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Wootton hopes to turn good camp into productive season

Posted Aug 1, 2012

Corey Wootton’s first and so far only NFL sack was a significant one, but the Bears are hoping the third-year defensive end accomplishes more than just sending Brett Favre into retirement...

Corey Wootton’s first and so far only NFL sack was a significant one, but the Bears are hoping the third-year defensive end accomplishes more than just sending Brett Favre into retirement.

Wootton is excelling in training camp for the second straight summer, pushing to earn playing time and desperately hoping to avoid the injury bug that has stalled his NFL career.

Bears defensive end Corey Wootton sprints during a training camp drill in Bourbonnais.
“He’s a big physical talented guy, smart, and he’s got good movement,” said defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. “His problem is that he’s gotten nicked up here and there. It’s slowed him down.

“Right now I just like what I’m seeing. He’s having another strong camp. Now he’s just got to pound away every day and stay up and keep in the hunt. He’s playing strong right now. It’s his time.”

A 2010 fourth-round draft pick from Northwestern, Wootton recorded six tackles in six games as a rookie. He registered his first NFL sack late in the season, slamming Favre to the frozen ground in a win over the Vikings. The future Hall of Famer was knocked out of the game and never played again.

The Bears had high hopes for Wootton last season, but he injured his knee on the opening kickoff of the preseason opener and underwent arthroscopic surgery. When he finally returned after missing more than a month, he hurt his hand in practice after appearing in just one game.

“He is having a good camp and Corey has had good camps in the past,” said coach Lovie Smith. “Injuries have hurt him a little bit in the past, but he came back in great shape. Corey has prototype size for the position. He can play the run. He’s also a good pass rusher. You can’t have too many defensive ends that can rush the passer and be able to play the run, so we’re pleased with where he is.”

Turning heads: Another young defensive lineman who has impressed coaches in training camp is tackle Stephen Paea, a 2011 second-round pick from Oregon State.

“I’m very pleased with all of his work,” Marinelli said. “One thing he shows is tremendous get-off, great pad level and he’s healthy. When you get out there you feel him, and that’s the way it should be.”

Paea is finally healthy after undergoing offseason surgery on a knee that bothered him all of last season. The 6-1, 300-pounder is now able to push off on his leg and utilize his strength and power.

“Playing the run, he’s got great quickness,” Smith said. “We like what he’s been able to do as far as rushing the passer. He’s just a good football player inside and we are expecting big things from him to take that next step.”

The right stuff: After splitting first-team reps with J’Marcus Webb at left tackle in the first five training camp practices, Chris Williams worked at right tackle Wednesday.

But Smith cautioned against reading too much into it, saying: “We’re just six days into camp. Just give us time. You’re going to see a lot of different combinations at a lot of different positions.”

Going deep: Marinelli is pleased with the depth the Bears have at cornerback, where free-agent acquisitions Kelvin Hayden and Jonathan Wilhite are backing up Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings.

“Those are two really good corners that have come in,” Marinelli said. “You take [Tillman and Jennings]; I think they’re dynamite guys, I really do. They both tackle, they can play man, they play cover two, and they’ve got good ball skills.

“Now we bring in two more corners in there that are physical guys, and they fit our system. We’re very fortunate to have that depth and really good players.”

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