BOURBONNAIS, Ill. Dane Sanzenbacher got up Sunday morning ready to fight the same uphill battle hes had for two training camps now to make the roster of the Chicago Bears. He was a major surprise last year, so perhaps its just a little fitting that he got a major surprise around lunch time.
Thats when it became official that receiverspecial teamer Devin Thomas was retiring. It came without warning but left in its aftermath an improved opportunity for Sanzenbacher.
Thomas was becoming an increasing longshot to make the roster, with lackluster play and little impact in practice not what the Bears expected with they signed him last March.
As that has been happening, Sanzenbacher has quietly done exactly what he did last training camp when he made the Bears as an undrafted free agent out of Ohio State.
Sanzenbacher has made a big impression, coach Lovie Smith said. The same type he made last year, coming in as an undrafted free agent and earning a spot on the roster. He has a role, what he can do: Quick receiver in the slot. Shows up every day. Hes a good football player.
A key for Sanzenbacher and any player without a spot near the top of the depth chart at his position will be special teams. Sanzenbacher has been deployed as a punt returner with Devin Hester resting a sore ankle, although Sanzenbacher averaged just 4.9 yards on seven returns last preseason.
He also cycled in with the No. 1 and 2 offenses Sunday with Eric Weems in uniform but still not up to full speed enough to practice on a sore ankle.
Its great, Sanzenbacher said. I think as many reps as you can get with those guys, the better. Obviously you want to be out there getting in that rhythm.
Its one thing to be on the field but its different being with a different group of receivers, different quarterbacks. So the more you get out there with that first group and start to get that chemistry going, it helps out.