By Chris Emma—
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (CBS) – In practice Monday, the Bears’ starting secondary looked no different than it has for most of this preseason, but a lasting presence was missing.
Two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Tim Jennings was cut by Chicago on Sunday, a move that was surprising to some. However, Jennings had fallen down the Bears’ depth chart, so it was a move the Bears felt best suited to make.
“We like (other) guys better,” Bears coach John Fox said. “What we do is evaluate — we evaluate every practice.”
Jennings was part of the Bears’ wave of many roster moves, which also included placing safety Ryan Mundy on season-ending injury reserve. Now, the Bears’ starting cornerbacks are Kyle Fuller and Alan Ball. Sherrick McManis figures to man the nickel cornerback spot.
Without Jennings, a steady veteran presence, the Bears must move forward.
“We had a good relationship,” Fuller said. “It’s part of the business.”
For years, the Bears counted on Charles Tillman as their top cornerback. He became quite possibly the greatest cornerback in franchise history. Jennings also became a reliable piece to the defense the past four seasons, but new general manager Ryan Pace is moving in a new direction with the secondary.
These Bears must work to bring the stability of their predecessors.
“As a group, we got to step up together, because (Jennings) is hell of a player,” Ball said. “We got to step up together. The guys that are here, the guys that will be here, just to mend that void that he’s gone.”
Cutting Jennings was a move that hit close to home to the team, losing a close friend. But it’s a personnel decision, one of the harsh realities of the business.
“It’s not personal, it’s not that you don’t like guys,” Fox said. “It’s that you like other people better.”
Houston steadily progressing
When Lamarr Houston arrived in Chicago, he was the prized acquisition of the 2014 offseason, a player poised to become a staple of the defense at end.
Now, Houston is a converted outside linebacker in this new 3-4 defense, playing for a regime from whom he’s owed nothing and fighting an uphill battle for a starting spot. But he regrets nothing.
“It still feels the same,” Houston said. “It’s exciting. It’s football. That doesn’t ever change.”
Houston saw his first season in Chicago end with an embarrassing torn ACL, suffered while celebrating a sack during the Bears’ beatdown at the hands of the Patriots. It capped off a largely disappointing campaign far too early.
This preseason, Houston has embraced the chance to fight for a starting job, even if it means working with the second-team unit.
“It’s fun,” Houston said. “Coming off an injury, coach Fox has an idea of how he wants me to get back into it. He doesn’t want me to get starting rolling really fast. He’s progressing me how he wants to do it.”
In Saturday’s preseason dress rehearsal in Cincinnati, Houston recorded a pair of sacks off the edge. He’s showing greater comfort in this new role.
However, while Houston feels fine at linebacker, his body is still in the final phases of recovery from the injury.
“I’m just going to stay with my rehab and keep progressing,” Houston said.
Clausen suffers another concussion
The Bears thought they caught a break on Saturday night when backup quarterback Jimmy Clausen was cleared of a concussion by initial tests. However, things changed after the game.
Clausen began to display concussion-like symptoms and was diagnosed with a concussion shortly after. He sat out Monday’s practice and remains uncertain for Thursday’s contest with Cleveland.
“During the game, he was cleared with the on-field protocol,” Fox said. “But then he had symptoms, so he’ll go into that protocol.”
Extra points: The Bears’ top receivers — Alshon Jeffery (calf), Eddie Royal (hip) and Marquess Wilson (hamstring) — all remained sidelined … Defensive tackles Eddie Goldman (concussion) and Jeremiah Ratliff (ankle) missed practice … Linebacker Jon Bostic (ankle), running back Senorise Perry (foot) and cornerback Tracy Porter (hamstring) also sat out on Monday … The Bears return to Halas Hall on Tuesday, then hold a walk-through on Wednesday in advance of their final preseason contest.
Follow Chris on Twitter @CEmma670.