By Adam Hoge-
LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Here are the 10 most important things to know from a busy day at Halas Hall:
1. Contrary to popular belief, Santonio Holmes is a low risk, high reward signing. Does Holmes come with some baggage? Sure. But, in this case, he also comes with a low contract that the Bears can terminate tomorrow. If Holmes works out, he brings experience and reliable route running to a potent offense that needs depth. The bigger question is his health after a serious foot injury in 2012 and a hamstring injury last season. The timing of the signing is also difficult as it’s going to be hard for him to know the offense well enough to get significant reps Friday night in Seattle. If he can’t go Friday, he likely won’t get any preseason reps with Jay Cutler in a game. Holmes is busy trying to keep up, working at Halas Hall over the weekend and staying late after practice Monday going through some routes with quarterback Jordan Palmer.
2. Pat O’Donnell won the punting competition and Brandon Hartson appears to have won the long snapper job. The Bears cut Tress Way and Chad Rempel Monday, effectively ending both special teams competitions. With two roster spots open, they signed returner Darius Reynaud and cornerback Peyton Thompson. You can throw Reynaud into the kick/punter returner mix as he’s two years removed from leading the league in return yards (1,650 in 2012).
3. Chris Williams is practicing again, but Micheal Spurlock will supposedly get first crack at returns this week. Speaking of the return game, the Bears were happy to see Williams (hamstring) return to the practice Monday, but special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis said Spurlock will get the first look at returns this week. That’s somewhat surprising because Spurlock has two muffed punts this preseason and Williams has yet to get a return opportunity in a game. It’s possible the Bears are just publicly saying that because Williams still needs to be cleared to play, because otherwise, Williams needs all the return work he can get Friday night.
4. Josh Morgan will get the first shot at the No. 3 wide receiver job this week. As Holmes crams to learn the offense, Morgan will try to keep his recent momentum going. Trestman said Morgan will get the first opportunity to run with the No. 1 offense this week and if he performs well, he could make it hard for Holmes to pass him.
5. Chris Conte should play Friday. It sounds like Conte still needs to be medically cleared to play in Seattle, but the expectation is that he will be. Both Trestman and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker indicated that the plan is for Conte to play Friday. It’s important, as it will be Conte’s one and only opportunity get live action against a No. 1 offense in the preseason. The safety rotations for Friday are still to be determined, per Tucker, but it would be surprising not to see Conte out there early against Russell Wilson & Co.
6. Kyle Fuller’s ankle injury is not considered serious. The rookie cornerback did not practice Monday, but he’s day-to-day. His status for Friday’s game is unclear and the Bears will surely be disappointed if he can’t play. All rookies need as many reps in the preseason as possible and he already missed a full game after injuring his ankle on the opening kickoff last week.
7. Jordan Mills has the boot off his left foot. He didn’t practice Monday and is still considered day-to-day, but it’s at least a step in the right direction. Trestman brushed off a question about whether or not Mills’ regular season availability is in jeopardy, simply saying: “I’m hopeful it’s not.”
Mills, meanwhile, continues to say they are just being careful with the foot, which he had surgically repaired in the offseason.
“I’m a 318 pound man putting force on it every day. I need to take it easy,” he said.
At this point, it would be surprising to see Mills play Friday in Seattle, but the second-year pro could certainly use the work as he tries to build on his rookie season.
8. Lance Briggs has a knee contusion. Nothing to be too concerned about.
9. The Bears need to fill Eric Weems’ spot on special teams. Weems might not be missed as a returner and wide receiver, but he was a pretty reliable, feisty special teamer the last two seasons. DeCamillis singled out running back Shaun Draughn, cornerback Demontre Hurst and linebacker Jerry Franklin as three guys “who have stepped up in the speed positions.” For players trying to make the 53-man roster, it’s always good to hear that from your special teams coordinator.
10. Defensive end Willie Young (knee bruise) returned to practice after missing last week’s game. So did Dante Rosario (calf). Offensive lineman Eben Britton (hamstring), offensive lineman Brian de la Puente (sprained MCL) and cornerback Isaiah Frey (hamstring) did not. Meanwhile, Trestman reiterated that wide receiver Marquess Wilson (broken collarbone) “is going to be out awhile.”
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for 87.7 The Game and TheGameChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.