Manning to free safety, Graham to cornerback

July 29th, 2009 - 5:19 pm

With Tuesday’s revelation of an injury to one of the most influential defenders on the team, the Bears will be shuffling around players to make up for the loss. With Charles Tillman scheduled to miss extended time, Danieal Manning will start at free safety when the Bears open training camp on Friday and Corey Graham, who had been working at free safety this off-season, will likely fill in for Peanut at cornerback.

Graham says he feels most comfortable at cornerback. “This won’t be my first time running with the first team at cornerback. I started nine games last season. I had to go against some very good receivers.”

Bears fans likely feel more comfortable with Graham filling in for Tillman than one of the other corners on the depth chart, but all will be getting more repetitions during training camp and preseason games.

Manning’s move to free safety has nothing to do with Tillman’s injury. The team felt that Manning had made strides this off-season and deserves to be on the field.

“Danieal is getting more of the concept of this defense and his overall football knowledge has improved a lot,” head coach Lovie Smith said. “Sometimes it takes players a while before they really get it and I think Danieal has gotten it where it all makes sense to him, and that’s why we’re putting him in this role right now.”

Kevin Payne will resume his role at strong safety while Craig Steltz battles for playing time. Steltz will fill in for Manning at free safety in nickel situations, when Manning resumes his role as the nickel back.