Training Camp Report: Day 11

S Kevin Payne (Warren Wimmer Photo)

Kevin Payne was supposed to take over as a strong safety full time, but he got a lot of action Monday at free safety with sixth rounder Al Afalava starting at SS. And will Tommie Harris ever be healthy again? Bear Report had a front-row seat at Chicago Bears training camp and made these observations ...

Pick Six
While most of training camp in Bourbonnais thus far has been spirited and full of energy, Monday was a lethargic effort on both sides of the football and a bit of a disappointment for the fans in attendance. Jay Cutler started off 8-of-12 in 7-on-7 drills, highlighted by two touchdown passes during red-zone work – Earl Bennett got the first one past Kevin Payne on a corner route, Garrett Wolfe got the second when nobody covered him in the left flat. Cutler was then 10-of-13 in 11-on-11 action, with his best throw being a long fade down the right sideline over Corey Graham into the waiting arms of Devin Aromashodu. Brett Basanez had a strong day running the second team, 10-of-13, but Caleb Hanie struggled badly at the start of practice, finishing just 4-of-9 overall. Basanez went high to hook up with Kellen Davis down the middle for a TD in the red zone, and then he found Davis for another score in goal-line drills on a play-action bootleg to the right. ...

If you're one of those cynical Bears fans out there convinced we've seen the last of Tommie Harris as a dominant defensive tackle in this league, feel free to add more fuel to your fire. When speaking to reporters Saturday after the Family Day practice at Soldier Field, coach Lovie Smith acknowledged that Harris was coming along slowly but would be back at full speed Monday following another day of rest Sunday. That didn't happen, and while Smith continues to stand by his belief that Harris simply needs more time and there isn't any reason to worry about him, Harris himself revealed he had his knee scoped again in March, works so hard off the field that it sometimes prevents him from practicing the same day and – at least these were the whispers – may not be ready to go come Week 1. ...

Just as he did Saturday, free agent addition Frank Omiyale got all the first-team work at left guard while Josh Beekman was relegated to the second team. After Beekman looked to have fended off Omiyale the first week and a half of training camp and seemed secure atop the depth chart again, all of a sudden the coaching staff is having second thoughts and wants to know if the newcomer can mesh better than the incumbent. This is a different approach than what we've seen with some of the other position battles, like Pisa Tinoisamoa and Nick Roach at strong-side linebacker, for example – for the most part, those two have been splitting reps daily. ...

Not even Payne himself expected to get any action last year at free safety, but he was asked to play out of position so the Bears could get more from Mike Brown, who needed to be switched from free to strong in order to be effective. So with Brown gone, Payne finally has strong safety all to himself and a chance to solidify his reputation as a tough in-the-box defender and a force to be reckoned with against the run. However, with Danieal Manning still nursing some bumps and bruises, Payne spent most of Monday out of position again at free safety while rookie Al Afalava worked in with the first unit at strong safety – the Craig Steltz experiment looks to be over, at least for now. ...


Mines came up lame Monday with a knee issue.
Warren Wimmer Photography

Aromashodu was again making plays with the No. 1 offense at wide receiver, proving to one and all that he's earned the confidence of Cutler. Even rookie Juaquin Iglesias got a few reps with the first team, earning a playful "Rookie in the huddle!" remark from Olin Kreutz. One pass catcher not elevated above the second team very often lately is Rashied Davis, who suited up Monday but didn't do a thing – the writing could officially be on the wall for the former arena leaguer. ...

There was a lot of chatter throughout the offseason regarding Israel Idonije losing 40 pounds from a year ago to prepare him for his switch from D-tackle back to D-end, but there is no way that can be done now with Harris unable to practice regularly. Thus far in training camp, Idonije has received almost all of his reps at the three-technique position, and he's even lined up at nose tackle from time to time in obvious passing situations – he may be the lightest player in football playing that spot in 2009. Mark Anderson should be a shoe-in to make the team again as the third end off the bench behind starters Alex Brown and Adewale Ogunleye, a role that might have been Idonije's if Harris was anywhere near 100 percent. ...

Injury Report
Charles Tillman and Patrick Mannelly were the only two players that didn't at least put pads their on, but Harris, Zack Bowman and a few others suited up without participating. Jamar Williams left with a shoulder injury, and then Fontel Mines sprained his knee during 11-on-11 and spent an extended period of time on the turf before finally being carted off the practice field. When Smith was asked about Bowman after practice, he said the young corner could be out "for a while" with that strained hamstring.

Stud of the Day
Bennett had a solid day catching the pigskin and was targeted quite often by Cutler. It remains to be seen if Bennett is ready to be a starter at this level after failing to make any impact whatsoever as a rookie, but he's got Cutler's confidence based on what the two of them did at Vanderbilt together. While he's a No. 3 on most teams, Bennett should suffice as the No. 2 in Chicago for the time being.

Dud of the Day
Plain and simple, Payne is not a very good player at free safety. Why the coaching staff bothers to put him back there is a mystery, although Smith seems to think that moving defensive backs from one position to another and back again only makes them better at the end of the day. Payne was a decent strong safety last year before being forced back to free, which is where he was Monday alongside Afalava and didn't make one play in coverage.

Quote to Note
"It's about right. I'm frustrated also. I would love to be out there, but I do so much in the weight room and all the training and all the other stuff that you guys never see. I think the hardest thing is knowing how political this business is and having to wear pads and sit on the sideline, acting like I'm going out there and different stuff like that. I don't know. It's a bit frustrating, but I'm going to hang in there and just see how it plays out." – DT Tommie Harris when asked about his practice regimen.


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John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.

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