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CST: Pritchett's exit is Johnson's gain


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Pritchett's exit is Johnson's gain


Bears starting fullback Bryan Johnson took his first trip to Wrigley Field on Thursday, another step toward acclimating himself to Chicago.

Earlier in the day, the Bears gave Johnson good reason to feel comfortable.

In a move anticipated since the trade for Johnson five weeks ago, the Bears released fullback Stanley Pritchett after two-and-a-half seasons with the team.

"I'm very thankful for the confidence they have shown in me, and I just want to keep improving and learning and do everything I can not to let them down," Johnson said. "I'm not going to let up at all."

Pritchett becomes the sixth starter from the Bears' 2003 opener no longer on the roster.

Johnson's quick grasp of the offense and versatility were the biggest reasons the Bears felt confident enough to drop Pritchett. But the team also liked the way Rabih Abdullah played fullback after switching from running back at the recent mini-camp and has been pleased with the progress of third-year player Jason McKie.

Abdullah could be hard to keep off the roster now as a backup fullback, potential No. 3 running back and special-teams standout. McKie also offers the Bears more special-teams possibilities than Pritchett, making the latter expendable.

By giving Pritchett two months to find a new team before training camp, the Bears believed they were doing a favor for a player whose professionalism was exemplary.

"Stanley was a big help to me the short time I was here," Johnson said. "It's part of the business, but it's still hard because these guys are your friends." …

Big Apple-bound?

There might be a Giant problem in the Bears' potential pursuit of quarterback Kurt Warner. Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi confirmed New York's interest in Warner during an interview Thursday on ESPN Radio. The opportunity to tutor Eli Manning with the Giants might offer Warner a clearer path onto the field next season than would backing up Rex Grossman.

Warner said earlier this week during a TV interview that the Bears and 49ers had expressed interest in him, but the Giants emerged after backup candidate Neil O'Donnell turned Accorsi down.

"The Giants are not a team that likes to rebuild. They want to win. It is certainly something you look at," Mark Bartelstein, Warner's Chicago-based agent, told the New York Daily News.

Barring a change of heart, the Rams expect to release Warner on June 1, but have given him permission to talk to interested teams such as the Bears. …

Talks between the Bears and the agent for Browns quarterback Tim Couch have not progressed since last week's initial overtures. Green Bay is believed still to have strong interest in Couch. …

Kerry Collins remains a blip on the Bears' radar, only for the right price, but Collins left New York because he couldn't accept the job of backing up Manning. A league source Oakland has shown the strongest interest in Collins and might be able to offer him a chance to compete for a starting spot that teams such as the Bears won't do.

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