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Eric Weems is a ‘luxury’ for Bears as kick returner

Chicago Bears wide receiver Eric Weems (14) catches ball during an NFL football practice Lake Forest Ill. Wednesday June 6

Chicago Bears wide receiver Eric Weems (14) catches a ball during an NFL football practice in Lake Forest, Ill., Wednesday, June 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

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Updated: July 15, 2012 3:32PM



The addition of return man Eric Weems doesn’t mean the newcomer has leapfrogged Devin Hester on the Bears’ depth chart.

“He’s still our No. 1 kickoff returner,” special-teams coordinator Dave Toub said of Hester after the Bears’ minicamp practice Wednesday. “When we need a big one, Devin is going to be in there. We have the luxury of having Eric Weems.

“There will be times when we have them both back there. We’ll kind of trick people in terms of who’s getting the ball. We’ll move one guy up there late. We’ll also try to kick it away from Devin and get the ball to Weems at times. Then there will be times when just Weems is back there with a fullback.

“He’s definitely a luxury for us. I mean, this guy can take it to the house. He went to the Pro Bowl before. We’re fortunate to have him.”

Toub said Hester and Weems have proved to be big-play returners using different means.

“Hester is more of an outside guy,” he said. “He wants to make people miss and get outside.

“Weems is a north-and-south, physical-type returner. He’s not going to break a lot of tackles, but he fits our scheme really well. We try to block people and have a point of attack. He’s going to be able to hit that thing exactly where we want it. We’re excited about Eric Weems.”

Weems and fellow special-teams standout Blake Costanzo were the free-agent special-teamers Toub coveted most this offseason. The Bears signed them both.

Toub didn’t want Weems so much for his returning ability but thought he could help fill the void left when coverage ace Corey Graham departed.

“He’s a good returner but he’s here because he’s a good cover guy,’’ Touib said. ‘‘He’s a No. 1 gunner.’’

So far, so good

We’ll find out more about first-round pick Shea McClellin when training camp starts, but defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli likes what he has seen so far.

“He’s got really good movement,” Marinelli said. “He’s got really good speed. He’s got nice range. His size is fine. He’s a real hungry guy, and he’s very smart. I know he’s tough. Now we’ll get the pads on him. That determines everything, but I believe he’ll do a very nice job. But the movement, all the things you look for, it’s there.”

Walking wounded

Patrick Mannelly did everything asked of him during his second consecutive minicamp practice, which is saying something considering the veteran long snapper is recovering from surgery to repair an anterior cruciate ligament he ruptured in a victory Nov. 20 against the San Diego Chargers.

“He’s running down on punts and protecting,” Toub said. “He’s in all the team drills. He’s looking really good.”



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