After missing the Bears' Thanksgiving night win over the Packers with a rib injury, tight end Martellus Bennett practiced without restrictions Wednesday.
|Martellus Bennett leads the Bears with 50 catches for 425 yards and three touchdowns this season.|
Bennett leads the Bears with 50 catches for 425 yards and three touchdowns this season. Since he joined the team as a free agent in 2013, he ranks third in receptions, fifth in receiving yards and is tied for eighth in touchdown catches among NFL tight ends.
Receiver Eddie Royal (knee) and safety Antrel Rolle (knee) did not practice. Right tackle Kyle Long (neck) and outside linebacker Pernell McPhee (knee) were limited.
After missing a Week 10 win over the Rams, McPhee recorded two tackles while playing 38 snaps in a loss to the Broncos and six stops while playing 44 plays in a victory over the Packers.
"He's gotten better in the last week or two," said defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. "His knee seems to have calmed down a little bit and allowed him to play more. He's still not able to play the amount of snaps he was playing earlier in the season, but I think he's getting better. I don't know if his knee is getting better or he's learning to play with it better."
In other injury news, running back Ka'Deem Carey passed the NFL's concussion protocol and practiced without restrictions Wednesday, as did guard/center Matt Slauson (toe).
Hot streak: Outside linebacker Lamarr Houston has recorded four of his five sacks this season in the last four games, tied for the third most in the NFL over that span. He's one shy of his career high of six sacks set in 2013 when Houston played for the Raiders.
"He's done a nice job of just playing the run and giving us some good pass rush when he's been called upon," Fangio said. "I think he's feeling more comfortable. Much like Willie [Young] coming off the injury, there was this slow development in training camp and I think he's feeling more comfortable now and he's getting to play regularly and he's done well with it."
Houston recorded one sack last season in his first year with the Bears, missing the final eight games with a torn ACL. He had his most productive outing of the season Thanksgiving night in Green Bay, recording nine tackles as well as a sack, a tackle-for-loss and a fumble recovery.
Snap decision: Special-teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers explained Wednesday why the Bears made a change at the long-snapper position last Saturday, waiving eight-year veteran Thomas Gafford and signing first-year pro Patrick Scales.
"We had struggled a little bit in the short-snap area over the last few weeks," Rodgers said. "You always give your players a chance to try to work out of things. Thomas, a veteran guy, did a great job in some of the aspects we were asking him to do. Terrific pro.
"It was just one of those things that we felt like we worked a player out and felt like he was good at what he did, and we decided to make the switch."
Scales appeared in two regular-season games and two playoff contests with the Ravens last season. The 6-4, 244-pounder entered the NFL in 2011 with Baltimore as an undrafted free agent from Utah State. He has also spent time with the Dolphins, Jets and Buccaneers.
On the rebound: A win Sunday over the 49ers would enable the Bears (5-6) to reach the .500 mark following an 0-3 start for the first time since 1965. The last five times the Bears opened 0-3 (in 1969, 1997, 1998, 2000 and 2003), they never evened their record.
Led by rookies Gale Sayers and Dick Butkus, the 1965 Bears followed their 0-3 start by winning nine of their next 10 games before dropping their finale to finish 9-5. In one late-season victory, a 61-20 rout of the 49ers at Wrigley Field, Sayers scored six touchdowns.