LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) - The Chicago Bears have sorted through numerous candidates to find a suitable replacement for injured third wide receiver Marquess Wilson the past three weeks.
So quarterback Jay Cutler sees nothing wrong with giving a chance to a player with a so-so past.
When the Bears signed former Jets and Steelers receiver Santonio Holmes Saturday to vie for an opening caused by Wilson’s broken collarbone, it took only a short time before Cutler and Holmes were working together on the offense.
“You know, Santonio was here, probably had signed his contract and 60 minutes later he was on the field with Jay, and throwing routes,” Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said.
Cutler has gotten a good look the past two days in practice at Holmes and anticipates Holmes making an impact in a competition with former veteran Josh Morgan.
“It looks good,” Cutler said. “He’s explosive. He’d probably to be honest - he’s a little bit rusty. He’s been out of football.
“But getting in and out of cuts, catches the ball well, extremely explosive, fast. He’s exciting. We’ve just got to get him caught up with everything right now. It’s hard coming in where we are offensively and just kind of throwing him into the mix.”
It’s possible Holmes will play Friday at Seattle in the third preseason game. But the first chance at the spot Friday will go to Morgan, a former Washington Redskin and San Francisco 49er.
“He’s had two good weeks of practice, two good games, productive games,” coach Marc Trestman said of Morgan. “He’s made plays out there.
“I think he deserves a chance to step up now and get the first opportunity to do that.”
The 30-year-old Holmes had 23 catches last year, the second-lowest total of his career, while battling a hamstring injury. The Jets cut him to save $8.25 million against the salary cap. He had suffered a career-threatening foot injury in 2012, but says he is over the injuries.
Questions still linger about a dispute he had with former Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, and an argument he got into with tackle Wayne Hunter that led to his benching in a 2011 Jets game.
“That’s in the past,” Holmes said. “It’s neither here nor there right now. I think being in this new organization is a new move for me and a great opportunity for me to take advantage of and be part of a great organization.”
Wide receiver Brandon Marshall is the Bears receiver leader, and in the past a controversial figure himself.
“We came in together,” Holmes said about Marshall. “He’s a great guy, first and foremost. He’s a Pro Bowler and he leads by example.”
Trestman thinks Holmes is a good fit regardless of his past.
“I mean, people change, they get into new venues, new environments,” Trestman said. “You’re out for a while, you get a hard look at where you are. Not only in your work life as well as in other aspects of your life.
“We feel he’s coming here in a good place, he’s coming into a great locker room. Guys have reached out to him and are willing to help him and give him an opportunity to help our football team, but it will be a process and it will be day to day. But it’s off to a good start and we’ll see where it takes us.”
A first-round draft pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2006, Holmes was the Super Bowl MVP in the 2008 season. He had 79 catches for 1,248 yards and five touchdowns but was traded to the Jets for a fifth-round draft pick.
In Wilson, the Bears have a second-year receiver who was expected to take over the third spot after Earl Bennett was allowed to leave in free agency. However, the injury could keep him out well into the regular season.
So Cutler thinks general manager Phil Emery made the right call bringing in Holmes.
“I think it is a good sign that we’ll take some chances on some guys and we’ll bring some guys in because we know we’ve got a strong veteran group here and some guys that will help young guys or veteran guys along,” Cutler said.
“I know that, just knowing Phil, I am sure he did his background on Santonio and talked to him numerous times and talked to his agent and was very sure when he brought him in here of what kind of player and person he was getting.”
NOTES: Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said safety Chris Conte is likely to get his first preseason playing time Friday after missing all offseason work and the first few weeks of training camp due to shoulder surgery. … Wide receiver Chris Williams, who suffered a pulled hamstring on a 73-yard touchdown catch in the preseason opener, has returned to practice after a week away. … Starting right tackle Jordan Mills remains day to day with a foot injury. … Return specialist Darius Reynaud was signed Monday to replace Eric Weems, who was cut when Holmes was signed. He has averaged 9.7 yards per punt return and 22.6 yards a kick return in five seasons.
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