Roach, Tinoisamoa fight for a starting spot

BOURBONNAIS -- One theme always seems to emerge when discussing the battle between Nick Roach and Pisa Tinoisamoa at strong side linebacker: mutual respect.

"It's tough because there are so many reps, but there are so many good plays [made] by Nick," Tinoisamoa said Wednesday. "And there are also plays I'm doing pretty well."

Basically a full-time starter since being selected by the St. Louis Rams in the second round of the 2003 NFL draft, Tinoisamoa currently finds himself sitting behind Roach on the Bears depth chart.

However, Tinoisamoa -- who played in just two games last year -- took repetitions with the first team Wednesday during the night practice.

"[It's] a good competition," Bears head coach Lovie Smith said. "Nick Roach has played some good football for us, played a lot of positions. Pisa has done the same. They battled throughout training camp last year; same thing is happening right now. Tonight, we gave Pisa some reps with the ones. Both guys, we feel like, are starters in the league."

The intense competition appears to be sharpening Tinoisamoa’s focus.

"It's good, because it's making me such a better player because I'm not used to this role of coming in and being this No. 2 guy," Tinoisamoa said. "I don't feel like a No. 2 guy. I'm with the younger guys [on the depth chart], and sometimes you get with the younger guys and you feel like you want to help them. Then again, I'm just used to doing what I do, playing like a No. 1 regardless of the reps. I know Nick feels the same way. I know he's out there feeling like he's No. 1. We've got such depth at linebacker. It's going to be a great competition."

Health seems to be the major questions concerning Tinoisamoa. Despite his previous success in St. Louis, he's never finished a game wearing a Bears' uniform. Tinoisamoa suffered a knee injury last year in the season opener at Green Bay. He returned the next month in Atlanta, but re-injured the knee, ending the year on injured reserve.

Despite Tinoisamoa’s setbacks, the Bears made it a point to re-sign him this offseason. The team limited the linebacker’s participation in offseason workouts, but six days into training camp, the knee is holding up just fine.

"I'm actually kind of surprised how everything is going as far as my health and my knee," Tinoisamoa said. "I was a little worried at first. I [wondered] if it was going to hold up. But it's been doing well and I've been able to do things I'm kind of excited about; things I was kind of hesitant about."

"Physically, at the time, it helps out a lot (being limited in the offseason). Mentally, it was kind of a crutch. So that's why I was like, ‘Hmmm [will the knee hold up?]’ But to get out here now and do it live, full speed, against the talent we have, and do it well, I feel pretty good about that."

Camp battle focus: Safety

Remember Al Afalava? Well, here’s a refresher.

Afalava started 13 games last season as a rookie for the Bears, racking up 70 tackles, in addition to forcing a fumble and breaking up nine passes. Then, when the club kicked off its offseason conditioning program, Afalava seemed to become a forgotten man.

The club traded for Chris Harris in the offseason and used its top pick in the draft to select Major Wright, who is expected to earn significant playing time as a rookie.

The acquisitions and Afalava’s subsequent fall down the depth chart haven’t weakened his resolve. Because of injuries to Harris [back] and Wright [groin] he’s actually received more repetitions in recent days.

“I was struggling last year with an injury and just came back in the offseason, and found myself at the bottom of the depth chart. I’ve got to just keep a positive attitude and keep competing. I’m starting from the bottom and I’ve got to work my way back up. Oh yeah, it’s [humbling]. But you’ve always got to be humble, you know? All I can do is go out there and show them I can play. I’ll take it one day at a time, keep competing and working hard to put up some good film.”

Afalava said the additions of Harris and Wright didn’t bother him because of advice he received prior to coming into the NFL.

“I was told teams will bring in guys every year to replace you, and you’ve got to compete,” Afalava said. “That’s my situation right now. But I’m coming out here every day giving 110 percent. It’s going great so far. I just can’t wait until we start tackling during the preseason.”

Wednesday's weather report

Heat: 77.4 degrees

Heat index: 78 degrees

Observation deck

• Along with Harris and Wright, center Olin Kreutz didn’t participate in Wednesday’s night workout, in addition to cornerback Charles Tillman (ankle), running back Harvey Unga (hamstring), defensive end Barry Turner, receiver Juaquin Iglesias (quadriceps), and quarterback Mike Teel (hamstring).

• Quarterback Jay Cutler produced a sharp performance in the afternoon practice, launching a couple of pinpoint completions to Devin Aromashodu in goal line and team drills.

• Tight end Greg Olsen dropped a middle screen pass that hit him perfectly in the hands.

• Tight end Kellen Davis made two impressive catches during the night workout. The best grab came on a high pass in the end zone during goal line drills.

• The Bears used the night session to work on several trick plays.

• Cornerback Woodny Turenne suffered a stinger during a hard collision in team drills. Shaken initially, Turenne wasn’t injured and was able to continue participating.