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Bears fullback Tyler Clutts in familiar position

Fullback Tyler Clutts is bubble make Bears’ roster. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

Fullback Tyler Clutts is on the bubble to make the Bears’ roster. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: September 29, 2012 6:13AM

After a productive rookie season, Bears fullback Tyler
Clutts is back on the bubble entering the preseason
finale Thursday against the Cleveland Browns.

Clutts has obvious value as a special-teams player and blocking back, but his position doesn’t really exist in Mike Tice’s offense. The ‘‘H-back’’ type of tight end has more of the blocking

‘‘I came into camp knowing it was gonna be a battle,’’ Clutts said. ‘‘I knew as a fullback I was going to have to distinguish myself
as a physical blocker. I think short-yardage and first-down runs are really what I feel like I can [do to] separate myself from tight ends blocking in the backfield.’’

This is a familiar position for Clutts, a defensive end at Fresno State who played in the Canadian Football League, Arena Football League and United Football League before playing in the NFL last season. In fact, in a roundabout way, the Bears-Browns preseason finale made all the difference for him last season.

Clutts was a Browns fullback on the roster bubble who played special teams in that game. He was cut by the Browns and signed to their practice squad. But the Bears signed him off the Browns’ practice squad to their 53-man roster.

Clutts, who didn’t join the Bears until Wednesday of Week 1, made an immediate impact in the season opener against the Atlanta Falcons — blocking for Matt Forte’s 56-yard touchdown reception, Devin Hester’s 53-yard reception and Jay Cutler’s one-yard touchdown pass to Matt Spaeth in a 30-12 victory — and developed into a valuable blocker on offense and special teams.

‘‘Looking back on it, that was probably the biggest game of my entire football career,’’

Clutts said. ‘‘I went into the [preseason finale
last season] feeling really good about my position in Cleveland. But the team had other plans.’’

Clutts wasn’t disappointed for long. Less than a day after he was signed to the Browns’ practice squad, the Bears called, offering to sign him to their 53-man roster.

‘‘I had 30 minutes to make a decision,’’ he said. ‘‘They said, ‘We want to sign you.’ Cleveland had made an offer to try and keep me. [But] it was just an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. The city of Chicago, the tradition . . . it was something I felt I needed to be in.

‘‘And I needed to play. I’m not in this for the money. I don’t want to sit on the sideline and collect a check. I want to be involved, and I want to play.’’

Clutts is back in a similar situation heading into the game Thursday. All he can do is play hard and hope for the best. As he learned last year, you never know who might notice.

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