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Saturday's injuries leave Bears a little thinner at safety
By Bob LeGere | Daily Herald Staff

San Diego Chargers' Legedu Naanee hauls in a touchdown pass as Bears safety Chris Harris looks on during the first half Saturday.

 

Associated Press

San Diego Chargers' Ryan Mathews is hauled down by Bears' safety Major Wright.

 

Associated Press

San Diego Chargers' Legedu Naanee hauls in a touchdown pass over Bears' cornerback Zack Bowman.

 

Associated Press

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Published: 8/15/2010 7:38 PM

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While there's safety in numbers, the Bears' numbers at safety can't have them feeling very secure.

Craig Steltz started at strong safety in Saturday's preseason opener, but he suffered an ankle injury in the first quarter, didn't return and left Qualcomm Stadium wearing a walking boot.

Rookie Major Wright replaced Steltz and played impressively for the most part, but he suffered an injury to his left index finger just before halftime and did not return.

Wright had 7 tackles and although some of them were downfield he showed the physical play that coaches were hoping for and had seen during training camp.

Coach Lovie Smith said he had planned on playing Wright some snaps with the first team even before Steltz was injured.

"I like what Major's done throughout training camp, and I thought tonight he made a good open-field tackle (on San Diego running back Ryan Mathews) that saved a big run for us," Smith said.

"Major Wright's a good football player, but we need to get him back on the field as soon as possible."

Wright's immediate return is even more important considering the Bears started the game with their numbers already down at safety.

Danieal Manning dressed but did not play because of a strained hamstring, which kept him sidelined during some of last week's practices.

Josh Bullocks, who also has missed practice time with a leg injury, did not dress for the 25-10 loss to the Chargers.

Wright has shown a physical presence and also cover ability and the ability to make plays on the ball against the pass.

If he doesn't miss much time, he could be the Bears' opening-day starter, along with free safety Chris Harris, who escaped the opener unscathed.

But Harris was late providing help to cornerback Zack Bowman on the 28-yard touchdown pass to Legedu Naanee that gave the Chargers a 7-3 lead.

There was no injury update on linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer (foot) and quarterback Caleb Hanie (shoulder), who both left the game and did not return. They are not expected to practice at 3 p.m. Monday when the Bears return to Bourbonnais.

If the Bears determine Hanie's injury will keep him sidelined for any length of time (he left the stadium with his right arm in a sling), they are expected to add a veteran backup.

Smith did not want to address that situation after the game, but offensive coordinator Mike Martz considered the idea of a veteran backup way back in minicamp.

"It's a little early for that," Smith said late Saturday night. "We're going to see exactly what his injury is. We'll evaluate the guys and see where we are injury-wise and go from there."

Tight end Brandon Manumaleuna (knee), wide receiver Earl Bennett (hamstring) and linebacker Brian Iwuh (knee) did not dress for Saturday's game, but Manumaleuna and Iwuh were running at close to full speed late last week and could be back soon.