By Adam Hoge-
HALAS HALL (CBS) As expected, wide receiver Earl Bennett will play Sunday in the season opener against the Bengals, but now the question might be: how much will he play for the Bears this season?
Bennett reportedly took a $1 million pay cut Friday, which he can earn back through incentives, but this is his second ultimatum in two days.
“He’ll be working in and getting his reps and we’ll see how he does,” offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said Thursday. “If he does well, he’ll play more. If he doesn’t, we’ll see who else we can get.”
The guy the Bears can get is already on the roster in seventh round draft pick Marquess Wilson, who made the team as a backup despite not contributing much on special teams. That means the Bears like him. A lot.
The problem is, Wilson is still learning and probably not ready to put in a full work load on Sunday. While Bennett is coming off his second concussion since December, the Bears at least know they can rely on him when he’s healthy.
“He’s an experienced player, No. 1,” head coach Marc Trestman said Friday. “He’s a very good route runner. He knows the offense and can play multiple positions.”
Wilson can play multiple positions too though, and he has more size. He also is the home run threat the Bears lack with their other five wide receivers.
Is it possible that Bennett is just buying the Bears time to continue to bring along Wilson, who brings more potential and a smaller injury history?
Sure sounds that way.
Conditioning To Dictate Playing Time
Trestman said Bennett, linebacker D.J. Williams (calf) and defensive tackle Henry Melton (concussion) will all play Sunday, but how much will depend on how their conditioning stacks up in a real game.
“I’ve been out there working, running,” Melton said. “They’ve been on me really hard with my conditioning just to make sure I stay healthy. You don’t want to go out there and hurt yourself off of just being too tired to play.”
If Melton is limited, Nate Collins would fill in, as he did during the preseason. Collins figures to receive a lot of reps anyway after his strong showing in the three preseason games he played in.
Bennett’s backup situation is a little more interesting because Wilson could be declared inactive. Joe Anderson and Eric Weems are core special teamers and Wilson is not, so that makes him a prime target to sit out. Trestman said it could go either way with Wilson and that those decisions would be made Friday afternoon.
As for the middle linebacker, Trestman would still not name D.J. Williams his starter, but rookie Jon Bostic seemed resigned to his fate as Williams’ backup.
Trestman said after practice that he would name five captains for the 2013 season instead of rotating them week-to-week as he did during the preseason. The head coach was not ready to announce those five captains, but the Chicago Tribune’s Brad Biggs reported they would be Jay Cutler, Roberto Garza, Lance Briggs, Julius Peppers and Patrick Mannelly.
– Tight end Dante Rosario, who the Bears traded for earlier in the week, will most likely be inactive Sunday as he is still learning the offense. Trestman said the tight end has not been working with the first- or second-team units in practice this week as most of his time has been spent in meetings.
– Corey Wootton said he still does not know if he is starting Sunday’s game, but his “competition” with Shea McClellin appeared to be won by Wootton weeks ago.
– Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth (knee) is officially listed as “doubtful” for Sunday’s game.