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Bears fullback Tyler Clutts making most of opportunity

Bears fullback Tyler Clutts tries fight off tackle by Buccaneers linebacker Adam Hayward London. | Warren Little~Getty Images

Bears fullback Tyler Clutts tries to fight off a tackle by Buccaneers linebacker Adam Hayward in London. | Warren Little~Getty Images

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1. WR Dane Sanzenbacher: Undrafted rookie has 19
receptions for 172 yards
and three touchdowns.

2. G/C Chris Spencer: Has
started five of the last six games at right guard, the last three of them victories.

3. FB Tyler Clutts: Signed off the Browns’ practice squad, he has played a key role in Matt Forte’s breakout season.

4. WR Roy Williams: Has 13 receptions for 190 yards and one touchdown.

5. TE Matt Spaeth: Caught a touchdown pass in the opener but is most valuable as the Bears’ best blocking tight end.

6. WR Sam Hurd: Has six catches for 80 yards in bit role, but he has been more valuable on special teams.

7. RB Marion Barber: Has 23 carries for 91 yards and three touchdowns, including six rushes for 39 and a touchdown against the Bucs last week.

8. DT Amobi Okoye: Two of his three sacks have come in the last two games.

9. DE Nick Reed: Has 11 tackles in limited play.

10. FS Brandon Meriweather: Started three games but hasn’t played in the last two.

11. LB Dom DeCicco: Undrafted rookie is tied for second on the team with eight tackles on special teams.

12. S/LB Winston Venable: Undrafted rookie had five tackles on special teams in first four games. Currently on the practice squad.

13. S Anthony Walters:
Undrafted rookie was promoted from practice squad after Week 5, has played on special teams.

14. DE Mario Addison:
Undrafted rookie has been active for three games and has played in one.

Updated: November 30, 2011 8:07AM

Fullback Tyler Clutts has been involved in a lot of big plays since joining the Bears four days before the regular-season opener against the Atlanta Falcons. But it’s not Devin Hester’s 73-yard kickoff
return or Matt Forte’s 32-yard touchdown run that tops his list
after seven NFL games.

‘‘I’ll tell you my favorite so far,’’ Clutts said. ‘‘Everybody saw me get tossed on the sideline [by Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Adam Hayward]. My favorite play was getting him back, which not too many people saw.’’

Hayward pushed Clutts to the ground like a rag doll after an eight-yard pass play in the third quarter Sunday in London. But Clutts got even in the fourth quarter, when he pancaked Hayward on a pitch to Forte that lost three yards.

‘‘He got me on the sideline, and it’s been on ‘SportsCenter,’ I guess,’’ Clutts said. ‘‘I’ve been given a bad time about that. Being able to come back and get redemption was definitely worthwhile.’’

Clutts made better plays than that against the Bucs. He blocked cornerback Ronde Barber twice on Forte’s 32-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, leveraging Barber to the outside on the line of scrimmage, then hustling for a finishing block on him inside the 10.

But whether it’s redemption, hustle or blocking a defensive end or cornerback, Clutts has made an impact since joining the Bears. Good things seem to happen when he’s on the field.

The 26-year-old Clutts, a 6-2, 220-pound rookie from Fresno State, is living a dream since the Bears signed him off the Cleveland Browns’ practice squad after the
final exhibition game.

‘‘I’m on Cloud 9 right now,’’ said Clutts, who played in the Canadian Football League, United Football League and Arena Football League before the Browns signed him to their practice squad late last season. ‘‘Just being able to play the game at this level against the guys that I’ve watched on TV for years, I couldn’t be more thrilled where I’m at.’’

Considering his struggle to make it to the NFL, even Clutts is surprised at what he’s doing with the Bears.

‘‘This has exceeded my expectations,’’ Clutts said. ‘‘I knew I had the capability of playing at this
level, but did I think that things would happen this fast? No. My goal this year was to get active and to be a contributor on special teams. I have a long ways to go; I really do. But I couldn’t have asked for a better situation.’’

Bears general manager Jerry Angelo signed veteran castoffs
after the lockout ended — receiver Roy Williams and running back Marion Barber from the Dallas Cowboys, defensive end Vernon Gholston from the New York Jets and defensive tackle Amobi Okoye from the Houston Texans — but Clutts has been as productive as any of them.

It was almost happenstance that Clutts became a Bear.

‘‘We noticed him at the [final] preseason game against Cleveland,’’ Angelo said. ‘‘People were talking about him, so we looked
at him pretty good [in] that preseason game.’’

It has turned into one of Angelo’s best moves.

‘‘This kid appreciates everything because he takes nothing for granted, and he’s really .  .  . a neat kid,’’ Angelo said. ‘‘You don’t see these guys anymore. Hopefully, he’s going to get a little bit more of an expanded role in our offense.’’

Clutts is a far cry from being Lorenzo Neal, a Fresno State product who became one of the best fullbacks in football with the San Diego Chargers during LaDainian Tomlinson’s heyday. But just getting here is half the battle. It took Neal 10 years to make the first of his four Pro Bowls.

‘‘It’s all about being at the right place at the right time,’’ Clutts said. ‘‘This offense fits my skill set. They don’t ask me to do things I’m not capable of doing. But the things they ask me to do, I feel I do well. I couldn’t ask for a better situation than being here.’’

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