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Bears tight end Steve Maneri is the new guy on the block

Chicago Bears tight end Steve Maneri stretches during NFL football training camp Friday July 26 2013 Olivet Nazarene University Bourbonnais

Chicago Bears tight end Steve Maneri stretches during NFL football training camp Friday, July 26, 2013, at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Ill. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

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Updated: July 29, 2013 11:16PM



BOURBONNAIS — The spotlight tends to follow Martellus Bennett — and rightfully so — but he wasn’t the only tight end to sign with the Bears this offseason.

As much as the Bears needed a play-making tight end who could open the field for wide receiver Brandon Marshall and be another target for quarterback Jay Cutler, and as much as they found one in Bennett, saying goodbye to Kellen Davis and Matt Spaeth left them short a blocker.

That’s why Steve Maneri got a two-year deal, and he knows it.

‘‘I’m the blocker,” Maneri said. “Bennett is going to make a lot of plays and be all over the field and everything. I’m the guy with his hand down in the ground, blocking, protecting and clearing running lanes for [running back Matt] Forte.’’

It was just a few years ago that teams thought the best position for Maneri was on the offensive line, and he was willing to give it a shot to be in the NFL. The Houston Texans signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Temple in 2010, and his move to the offensive line began. The New England Patriots claimed him after he didn’t make the Texans’ final cuts and tried him at left tackle. He developed to the extent that he saw time on the Patriots’ active roster.

But although he had some good moments during his switch, playing as a tight end always felt right to him. He was a reserve lineman for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2011, but he cut weight, improved his speed and changed numbers after the season. It was time to switch back to his natural position.

Playing tight end for the Chiefs last season was like a new beginning.

‘‘It wasn’t really a start because in college I played tight end, so it was really an adjustment to tackle,’’ Maneri said. ‘‘And to get back to tight end, I felt at home again. It was great. It was easy.’’

Maneri is expected to be more than just a blocker in coach Marc Trestman’s offense. He’ll have to be a threat in the passing game in some manner and can’t limit the play options when he’s on the field.

Maneri started eight games last season, making five catches for 51 yards. At Temple, he started 25 games and caught 38 passes for 421 yards and nine touchdowns.

‘‘My strength is obviously in blocking, but I’m working on [receiving] every day,’’ said Maneri, who’s 6-7 and 280 pounds. ‘‘I’ll take any ball I can get.’’



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