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Practices will be crucial in evaluation of Bears’ returners

Updated: August 13, 2013 9:58AM



BOURBONNAIS — Devin Hester was as close as a kick returner could be to stepping out of the back of the end zone, but he stayed in and returned a kickoff Friday against the Panthers.

And that was just fine with special-teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis, even if Hester only returned it to the 14-yard line. It’s all about getting some work in.

“It might be some teams you do take it out against, but last week, we wanted to get reps,” DeCamillis said Monday. “You’re so limited on the numbers that you can get, so you’ve got to try to get every rep you can, and that was one of them.”

Hester saw only three plays against Carolina. The Bears also rotated in veteran Eric Weems and rookies Josh Lenz and Michael Ford to field punts and kicks.

DeCamillis said the same rotation is expected for the game Thursday against the Chargers. The limited reps put an onus on practice to evaluate the returners.

“You’re running the same returns; you’re looking at the same cuts,” DeCamillis said. “You can get a lot of evaluation in practice as long as they’re competitive practices and not walk-throughs.”

Back in Bourbonnais

The Bears and Olivet Nazarene University have reached a deal to keep training camp at the school until 2022. The deal is a series of one-year contracts that roll over, but the Bears have made a nine-year commitment to stay in Bourbonnais.

“We get our players away to where they can come together with their own unique family and team and establish their identity,” general manager Phil Emery said. “And you can’t underestimate the fan contact.

‘‘This facility allows us to do that in a much bigger and better way than we could staying at home.’’

The rundown

The Bears signed running back Curtis Brinkley, a Charger for the last three seasons. Wide receiver Marcus Rucker was cut.

Brinkley’s addition comes at time when third-string running back Armando Allen is dealing with a right hamstring injury. Allen, though, said that his injury isn’t serious and that he’s dealing with some tightness and soreness.

◆ Defensive tackle Henry Melton (concussion) and receiver Earl Bennett (concussion) didn’t attend practice. Coach Marc Trestman said Bennett was at home resting.

◆ Receiver Joe Anderson (shoulder) returned to practice after sitting out Sunday, and defensive end Cheta Ozougwu (right hamstring) left practice.

Email: ajahns@suntimes.com

Twitter: @adamjahns



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