Love of Chicago Bears started early for new lineman Dan Feeney

Trent Taylor should provide consistency at punt return

Guard Dan Feeney talks 
with teammate Tyler Kroft after a preseason game against the Houston Texans, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023, in Houston.

LAKE FOREST – When Dan Feeney was a little kid, his grandmother used to put “The Super Bowl Shuffle” into the VHS to entertain him. She was a huge Bears fan. Running back Walter Payton was her favorite player, and he became Feeney’s as well.

Feeney, an Orland Park native, had to admit that he looked at himself in the mirror a little bit longer when he put on his Bears gear for the first time this week.

“Having that C on you, it’s cool,” Feeney said Thursday at Halas Hall. “Definitely feel a little bit of juice playing for your hometown team. It’s a cool feeling.”

Having that C on you, it’s cool. Definitely feel a little bit of juice playing for your hometown team. It’s a cool feeling.”

—  Dan Feeney, Bears offensive lineman

The Bears traded a sixth-round draft pick to Miami in exchange for Feeney, an interior offensive lineman, on Sunday. Feeney was one of several recent additions to the roster. The Bears also claimed former Colts defensive end Khalid Kareem and former Rams defensive back Quindell Johnson. They signed quarterback Nathan Peterman to the active roster and added free agent receiver/return man Trent Taylor.

After all the moves, the roster is currently full at 53 players.

Feeney is coming here to play guard or center. The Bears are still working out the details as the Sept. 10 season opener against Green Bay nears. Lineman Teven Jenkins went on injured reserve with a leg injury, opening up a starting spot at left guard.

The Bears currently have four options for three starting spots at guard and center: Feeney, Cody Whitehair, Lucas Patrick and Nate Davis.

“I think I can play all three [positions] at a high level,” Feeney said. “So, being able to swing all three inside, I think it’s good. It helps to be versatile for this team.”

Feeney has appeared in 96 career NFL games over six seasons, making 64 starts during stints with the Chargers and Jets. He has played guard more than center over the years.

With a mullet and mustache, Feeney might have the most unique look on the Bears’ roster. He said he grew out his hair during the pandemic in 2020.

New punt returner: The Bears signed Taylor primarily to be a punt returner. He’s the seventh wide receiver on the active roster, but he’s probably unlikely to see much action on offense.

Over the past two seasons with Cincinnati, Taylor caught only eight passes for the offense, but he was a big-time contributor on special teams. With second-year pro Velus Jones Jr. continuing to struggle securing the football on punt returns, Taylor gives the Bears something they haven’t had: solid hands.

Taylor has returned 89 regular season punts in his NFL career, plus another 11 in the playoffs. He handled two punts during the Super Bowl two seasons ago. He has never returned a punt for a touchdown, but he’s rock solid holding onto the football. In his six-year NFL career, he has fumbled the football just four times in the regular season and once in the playoffs – and that’s including offense and special teams.

“I’ve had good ball skills my whole life,” Taylor said. “I kind of attribute it to playing centerfield in baseball my whole life, learning how to track down fly balls. I guess that kind of helped me be a good punt returner.”

Jones likely will remain the Bears’ kick return man. He was one of the best in the NFL last year on kickoffs. But tracking down kickoffs and tracking down punts are two different challenges.

Kareem’s tryout: Kareem didn’t know he was auditioning for the Bears. Two weeks ago, Kareem practiced against the Bears for two straight days, honing his skills during a pair of joint practices between the Bears and Colts in Westfield, Indiana.

Little did he know, the Bears were paying attention.

When the Colts cut Kareem ahead of Tuesday’s roster deadline, the Bears were quick to put a waiver claim on him. He was surprised the Colts didn’t keep him on their 53-man roster, but excited about a new opportunity.

“I just went out there to do my best every single day and play the cards however they may lay,” Kareem said.

Kareem is the fifth defensive end on the active roster, joining Yannick Ngakoue, DeMarcus Walker, Dominique Robinson and Rasheem Green.

“We had a chance to see him a couple weeks ago in Indy,” Bears assistant general manager Ian Cunningham said this week. “Just the athleticism, the motor. We watched him [on film] as well again, probably for the third time. His flexibility as a pass rusher, another Notre Dame connection to the Bears roster.”

Kareem played with Bears tight end Cole Kmet and receiver Chase Claypool at Notre Dame.

In the NFL, Kareem has appeared in 27 games, making one start. He was originally a 2020 fifth-round draft pick by Cincinnati, but the Colts signed him off the Bengals’ practice squad midway through last season. He has one career sack. He had three sacks for the Colts in preseason action this month.

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for the Shaw Local News Network. He has covered the Bears since 2020. Prior to writing about the Bears, he covered high school sports for the Northwest Herald and contributed to Friday Night Drive. Sean joined Shaw Media in 2016.