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Bears’ special-teams play has been a cut above

Updated: September 22, 2013 6:42AM



The Bears’ special-teams units have produced a handful of big plays already this preseason, from a blocked punt to some long returns to some punts downed inside the 20-yard line.

It has made a happy man out of special-teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis, for the most part, as players have given him reasons to fight for them when it comes to the fast-approaching cuts.

“Sure, I’ve identified a bunch of them I’d like to have,” DeCamillis said. “[But] it’s going to go down with what’s best for the whole organization. ... You’ve got to develop the future also. So, sure, I’m going to fight for the best guys I’ve got, But in the end, we’ve got to do what’s best for the Chicago Bears.”

The Bears are already looking at keeping four full-time specialists in kicker Robbie Gould, punter Adam Podlesh, long snapper Patrick Mannelly and kick returner Devin Hester.

When asked, DeCamillis wouldn’t name any specific players who have won him over. But there are several players who have performed well on special teams. Against the San Diego Chargers, running back Michael Ford had a 100-yard kickoff return and linebacker J.T. Thomas blocked a punt and recovered it.

Some players of note on Hester’s kick-return unit include tight end Steve Maneri, defensive tackle Nate Collins, safety Tom Zbikowski, linebacker Jon Bostic and fullback Tony Fiammetta.

Ford, an undrafted rookie from LSU, definitely has DeCamillis’ attention.

“It would be tough not to like what you saw in a Michael Ford,” DeCamillis said. “On his long [return], that wasn’t one of the better blocked returns that we had all night. He made a guy miss right in the hole. So that was a great run by him, and he did a better job on coverage, too. So he’s making it tough.”

With Bostic looking like the Week 1 starter at middle linebacker, his spot on the kickoff and kick-return units may open up.

“We just have to see how everything works out,” DeCamillis said. “Who knows how many plays he is going to play, if he is going to play the nickel, if he’s not going to play the nickel? Who knows all that stuff? We’ve just got to see how that plays out.”



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