Practice Report: Weekend Review

The Chicago Bears are reportedly on the verge of signing a veteran offensive lineman in the next day or two. Who might it be? And it turns out that Chris Williams did indeed have that herniated disc in his back before the NFL Draft, yet the Midway Monsters took him anyway. Time to admit a mistake?

Even though the Monsters of the Midway have played pretty well along the offensive line in two of their first three preseason games, it was alarming two weekends ago in Seattle just how bad this unit was facing an aggressive Seahawks front seven. There are currently new starters at left tackle, left guard, and right tackle, and two of those starters were nothing more than backups on this team a year ago. In addition to John Tait moving from left tackle back to his more natural home on the right side, journeyman John St. Clair is now lining up at left tackle and 2007 fourth-round draft pick Josh Beekman appears to be the heir apparent at left guard – even though he many only be there now because another career reserve, Terrence Metcalf, is still nursing a knee injury.

But that doesn't mean general manager Jerry Angelo is standing pat with regard to his trench warriors, as the O-line could have a familiar face back in the mix in the next day or so.


OT Fred Miller
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

According to Adam Caplan of Scout.com, Fred Miller is on the verge of making a decision on his playing future and is currently weighing his options between the Bears and Ravens. Originally a fifth-rounder to the Rams all the way back in 1996, Miller came to the Windy City in 2005 as an unrestricted free agent after stops in both St. Louis and Tennessee. The Bears released him during the offseason despite one year remaining on his contract, but he could be a Midway Monster once again considering the fact that prized rookie Chris Williams, who had surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back, is on the shelf for a few months and might even miss the entire season on injured reserve.

Caplan says that Miller would prefer to make a return to Chicago if the money offered is anywhere close to even, although Baltimore has apparently been more aggressive in its pursuit of the 35-year-old.

Williams was selected in large part because he was considered NFL-ready and could start in Week 1 at the all-important left tackle position, which prompted Tait's shift over to right tackle. Tait began his career on the right side, and he struggled at left tackle periodically this past season against speedier rushers. St. Clair started three games at left guard last year after Metcalf proved to be ineffective, meaning he could have lined up there again if neither Metcalf nor Beekman stepped up his effort in training camp.

But now that entire plan is up in smoke with Williams out of action – bringing back Miller, who played poorly most of 2007, might be a desperate-but-necessary move.

Angelo defends the team's decision to select Williams in Round 1
Speaking of Williams, the 14th-overall selection from Vanderbilt admitted that he did indeed have a herniated disc in his back before he was drafted and that the entire league new about it ahead of time. Williams was injured on Day 2 of training camp down in Bourbonnais, although the team originally diagnosed it as back spasms and claimed it was new injury – not the same back issue that started to generate whispers about his future as early as the NFL Scouting Combine in February. It was later revealed that the injury was much more serious than originally indicated, and Williams is now out of action until at least November after having surgery and could very well miss his entire rookie season.

Williams was watching practice Sunday in what was his first appearance with the team since going under the knife Aug. 6, just before the preseason opener.


OT Chris Williams
Warren Wimmer Photography

"I had a herniated disc before I got here," Williams said in his first comments to the media since his surgical procedure. "We knew that. Everyone knew that. It just was a thing where most people it doesn't affect. It wasn't affecting me, so if nothing is broke, you don't fix it. Then something happened in practice that second day. The disc started moving, and that caused some problems."

The organization went so far as to set up a quickie conference call with team trainer Tim Bream, who is off limits to the press, to further explain that Williams' condition raised yellow flags as opposed to red flags during his examination.

"There is a lot of history of players that had this condition that he had at the combine that have played with it," said Angelo, who got testy with his tone of voice from time to time. "We were basing it off of the play time. We were basing it off of no symptoms for a period of three or more years. We were comfortable with that. I did use the term wear and tear. There were concerns. But you know what, you could say that for a lot of players at a lot of positions."

Angelo vehemently denied that he ever lied when speaking about this situation, although the front office's curious decision to announce Williams' surgery literally one minute before the preseason kicked off left an impression that the Bears were making a concerned effort to bury the story as quickly as possible.

News & Notes
The Bears made their first wave of cuts Sunday, as every team in the league must trim its roster down to a maximum of 75 players by Tuesday. Safety Josh Gattis, cornerback Leslie Majors, and receivers Ryan Grice-Mullen and Marcus Monk were handed their walking papers. Monk, a seventh-round pick from Arkansas, was considered a mild surprise since this club usually goes out of its way to give draftees as many opportunities as possible, but the former Razorback did little to impress during training camp.

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.


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