but we've been fortunate to get out of training camp without any injuries."
OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Slot Receiver
With all the attention on Devin Hester's conversion to wide receiver and the addition of rookie TE Greg Olsen plus the competition between Muhsin Muhammad and Bernard Berrian for top billing in the passing game, Rashied Davis has been almost invisible.
Like Hester, Davis made the cornerback-to-receiver switch in 2006 and finished fourth on the team with 303 receiving yards on 22 catches, including the game-winning touchdown against the Vikings with 1:54 left on Sept. 24. But with Hester pushing for playing time behind Berrian and Muhammad, Davis isn't guaranteed of anything this season.
He caught just one pass for two yards in the first preseason game, and even in practice, it seems that half the passes are directed toward Hester or Olsen with just an occasional toss to Davis.
"I had a feeling that was going to happen," the former Arena League MVP said. "You never know. Anything can happen. You just have to be prepared if it does happen. Hopefully [in a worst-case scenario] another team wants you, and you go on and try to play."
But it doesn't sound like the Bears are ready to let Davis get away, even if he isn't one of the marquee players. Undersized at 5-9, 187, Davis' skill set still makes him perfectly suited to play in the slot as a third receiver in passing situations, a niche he carved out last season.
"Rashied Davis is a football player," Bears wide receivers coach Darryl Drake said. "He's demonstrated the ability to make plays in that particular position. He's very, very hard to cover with his quickness, and he can make breaks really fast. You want a guy in there that can do those particular things. With the things that we do in our offensive scheme and the quick moves that that inside guy has to make, we've got the ideal guy in there right now in Rashied."
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: WR Bernard Berrian
Berrian made back-to-back crowd-pleasing grabs in front of another large crowd of sweaty onlookers during one of the Bears' final training camp practices last week. Berrian displayed his vertical leaping ability to snag a bullet from Rex Grossman that appeared to be way overthrown. On the next snap, the fourth-year wide receiver streaked past CB Nathan Vasher and ran under a perfectly thrown deep ball from Grossman. A day earlier, Berrian got far enough behind SS Adam Archuleta that he was able to slow down and wait at the goal line for another Grossman bomb one play after Devin Hester hauled in a 65-yard TD pass. After scoring, Berrian ran to the goalpost and dunked the ball over the crossbar as another crowd of several thousand applauded.
"They love to see us throw the ball deep, and I like seeing the ball thrown deep," coach Lovie Smith said. "On the other side, of course, defensively we can't give up those type of big plays."
While TE Greg Olsen continues to impress with his pass catching and ability to stretch the field, his fellow rookies did not enjoy an impressive week. ... DE Dan Bazuin is still struggling to make up for lost time and overcome a pair of knee injuries that kept him out of OTAs and much of training camp. ... LB Michael Okwo is nowhere close to Jamar Williams when it comes to challenging for the top backup job. ... RB Garrett Wolfe remains in the plans as a change-of-pace guy, but he hasn't blown anyone away yet although his quickness is impressive. ... CB Trumaine McBride has been one of the surprises of camp, but he spent the final training camp practices in a walking boot hobbled by an injured toe.
Camp Calendar: Bears camp at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais concluded after an 11 a.m. practice on Saturday, Aug. 18.