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Durkin: Bears Must Shuffle Deck In The Secondary

By Dan Durkin-

(CBS) Last week, it was the Bears offense that was hit hard by injuries. This week, it's the defense's turn and, more specifically, the secondary.

Charles Tillman has officially been lost for the season with a ruptured triceps, the same injury that cut short his 2013 season, the Bears announced late Monday afternoon. Joining Tillman on the injury list is reserve cornerback and special teams ace Sherrick McManis (quad) and starting free safety Chris Conte (shoulder sprain).

View: Bears Injury Report

The severity of McManis and Conte's injuries have yet to be announced, but Tillman's injury alone will have a cascading effect throughout the secondary.

In the Bears' nickel package, rookie Kyle Fuller has been used as a perimeter corner since offseason activities started, and Tim Jennings has slid into the slot corner position. With Tillman out, Fuller now moves into the No. 2 cornerback role, figuring to play on the right side.

The role that is most impacted is slot corner.

The most logical move would be for the Bears to bring back cornerback Kelvin Hayden, who was cut this past Saturday to give them roster flexibility Sunday given the uncertain status of receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Hayden has been around the team for two years now and knows the scheme, coaches and locker room. The concern with Hayden, however, is that his lack of speed and suddenness in the slot was exposed in the third preseason game against Seattle.

Losing McManis for any period of time would be a big blow to a special teams core that is still finding its way. McManis is a core "A-player" on coverage units who the Bears would have a tough time replacing. Free agent cornerback Demontre Hurst is another possibility, as he originally made the 53-man roster but was released after a lackluster game against the Bills.

Conte, whom the Bears are optimistic will play next Monday night, has registered interceptions in back-to-back weeks. If he's unavailable, he would be replaced by Danny McCray, who has been part of an early season rotation and is backed up by rookie Brock Vereen, who played a significant role down the stretch Sunday for the Bears defense as a slot corner and blitzer off the edge.

Dan Durkin covers the Bears for and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @djdurkin.

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