Maybe this finally is Brandon Rideau's year.
The 6-foot-3, 198-pound wide receiver from Kansas has been bouncing around as a fringe player in the NFL for the past four seasons without catching a pass in a regular-season game.
But Rideau has been getting snaps with the first team as the No. 3 receiver behind starters Devin Hester and Earl Bennett when the Bears go to a three-wide receiver formation, and he's making the most of his quality time.
In Friday's soggy practice, Rideau was the star of the day. In the first 11-on-11 session, the former practice-squad player with the Browns and the Bears, got behind cornerback Trumaine McBride down the sideline.
He extended his lanky frame just far enough to catch a Jay Cutler bomb on his outstretched fingertips for what would have been a 60-yard touchdown.
Two plays later Rideau beat Nate Vasher on the same route along the opposite sideline. In a later 11-on-11 session, Vasher had inside position, but Rideau reached back around him to snatch an underthrown Cutler pass for another huge gain.
"I don't know how many big plays he's made," Bears coach Lovie Smith said, "but I know he made quite a few (Friday)."
Rideau appeared to have made the Bears' final 53-man roster in 2007, when he caught 5 preseason passes for 87 yards. But he suffered an ankle injury late in the preseason game and was waived, although he was re-signed for the final regular-season game.
Last year he was cut just before the start of the regular season but signed to the practice squad and played in his first two NFL games late in the season. This year he's doing everything he can to claim the No. 3 receiver spot that is up for grabs.
Cutler's presence may provide more opportunities for everyone, but Rideau is making the most of his chances.
"The opportunities are there," he said. "I feel like (Cutler) will find you if you get open, and he'll give you a chance if he believes in you. Right now I guess he's feeling like I can make a couple plays, so he wants to come at me."
Rideau is competing with Rashied Davis, Devin Aromashodu and rookies Juaquin Iglesias and Johnny Knox, and he is leading the race. He provides a bigger target than any other wide receiver on the roster and is a willing and physical blocker, which sets him apart at the position.
"Every time you get an opportunity and you make the play, it gives the quarterbacks confidence," Rideau said. "It gives the coaches confidence, so it gives you a chance to get on the field."
Smith and the Bears' offensive coaches seem to be gaining more confidence in Rideau every day, but it's still a long way until the season opener Sept. 13 and everyone's role is determined.
"This is an opportunity for the receivers to step up," Smith said. "(Rideau) has taken advantage of the situation. We'll just let him play and let it play out through camp and the preseason games, and then we'll see where we go from there."