One player missing, three jobs to fill

Danieal Manning out for 1st preseason game

August 13, 2009, 7:02 PM

By: Jeff Dickerson

The Bears will be without their starting free safety, nickel back and kickoff returner Saturday night versus Buffalo. Of course, all those responsibilities fall on the shoulders of only one individual: Danieal Manning, who missed practice again Thursday due to a lingering hamstring issue.

Danieal Manning

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Danieal Manning plays three roles for the Bears.

"Danieal may be [out] a little bit longer," said head coach Lovie Smith. "I really like what he's been able to do at the nickel position, and he gives us range at the free safety position that we really like. We need to get him back on the football field. Of course, he's a little banged up right now, in time I'm expecting a big year from him. He should be good to go before long."

With Manning sidelined, Corey Graham and Al Afalava are expected to pick up the slack on defense -- Afalava at safety alongside Kevin Payne, Graham working at the nickel. The team's official depth chart lists Devin Hester as the backup kickoff return man, but it's unclear whether Hester will work in that role against the Bills. Garrett Wolfe and Johnny Knox also return kickoffs, so both should factor in to the equation.

There was some positive injury news, as Greg Olsen (bruised hip) and Jamar Williams (shoulder) are expected to face Buffalo. Olsen sat out Thursday, but Williams did practice, making good on his week-long vow to suit up Saturday.

"You know these preseason games are probably going to make the determination who gets that Sam [strong side linebacker] spot," said Williams.

Smith declined to comment on the availability of Tommie Harris or Patrick Mannelly.

"We're going to meet tonight and really go over who plays then," Smith said. "We have an idea right now, but we'll let you know a little later."

Other news and notes:

  • Smith was asked about calling defensive plays for the first time since his coordinating days in St. Louis: "Looking forward to it. It's a little different calling it out here, we're going to be pretty basic though. You guys know our track record as far as preseason games, we're going to be as basic as possible, let our guys play. Hopefully they don't do a lot of thinking, they just are able to react and show us what they can do."

  • Charles Tillman and Zack Bowman were both jogging and backpedaling on a side field during practice. That is a great sign for both players. Tillman has a way to go before being cleared to practice, but Bowman looks to be on track for a speedy return.

  • Matt Toeaina got a little time with the first team at nose tackle, lining up next to Marcus Harrison.

  • Kellen Davis played with the starters in double tight end sets.

  • D.J. Moore intercepted a pass, and knocked down another.

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