Organized Team Activities officially got underway Monday, but Wednesday was the first time that the media covering the Chicago Bears on a daily basis were allowed to watch the workouts. Bear Report had a front-row seat for all the action at Halas Hall and made these observations ...
Pick SixAs usual, most of the examining eyes in Lake Forest were focused on the quartet of quarterbacks, as once again Kyle Orton got more reps with the starting offense than Rex Grossman did. This apparently has been the case since the offseason program began, and I suppose it's only fair because Grossman has been getting almost every first-team snap so long as he's been healthy the last few seasons. As for the two undrafted rookie signal-callers signed as free agents, Caleb Hanie has clearly separated himself from Nick Hill and stands a relatively decent chance of making the 53-man roster as the No. 3 QB.
In the backfield, second-round draft pick Matt Forte saw more action in drills than incumbent starter Cedric Benson, who was curiously absent from Monday's session but got back to work with his teammates Tuesday. Forte was arguably the best player on the field during rookie minicamp the first weekend in May, and he looks just as comfortable running with the veterans now as he did lining up with the neophytes then. Benson was very open and honest with reporters after practice, answering several questions about the competition he'll be facing for playing time and several more about his off-the-field incident on Lake Travis a few weeks ago.
As expected, John Tait looks like he has been moved from left tackle over to the right side, although it's not the team's No. 1 pick, Chris Williams, who's protecting the quarterback's blind side. John St. Clair is currently running with the first team offense at left tackle, although this seems like a subtle tactic to make sure Williams earns his spot as a rookie. If the coaching staff had any desire to have St. Clair in the starting lineup at tackle this coming season, he'd be over on the right side with Tait staying put at left.
Over at guard, Terrence Metcalf's putrid performance from this past season has seemingly been forgiven, breaking the huddle as the No. 1 left guard. Josh Beekman was running with the second-stringers alongside Williams. Roberto Garza is back at right guard, with two-year practice-squad veteran Tyler Reed continuing to back him up Wednesday.
The secondary is taking form, as Mike Brown once again lined up at free safety and Brandon McGowan is apparently firmly entrenched opposite him at strong safety. Danieal Manning is most likely going to get moved around an awful lot just like he did before the start of last season, and Wednesday he was getting most of his snaps as the third cornerback in the nickel package. If Manning can learn the nuances necessary to succeed as a nickelback, maybe Ricky Manning Jr. is on his way out the door after losing so much playing time down the stretch in 2007.
Team captain Brian Urlacher lived up to his word and is not participating in OTAs, as Rod Wilson got the majority of the first-team reps at the former Defensive Player of the Year's middle linebacker spot. Asking Wilson to replace Urlacher's one-of-a-kind abilities on the gridiron would be unfair, although Bears fans shouldn't be overly worried about this soap opera once the club reports to Bourbonnais. Even if Urlacher does decide to play hard ball and misses a week or so of training camp, we all know he'll be back by the time those paychecks start to get cut again before the season opener.
QB Kyle Orton
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
The biggest news of the day centered around the oft-injured Mark Bradley, who had his knee scoped Wednesday and at this point is questionable at best for the start of training camp down in Bourbonnais. On the other side of the coin, Dusty Dvoracek appears to be back at full strength after last season's torn ACL and looked good for the few snaps he got from his defensive tackle position.
Stud of the Day
A lot of Bears fans have had enough of Lance Briggs, as the three-time Pro Bowler still seems to be unhappy financially despite signing a six-year, $36 million deal in the offseason. However, with Urlacher out of the lineup because of his own case of contractual crabbiness, Briggs really seemed to take charge of the first-team defense during Wednesday's workout. He was in there on every snap with the starting unit from his usual post on the weak side, smiling frequently and relishing his new – if, in all likelihood, temporary – role as the leader of the linebackers.
Dud of the Day
It's possible that Dolphins castoff Marty Booker will be the primary receiver on this team in 2008, especially since Bradley is once again having injury concerns. But the veteran wideout, soon to be 32 years old, looked a little rusty back in a Bears uniform Wednesday and dropped a few passes he may have caught during his first tour of duty in the Windy City. And he can't blame it on poor quarterback play from Grossman and Orton, as Booker was reeling in throws from the likes of Joey Harrington and Cleo Lemon the last few years down in Miami.
Quote to Note
"I can't say enough how great the support has been from these guys. And this isn't something that has occurred recently. They have been behind me all along. When you have somebody with you during adversity, it makes a tremendous difference in your overall frame of mind." – Cedric Benson
John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.