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Bears’ Johnny Knox, Roy Williams in WR battle

Chicago Bears wide receiver Johnny Knox runs field during NFL football training camp Tuesday Aug. 2 2011 Olivet Nazarene University

Chicago Bears wide receiver Johnny Knox runs on the field during NFL football training camp Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2011, at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Ill. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

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Updated: November 16, 2011 1:23AM

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. —Coaches love competition, and there’s a fascinating battle developing at wide
receiver in Bears camp — specifically at split end.

Johnny Knox is the incumbent. He led the Bears with 960 receiving yards last season and tied for the team lead in receiving touchdowns (five) and receptions (51).

Devin Hester will be the starting flanker, and Earl Bennett is the clear-cut slot receiver. But Knox must compete with newcomer Roy Williams, who caught 82 passes for 1,310 yards under Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz with the Detroit Lions in 2006.

‘‘We need a position battle,’’ Bears receivers coach Darryl Drake said. ‘‘Roy isn’t going to be handed anything. He’s got to earn his stripes, and Johnny’s got to improve from where he’s at.

‘‘For me, it’s a good thing. We’ve just got to keep them going in the right direction. And when they get their
opportunities, they’ve got to take advantage of them.’’

But Knox didn’t practice Friday or Saturday because of a minor back injury, and Williams missed part of practice Saturday to ride a stationary bike.

Asked how he feels about his role, Knox said: ‘‘I feel real good. [It’s] too early to tell where I’m going to fit in. I’m just going to keep going through the practices and just keep on playing.’’

The Bears are wise to be extra careful with Knox’s
injury, which he downplayed.

‘‘Preseason counts,’’ Knox said, ‘‘but I’d rather wait
until the regular season, when it really counts.’’

Knox got used to being on the field last season. Offensive linemen Olin Kreutz and Frank Omiyale played all 980 offensive snaps, and quarterback Jay Cutler played 90 percent of them. Knox was next at 88 percent.

Williams has flashed playmaking skills, especially a knack for using his 6-3 frame, and he has been matter-of-fact about his role in the offense.

‘‘I’m going to be one of the 11 guys out there trying to make a play,’’ Williams said. ‘‘Small plays, big plays, medium plays, first downs, touchdowns, big blocks. Just going to try to do my job.’’

Asked again about his fit, Williams said: ‘‘I tell you what: I’ll get you a front-row ticket Sept. 11 against Atlanta, and we’ll see what happens.’’

Knox is known for his speed, but he worked to bulk up this offseason. That should help him to be more physical against cornerbacks and to break tackles to turn short gains into long ones.

‘‘My legs are still going to be able to run,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m not going to say I’m used to [the added weight], but that was my goal — to get bigger — so I could do better things when I’m on the field.’’

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