Corey Graham would rather be praised for his play on defense, but he's content with being recognized for his work on the Bears' special teams.
The fourth-year player fell out of the defensive back rotation after stints at cornerback and nickel back plus a cameo at safety. But Graham has found another way to make an impact with a team-leading 10 special teams tackles through four games. He is on pace to top Tim Shaw's franchise-record 30 of last season.
"I'm happy with my role right now,'' Graham said. "Obviously in the offseason and the preseason, you want to play on defense. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to do that. But the team is playing well. And I'm doing well on special teams. I'm just trying to do whatever I can.''
Graham could find himself up for Pro Bowl consideration at this pace. Former Bear Brendon Ayanbadejo, now with the Ravens, went to the Pro Bowl three times as a special teamer, twice while with the Bears.
I see myself more as a defensive player, so I don't see myself like Ayanbadejo as just being a special teams guy,'' Graham said. "But I am good at it. I do feel like with playing it for a whole season, I can be one of the top special teams players in the league.''
Injury update: Left tackle Chris Williams will miss his third consecutive game with a hamstring strain. It gives the Bears a chance to develop rookie J'Marcus Webb, who has been part of a rotation with Kevin Shaffer.
Quarterback Jay Cutler practiced on a limited basis Friday as he continues to recover from a concussion. Cutler will sit Sunday as Todd Collins takes over a quarterback. And safety Major Wright remains out with a hamstring strain.
For the Panthers, star receiver Steve Smith was ruled out officially with a high ankle sprain. Also out for the Panthers are tackle Jeff Otah (knee), safety Sherrod Martin (concussion), and ex-Bear Jamar Williams (neck).
Another move? Multiple league sources say the Bears have had internal discussions about the possibility of bringing back veteran defensive tackle Alfonso Boone, whom the Chargers released Wednesday.
Boone is a solid run stuffer and the Bears have missed dependable role players like him the past few seasons.
If Boone is brought back, Marcus Harrison could be on alert. Harrison is not expected to dress Sunday at Carolina.
Extra points:Tim Jennings and Zack Bowman continued to split cornerback reps during practice. Jennings started against the Giants last week. … New addition Charles Grant is unsure if he will dress against the Panthers. … Giants linebacker Jonathan Goff was fined $12,500 for two violations on the same play against the Bears. He was fined $7,500 for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Collins and an additional $5,000 for a late hit on Shaffer.
The Bears player most deserving of Pro Bowl consideration after four games may not be Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs or Julius Peppers. Corey Graham had four special teams tackles against the Giants, giving him 10 for the season, which puts him on pace to break the team record of 30 special teams tackles in a season set by linebacker Tim Shaw last year.
"We kicked to the right in that game a bunch," special teams coordinator Dave Toub said. "That's his side and a lot of times he was beating double teams. To be able to do that in the NFL is tough to do. He was beating the double teams and going down and making tackles. He's on track right now to be our best-ever point champion."
Toub gives has a system that rewards players on a points system. Players receive three points or a tackle, for example, and minus three for a missed tackle. Toub said Graham has had between 23 and 28 points in each of the first four games and is one pace to break Brendon Ayanbadejo's record for special teams points in a season.
Ayanbadejo is a three-time Pro Bowl performer. Graham has made following in his footsteps a goal for the season.
"I enjoy playing special teams but if you're doing that you're not playing defense," said Graham, who is also a backup cornerback. "It goes both ways. You always want to play defense but right now this is my role and I'm trying to make the best out of the situation. Right now, I'm a special teams guy."