Until decisions are out, Bears know nobody’s really a lock
BY MARK POTASH firstname.lastname@example.org August 26, 2012 8:04PM
CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 18: Chris Spencer #67 of the Chicago Bears moves to block against the Washington Redskins during a preseason game at Soldier Field on August 18, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Redskins 33-31. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Chris Spencer
Updated: September 28, 2012 6:18AM
The final week of the preseason is what the NFL is all about — a total lack of security.
It’s about keeping as many players as uncomfortable and on edge as possible and totally in the dark, forcing them to go all out and fight for their jobs without knowing exactly what they’re fighting for. Chances are, there are players on the bubble who don’t know it.
Guard Chilo Rachal, who started 38 games in four seasons with the San Francisco 49ers before signing with the Bears this offseason, has taken first-team reps in the last two preseason games. For all he knows, he could have a shot at beating out Chris Spencer for the starting spot at left guard when the Bears play the Cleveland Browns in their final preseason game Thursday night in Cleveland (6:30 p.m., Fox-32, 780-AM). Or he could be fighting for a spot on the roster.
‘‘Anything can happen,’’ Rachal said. ‘‘When you start thinking about [getting cut], that’s when that stuff happens to you. The only thing I can do is keep working hard and let my hard work take care of itself.’’
It’ll be that way for just about every player who plays against the Browns. And, almost regardless of what happens, they still won’t know what it means for sure until next week.
The most significant Bears player who made the team off last year’s preseason finale wasn’t even on the Bears; fullback Tyler Clutts played special teams for the Browns, was cut and put on their practice squad and then picked up by the Bears.
Rookie Robert Hughes rushed for 69 yards and two touchdowns in that game. On the same night, Armando Allen rushed for two yards on one carry for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against the Washington Redskins. But Allen ended up with the Bears’ practice-squad spot that seemed like it might go to Hughes. Anything can happen.
‘‘To be honest, I really don’t know [where I stand],’’ said defensive tackle Nate Collins, who presumably is battling Brian Price for a roster spot. ‘‘I just focus on playing. If I play well, I just know what I put on tape is going to be reviewed by everyone. That’s the biggest thing.’’
Well, to some it is. Receiver Dane Sanzenbacher is among the Bears most likely to be signed by another team if he gets cut. But his single-minded goal is to make the Bears.
‘‘In my mind, I’m a Chicago Bear until they tell me I’m not,’’ said Sanzenbacher, who has two receptions for 15 yards in the preseason. ‘‘I don’t try to take comfort in [the thinking that] ‘If I don’t make it here, I can make it there.’ I want to make this team. That’s been my focus since I got here last year. I’ve been around these guys. I like the organization. I like the group. And I want to be a Bear.’’
Allen, with 14 yards on 10 carries in the preseason, appears to be battling Lorenzo Booker for the No. 3 running back spot. He likes his chances, but he also liked his chances last year in Tampa.
‘‘This is one of those businesses where you can’t count your chickens until they’re hatched,’’ Allen said. ‘‘I thought I had a pretty good chance in Tampa — that was something I learned from. You control only what you can control, and that’s football.’’
Second-year linebacker Dom DeCicco can’t even do that. DeCicco suffered a groin injury in the preseason opener against the Denver Broncos and has yet to return. As a special-teams contributor and No. 2 middle linebacker, he seemed likely to make the roster. Now he’s hoping to lobby the trainers to allow him to play against the Browns, because he literally has no idea how important this game is to him.
‘‘I really have no clue. It’s out of my control,’’ DeCicco said. ‘‘That’s why I’ve been trying to play in this last game. I feel I have to prove myself and show them I can help the team. I’m doing everything in my power to make that decision easier. We’ll see.’’
With other teams also making cuts, the finalization of 53-man rosters is fraught with surprises. Chris Williams, battling J’Marcus Webb for the start at left tackle, chuckled when asked if he felt his roster spot was secure. But you never know.
‘‘That’s not up to me. That’s up to the coaches,’’ Williams said. ‘‘I feel like I’ve got a spot. But you never know until the last day is up, I guess.’’