The Chicago Bears are preparing to make their first round of roster cuts this week, and a couple of the decisions that are being made in the special teams phase of the game are already leaking out.
According to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, Pat O’Donnell, whom the Bears took in the sixth round of May’s NFL Draft, has won the competition to be the team’s punter. Tress Way, who struggled during the team’s first two preseason games, was waived by the Bears according to Biggs.
The Bears also made a decision in the battle to replace Patrick Mannelly as the team’s long snapper, with Chad Rempel drawing the short straw as he was released. That likely means that Brandon Hartson will be tasked with the responsibility of replacing the longest tenured Bear in team history, and those shoes won’t be easy ones to fill.
It isn’t much of a surprise to see O’Donnell win the battle to become the team’s punter, considering that GM Phil Emery has been very adamant about keeping draft picks on the roster. Last year’s draft class had every single player retained on the opening day roster, and it seems very likely that the Bears will keep just about all of their picks this time around, with offensive tackle Charles Leno Jr. being the only one still on the fence.
At any rate, the Bears still have plenty of questions to answer regardless of which players win the position battles on special teams. Replacing Devin Hester is still a battle that needs to be won, with Micheal Spurlock holding an edge in the competition over the injured Chris Williams. Eric Weems was released over the weekend to make room for wide receiver Santonio Holmes on the roster, so it would appear that the team is confident either Spurlock or Williams will win the job.
Special teams coordinator Joe Decamillis has a lot of work to do over the final few weeks of preparation before the regular season, but with decisions already being made at punter and long snapper, he should be able to focus on getting his team ready tactically instead.