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D.J. Williams looks likely to get starting call at middle linebacker

Chicago Bears D.J. Williams (58) during practice Halas Hall Lake Forest Ill. Thursday April 18 2013. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times

Chicago Bears D.J. Williams (58) during practice at Halas Hall in Lake Forest, Ill., on Thursday, April 18, 2013. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: October 8, 2013 6:12AM



Coach Marc Trestman didn’t name a starting middle linebacker for the season opener Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals at Soldier Field. But it’s likely that veteran D.J. Williams will start and rookie Jon Bostic will relieve at some point.

Williams participated fully in practice all week but missed more than four weeks before that with a calf injury. His conditioning will be monitored closely, with Bostic likely to step in at some point. Last year, Brian Urlacher missed most of training camp while recovering from a knee injury and was limited to 29 plays in the first half of the opener against the Colts.

‘‘I believe [Williams will] play,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘How much he’ll play will be relative to game-like conditions where it’s physical out there and we’re running sideline to sideline. He’s in good condition, I don’t know that he’s in great condition. I don’t know if we’ll know until we see whether he can take a significant amount of action.’’

Bostic ready

Bostic, who started the first three preseason games, said he is prepared to play all four phases of special teams.

‘‘I have no idea what’s going on to tell you the truth,’’ the rookie from Florida said. ‘‘I’m just doing whatever they ask me. If it’s giving D.J. a breather [at middle linebacker], I’ll give D.J. a breather. Whatever they ask.’’

Bennett takes a $1M cut

Wide receiver Earl Bennett is expected to play after missing the preseason with a concussion, but he’ll have to earn his keep. A source confirmed that the Bears renegotiated Bennett’s 2013 salary from $2.25 million to $1.25 million. He can earn back some of the money through performance incentives.

Earlier this week, the Bears renegotiated Julius Peppers’ contract to clear $2 million in salary-cap space by converting $3 million in salary into a signing bonus.

Wootton or McClellin

The Bears also haven’t said whether Corey Wootton or Shea McClellin will start at defensive end opposite Peppers. But that decision doesn’t appear as definitive because both will play in the rotation at end. Wootton started the final seven games last season, but Israel Idonije still played as many snaps, sometimes more.

‘‘They haven’t talked to us about it yet,’’ said Wootton, a Northwestern graduate who set career highs in tackles (18), sacks (seven), forced fumbles (two) and tackles-for-loss (one) last season. ‘‘We’ll see how it goes.”

McClellin, who has yet to start a game, said his ­approach won’t change regardless of his role.

‘‘Either way, if I’m starting or Wootton’s starting, we’re going to be playing the same amount of time,’’ McClellin said.

The Atkins diet

Bears guard Matt Slauson knows what he’s up against in Bengals Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins, who led all interior linemen with 121/2 sacks last year.

‘‘If you let a player like that get in your head, it can be a long day and I’ve played against guys like that,’’ said Slauson, a starter for the Jets the previous three seasons. ‘‘I played against Haloti [Ngata, of the Ravens]. Randy Starks [of the Dolphins]. As long as I play my game and not his, it’ll be all right.’’

Contributing: Adam L. Jahns, Patrick Finley

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MarkPotash



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