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Can the Bears possibly find room for Dane Sanzenbacher?

Bears receiver Dane Sanzenbacher is definitely bubble for final roster cuts. | John J. Kim/Sun-Times Media

Bears receiver Dane Sanzenbacher is definitely on the bubble for final roster cuts. | John J. Kim/Sun-Times Media

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Updated: September 1, 2011 7:05PM



Like it is with a lot of NFL teams, the Bears’ don’t have enough depth for the last few cuts down to 53 — the ones that will be decided in Thursday night’s preseason finale against the Cleveland Browns — to make a big difference. Whether its keeping Mike Hass and cutting Joaquin Iglesias or vice-versa, moves to fill the final spots on the 53-man roster rarely prove costly or fruitful.

There are potential exceptions: Henry Melton edged out Jarron Gilbert for one of the last defensive line spots last year and is entrenched, at least for now, at defensive tackle. Matt Toeaina made the team as a ‘’bubble’’ guy in 2008 and 2009 and is in the three-man rotation at tackle with Melton and Anthony Adams.

If there’s a logjam anywhere on the roster it’s at wide receiver, where the Bears might have to find room for undrafted rookie Dane Sanzenbacher. Unless the Bears suddenly lose interest in Roy Williams or don’t need Sam Hurd on special teams, they have five ‘’locks’’ at wide receiver: Earl Bennett, Devin Hester, Johnny Knox, Williams and Hurd. More often than not, they only keep five on the active roster.

Considering the league-wide interest in Sanzenbacher after the draft, plus the impact Sanzenbacher has made in training camp, it would be risky for the Bears to try to put him on the eight-man practice squad (other team’s can claim him if they put him on their 53-man roster). So if the Bears want to keep Sanzenbacher, as they almost certainly do, they’ll have to make room for him.

‘’Sure there’s a chance [of keeping six receivers],’’ Bears coach Lovie Smith said. ‘’I think we have more than six receivers that we could feel comfortable playing.

‘’But it’s hard to have six receivers, if you look at our history. What we’re going to try to get is the best 53 players on our football team.’’

What’s interesting about the Sanzenbacher-mania in training camp is that his preseason statistics are very average -- six receptions for 57 yards (9.5 per game) and no touchdowns. But he opened eyes when he started getting first-team reps during the first week of training camp, and the momentum from that has turned him into the closest thing to a training camp ‘’sensation’’ this year.

Perhaps aware of this, Sanzenbacher isn’t getting ahead of himself. Asked if he thinks he’s done enough to make the team he said, ‘’Not yet. I think there’s still a lot to do this week [in practice] and obviously with the Browns game. You never stop proving yourself or trying to get a spot, especially when you’re in my position. So you can’t rest on anything.’’

Sanzenbacher said he doesn’t play the numbers game -- counting receivers ahead of him and figuring out how many the team will keep.

‘’I don’t think I’m in a position to even try to play that game,’’ he said. ‘’It doesn’t really help much. All I can really focus on -- I know it sounds cliche’ -- is what my job is. That’s out of my hands.’’



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