Updated: September 29, 2014 12:10PM
Santonio Holmes is used to sitting out the last preseason game. But he wants to play Thursday night. Maybe he needs to.
“New to the system, been out awhile, didn’t go through training camp,” the 2009 Super Bowl MVP said. “This is an opportunity to get some good work in and get a good feel for how the game’s going to go and what the speed’s going to be like next week.”
That assumes, of course, that Holmes will be on the roster for the regular-season opener Sept. 7 against the Bills at Soldier Field. Holmes didn’t sign with the Bears until Aug. 16 and played 20 snaps against the Seahawks last week. He had one reception for seven yards, and the quarterback who threw the pass is no longer on the team. He’s still trying to get comfortable in the Bears’ offense.
Though coach Marc Trestman hinted that Holmes, 30, might get an opportunity to return kickoffs in the exhibition finale against the Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium, the Bears aren’t saying if Holmes will play on offense. But he knows he needs the work.
“It’s a learning process,” Holmes said. “Just knowing your assignments. Feeling comfortable comes with repetition. The more reps you get, the more comfortable you feel. It’s still a learning phase. I’m enjoying it.”
Quarterback Jay Cutler acknowledged the difficult circumstance Holmes is in, but said he expected him to play against the Browns and sounded confident that Holmes eventually would make it.
“It’s been good,” Cutler said. “He’s done a great job of picking up the offense. [Receivers coach] Mike Groh has done a good job working with him and trying to bring him up to speed.
“It’s hard for him to get all the way up to speed with Alshon [Jeffery] and [Brandon Marshall] and some of these guys because we just have so much volume. But like Jimmy [Clausen], he’s played really high-quality football throughout his career. So it should be an easy transition for him.”
The final preseason game might be a bigger opportunity for rookie quarterback David Fales, the sixth-round pick from San Jose State who will start and might play the whole game.
Fales appears targeted for the practice squad — a roster move that could be complicated if he plays well. But that apparently is a risk the Bears are willing to take.
“It’s a huge opportunity,” said Fales, who was 5-for-7 for 68 yards and an interception Aug. 8 against the Eagles in his only preseason appearance.
“I’m excited to get out there, run around and have some fun. I’ve been staying involved each week, so I know the offense. I know the reads. I’m just trying to improve. I’m going to go through my reads, compete, take care of the ball, be smart, limit my turnovers and just have fun.”
The final preseason game is generally a perfunctory affair, but it’s everything for players on the roster bubble. Here are eight others to watch against the Browns:
Senorise Perry, running back/kick returner: The undrafted rookie will get a chance to win a roster spot as a kick returner.
Jordan Lynch, running back: Everyone’s favorite South Sider will get his best chance to make somebody’s practice squad.
C.J. Wilson, cornerback: With two interceptions in the preseason, he has made an impact in the battle for the final cornerback spot.
Al Louis-Jean, cornerback: This undrafted rookie has been impressive and could get a prime-time opportunity here.
Chris Williams, wide receiver: If he can stay healthy and show anything as a returner, he figures to make it.
David Bass, defensive end: He made plays in 2013 but is in a tough battle for the last defensive-end spot.
Ka’Deem Carey, running back: The fourth-round pick shows potential and needs to show more here.
Christian Jones, linebacker: He’s always fun to watch.