For Anderson, Adams, it's proving time

The Bears have a couple of younger defensive ends looking to prove their value in the absence of injured Adewale Ogunleye.

With left end Adewale Ogunleye finished for the season after suffering a fractured left fibula against the Ravens, Mark Anderson has two more games to prove his worth before he starts looking for a new contract.

Anderson is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. If there is no new collective bargaining agreement, however, he will be a restricted free agent, meaning the Bears will have a chance to match any offer he receives, if they desire. But Anderson hasn't done much lately to create a bull market for his services. He had 12 sacks as a rookie in 2006 and 5 in ‘07 but only 2.5 since the start of the 2008 season.

"These last couple of games, I want to finish strong, go out there and make some plays for the team and just try to have fun," Anderson said. "I would love to finish strong on a great note."

Anderson is splitting first-team reps this week and, whether he starts or not, he'll see an increase in playing time.

"It's a great opportunity," he said, "but right now the main thing is we want to get a win. We've been struggling and, if we can get the last two wins of the season, that would be great for us, (to) leave on a positive note."

Gaines Adams may also get some extra snaps, and coaches are hoping he will justify the second-round pick the Bears spent to acquire him. Rookie Jarron Gilbert is also expected to get more playing time at tackle, especially if Israel Idonije, who has played tackle and end, is used in the defensive end rotation.

"For some of the younger players that haven't played a lot, it's a chance for them," coach Lovie Smith said. "It's tough when you lose a guy like Adewale, but for some of our other defensive ends, we have a few defensive linemen that you could say deserve an opportunity to play. Normally that chance comes around. It's their time now and we're expecting big things from them."

Gilbert, a third-round pick from San Jose State, was the Bears' top pick this year. But he has played briefly in just two games, while players selected after him, fifth-round wide receiver Johnny Knox and sixth-round safety Al Afalava have been major contributors.

"First, it's great to see those guys playing well," Gilbert said. "Seeing Johnny play is exciting, but you also get the feeling that you want to be in there making plays, too.

"After 14 weeks, 15 weeks it feels good to get a chance to play," he said. "We have a lot of veterans on the D-line, and it's a hard position to crack, but I've been getting better every day in practice and preparing myself to play."

But, with changes expected by next season along the defensive line, Gilbert could use this late-season opportunity to ensure that he's a major player in 2010.

"It's ‘Monday Night Football' and everybody's watching," Gilbert said. "It's a great opportunity, so I don't take it for granted."

NOTES

  • WR Devin Hester (calf) practiced on a limited basis for the second straight day and should be able to play by Monday night.

  • OLT Chris Williams (ankle) was limited at practice Thursday but expects to face Vikings DRE Jared Allen Monday night.

  • WLB Lance Briggs (back) returned to full practice Thursday after being limited Wednesday.

  • OLT Orlando Pace completed his first full practice since suffering a groin injury in the first game against the Vikings on Nov. 29. But he is not expected to get his job back from Chris Williams.

  • FS Al Afalava (knee) did not practice for a second straight day, but has not been ruled out for Monday night's game.

  • SS Kevin Payne (ankle) missed a second straight day of practice Thursday but is still expected to play Monday night.


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