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5 things to watch at Bears’ minicamp

The Bears BrandMarshall is sandwiched between Seahawks BrandBrowner (39) Earl Thomas (29) during first quarter Soldier Field December 2 2012.

The Bears Brandon Marshall is sandwiched between the Seahawks Brandon Browner (39) and Earl Thomas (29) during the first quarter at Soldier Field December 2, 2012. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: June 11, 2013 5:05PM

A week ago, Bears general manager Phil Emery took question after question about two main topics: offensive lineman Gabe Carimi’s decision not to join the Bears’ organized team activities, and fullback Evan Rodriguez’s partying ways and legal problems.

Now, with the team’s mandatory minicamp beginning Tuesday, both players are gone.

Emery essentially eliminated two potential distractions, and he was bold and confident enough to part with young players. Carimi, the 29th pick in the 2011 draft, was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. Rodriguez, Emery’s fourth-round pick in 2012, was released Monday.

Still, Emery said he saw a lot of “positive things” during OTAs.

“I always say that with a grain of salt because we don’t have any pads on, and you expect guys to look good to a certain extent, but I am excited about what I see out there,” Emery said. “We’re definitely a team that doesn’t want for athletes.”

With that said, here’s five story lines to watch during the three-day minicamp:

Marshall plan

Receiver Brandon Marshall will see his workload gradually increase at minicamp after being cleared to participate last week following arthroscopic hip surgery in January. The Bears will take a safe route with Marshall, knowing that big things could be in store for him under new coach Marc Trestman.

The Bears have other receivers to look at. They re-signed Devin Aromashodu, a five-year veteran who spent two seasons (2009-10) with the Bears. Receiver Jerrell Jackson also was signed. Demetrius Fields and Dale Moss were waived.

Backup fullback

The Bears signed veteran fullback Tony Fiammetta to replace Rodriguez. But Trestman’s offense isn’t contingent on having a prototypical fullback. During Trestman’s introductory news conference, Emery praised Trestman’s ability to adjust to personnel, telling a story of how he used tight ends more in Montreal after injuries struck his receiving corps.

Rodriguez was expected to be used as an H-back. Now look for tight end Kyle Adams (who took snaps last season at fullback) to get more opportunities. Rodriguez also had hoped to see more snaps at tight end, but the additions of Martellus Bennett, Steve Maneri and Fendi Onobun didn’t warrant that.

Status quo on ‘D’

While the offense is being overhauled, the defense is doing its best to stay the same. The integration of veteran linebackers D.J. Williams and James Anderson is going well, and Emery is pleased with rookie linebackers Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene.

“The defense seems to be working very well together, the new and the old,” Emery said.

Class of 2012

Defensive end Shea McClellin, receiver Alshon Jeffery and safety Brandon Hardin will push for bigger roles. Their development is crucial. Hardin, in particular, is making strides after missing all of last season with a neck injury.

All about Jay

Let’s not forget what this whole season is about — whether Jay Cutler is the Bears’ franchise quarterback. Emery has given Cutler seemingly everything he needs, from coaches to players, to succeed in his contract year. It’s on Cutler to take advantage. Emery said last week that Cutler “is doing a real good job with the ball and leading the offense.”

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