BOURBONNAIS – He is easily overlooked in assessments of the two drafts by general manager Phil Emery, but cornerback Isaiah Frey is impossible to overlook anymore.
Frey has played his way into serious consideration for a spot on the final 53-man roster with consistent playmaking that included another interception and a near-pick of a swing pass from quarterback Jay Cutler. A throwaway by one of the quarterbacks sailed out of bounds, as it was supposed to, and Frey caught that, too.
“Yeah, it seems like the ball is kind of a magnet towards me right now,” Frey said, laughing. “I’ve just got to keep making the plays.”
He has been. Those were just the most recent impact moments for the 2012 sixth-rounder out of Nevada, where he was a teammate of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Frey already has established that he can and will play special teams, axiomatic for reserve defensive backs if they hope to make rosters. Frey played in all four preseason games last year, started one and finished with six defensive tackles, three on special teams in addition to an interception and pass breakup.
With veteran starting cornerbacks Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman backed up by veteran nickelbacks Kelvin Hayden and D.J. Moore, plus proven special-teamers Zackary Bowman and Sherrick McManis, there was simply no place for Frey. He went on the practice squad, but didn’t waste the time.
“I learned that there’s a lot of preparation into what they do,” Frey said. “Peanut, Tim and Kelvin, those guys work the hardest probably in the NFL and that’s why they’re able to make the plays they make on Sunday.”
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Moore is now on the Panthers and when Hayden went out with a significant hamstring injury at practice on Saturday, Frey was prepared. He moved in as the No. 1 nickelback and continued in that role with Hayden out on Monday.
“He’s playing with a lot of confidence right now,” said defensive backs coach Jon Hoke. “He’s been here for a year, he understands the systems and what the position -- especially at nickel -- has been asked of him, but he’s been extremely productive with what he’s done, but I also think it’s a little bit of it he’s playing with confidence.”
Suddenly it will be Bowman and McManis under increasing pressure to stay with Frey in roster discussions. Frey is 6-feet, ideal height for modern corners, and has rated an edge over Bowman and McManis as a playmaker. With Hayden, Jennings and Tillman all coming out of contracts next offseason, the Bears will have job openings for cornerbacks.
Waiting and watching last season was difficult “but coach Hoke kept me involved,” Frey said. “He had me do some preparation things for the team, study opponents and bring it back and present it to the team. So I was always involved.”
He is getting more and more involved with every practice.
Sick bay: Bennett injury litany grows
Wide receiver Earl Bennett was absent from practice on Monday as he is evaluated further after an apparent concussion late last week. Various receiver hopefuls got looks with the No. 1 offense but Bennett’s condition can only be viewed with some concern, given his growing injury history.
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Bennett, the No. 3 receiver and a fit in the Marc Trestman offense working the slot, missed two games last season with a concussion suffered in the Seattle game. He missed two other games with a hand injury, and was out for five games with an upper-body injury in Week 2 at New Orleans. Bennett also missed the first and last games of 2010 with injuries…
Defensive end Julius Peppers, who left practice Saturday night with a hamstring strain, was given Monday off…Nose tackle Stephen Paea was pulled from practice with tightness in his hip. Paea was replaced by Nick Collins, who has played his way into the defensive-tackle rotation with a strong camp.