Well-rested Bears return to practice after bye week

By The Associated Press

LAKE FOREST, Ill. – The Chicago Bears were rested and playful Monday after a three-day break. Several players formed a circle in the middle of the locker room and headed a soccer ball back and forth.

Star linebacker Brian Urlacher grabbed a plastic bat and using a locker room door as a backstop. He took swings against the pitching of defensive tackle Antonio Garay.

Players returned to the practice Monday after a bye weekend that allowed them to scatter across the country, visiting family, friends and alma maters.

For one member of the unbeaten 6-0 Bears, it allowed an extra Sunday to rest. Defensive end Adewale Ogunleye had missed the previous two games with a hamstring injury.

“When I’m home I’m always doing something to speed it up, stretching or hit the tub or ice it and stuff like that. You have to take care of your body,” said Ogunleye, who had 10 sacks last season.

“Hamstring is one of those injuries if you don’t get back healthy it can bother you all season, so we’re trying top get that out of the way.”

Ogunleye was back on the practice field Monday during light drills and hopes to be ready to play this Sunday against the 49ers.

“It’s not my call. When it comes to hamstrings, it’s coach Smith’s call,” Ogunleye said.

“He was able to practice today and it’s been a while,” Smith said. “I know he’s making a lot of progress.”

One area where the Bears need to make progress is their running game, which is averaging just 3.2 yards per carry.

It hasn’t been as important so far because Chicago’s passing game had been so vastly improved – at least until Rex Grossman threw four interceptions in the Bears’ last game against Arizona, a 24-23 comeback win.

But with cold weather ready to arrive, the Bears hope to get their ground game thawed out. Leading rusher Thomas Jones, who had more than 1,300 yards rushing last season, has gained 427 in the first six games.

“I wish I could give you an answer as to why we’re not averaging six yards a carry,” Smith said. “We say we’re a running football team. We’d like those numbers to be way up there, but we’re in the second quarter of our football season and this is one of those things that I see us picking up steam.”

NOTES: Bears DB Ricky Manning Jr. met with NFL officials last week and said Monday he’d be disappointed if he were suspended for his role in an altercation with a man in a Los Angeles restaurant last spring. Last month, Manning pleaded no contest to a felony assault charge. He was sentenced to three years probation and ordered to attend a year of anger management counseling, the district attorney’s office said. He was also ordered to complete 100 hours of community service with a municipality or public agency or nationally recognized philanthropic organization not associated with the Bears.

“Going up to New York definitely helped me,” Manning said. “Now, we’re just waiting for some more of the facts to come from the police, from the sentencing, and then we can go on.” Manning said he reviewed surveillance tapes with the league officials and said those tapes prove he wasn’t in the restaurant when a punch was thrown. He also denied making insensitive ethnic remarks about the victim.