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MUSICK: Wootton shows versatility in switch

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT
Caption
(H. Rick Bamman)
H. Rick Bamman - hbamman@shawmedia.com Bears defensive tackle Corey Wootton awaits the snap Sunday against New Orleans at Soldier Field in Chicago.

LAKE FOREST – A few feet from Mr. Fourth Quarter’s locker is a stall reserved for Mr. Versatility.

OK, fine, so the nameplate above Mr. Versatility’s locker says “Wootton – 98.”

Whatever.

This is a time for action. This is a time for playmakers. This is a time for nicknames.

“I just try to be as versatile as I can,” said Mr. Versatility, who also answers to Corey Wootton. “Injuries happened, and they needed me to step up.”

Technically, the Bears needed him to step sideways, but you get the idea.

So Wootton the defensive end has transformed into Wootton the defensive tackle, at least for part of the time. That’s because the Bears are short-handed by approximately 587 interior defensive linemen who have gone down because of torn ligaments, runny noses, tennis elbows, food-borne illnesses and other ailments.

And if the Bears are serious about breaking out of their two-game funk, then they will need Wootton to be at his best Thursday night against the New York Giants. Because any team in the NFL – even the winless Giants – can win a game if they can control the line of scrimmage.

So, Mr. V, let’s review your credentials.

You can play defensive end. That’s nice.

You can fill in at defensive tackle. Good for you.

What else?

“I was a fullback for a little bit in peewee,” Wootton said.

OK, now we’re getting somewhere. The Bears have a capable fullback in Tony Fiammetta, but to be honest, his name is tricky to spell. And we in the media are expected to spell names correctly.

Perhaps Wootton could solve this crisis. Did he enjoy his time as a fullback?

“Yeah, it was cool,” he said. “I got to run with the ball a little bit.”

Then it’s decided. You’re Matt Forte’s new lead blocker.

What else?

“Mostly offensive and defensive lines,” Wootton said. “I played center for a little bit when I was younger.”

Excellent.

Because starting center Roberto Garza is great and everything, but he’s 34 years old. He entered the league one year after Brian Urlacher, who now yaps about sports on Channel 200-something. It’s about time that the Bears found someone to succeed Garza, and Mr. Versatility could be that someone.

What else?

“Coming into college, I had always played tight end in high school,” Wootton said.

Gosh, I really wish you had told us this last year.

The Bears needed a reliable tight end in the worst way in 2012, but they addressed the weakness by signing free agent Martellus Bennett to a four-year deal in March. Bennett has thrived this season with 281 receiving yards and three touchdowns, and his name is easy to spell, so he can stay.

Thanks for the offer, Mr. Versatility, but I think the Bears are all set at tight end.

Hey, what about quarterback? What if your buddy Mr. Fourth Quarter goes down?

“Quarterback?” Wootton said. “I don’t know.”

Why not? Are you not a fan of signing $100 million contracts?

“I just feel like the quarterback, he gets blamed for everything,” Wootton said.

Well, yeah.

But let’s say push came to shove, and Jay Cutler was injured on the shove. And let’s say Josh McCown dropped his clipboard and reached for his helmet – except, when he dropped his clipboard, it fell right on his big toe and rendered him out for the rest of the game.

Could Mr. Versatility step in?

How far can he throw a football, anyway?

“I could probably throw it about 45, 50 yards maybe,” Wootton said. “But my shoulder’s a little sore now. So I don’t know.”

Good enough.

Bears fans, say hello to your new emergency quarterback.

• Shaw Media sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at tmusick@shawmedia.com and on Twitter @tcmusick.

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