Chicago Bears wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher (18), right, catches a ball during NFL football training camp at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Ill., Sunday, July 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh) — Nam Y. Huh
In preparation for Bears training camp, Pro Football Weekly looks back at eight players who were stars during camp, but their overall careers didn’t quite ignite as they had hoped.
TE Fendi Onobun
NFL Tenure: Three seasons (one season on Bears practice squad)
Career Stats: 2 receptions for 15 yards (4 games)
Onobun was the apple in some talent evaluators’ eye over the course of his career. His lanky frame and raw talent were among the reasons why the 6-foot-6 former basketball player was drafted in 2010 by the Rams despite never playing football in high school or at Arizona.
Released just after one year in St. Louis, Onobun jumped the NFL puddle several times before landing in Chicago in January 2013. The Bears were looking for a legitimate pass-catching option at the tight end position. Martellus Bennett’s arrival seemed to fill the void, but the 4.45 40-yard-dash and the 37.5-inch vertical Onobun exhibited during his Pro Day in 2010 was impressive enough for the Bears to give him a try.
After a solid camp, Onobun spent of all 2013 season on the practice squad but he was released following the final minicamp practice in 2014. Drops seemed to be a chronic issue, and the Bears had seen enough.
WR Dane Sanzenbacher
NFL Tenure: Four seasons (two with Bears)
Career Stats: 43 receptions, 449 yards, 3 touchdowns
The Bears love their undersized but productive pass catchers – Tom Waddle and Johnny Knox come to mind – and Dane Sanzenbacher attempted to be that next one when he arrived as a highly sought-after, undrafted free agent from Ohio State in 2011.
Sanzenbacher endeared himself to the fans and Jay Cutler rather quickly with an impressive 10 catches for 107 yards in his first preseason, earning himself a roster spot out of camp. The 5-foot-11, shifty route runner displayed nice production his rookie season to the tune of 27 catches and three touchdowns while appearing in 16 games in 2011.
The honeymoon wouldn’t carry over into the following season, however. Active for just five games, he was released midseason. Sanzenbacher caught on with the Bengals, where he played through 2014, totaling 15 catches from 2013-14.
WR Joe Anderson
NFL Tenure: Two seasons
Career Stats: Five returns for 82 yards (9 games)
A product of Texas Southern, the 6-foot-1 undrafted free agent caught on with the Bears for camp in 2012. He wasn’t expected to push for extensive playing time with Brandon Marshall and that year’s second-round pick, Alshon Jeffery, entrenched at Nos. 1 and 2, respectively.
Earl Bennett was still a Jay Cutler favorite also, so targets would be hard to come by. Anderson turned in seven receptions for 48 yards and a touchdown, but Sanzenbacher stole the spotlight for one of the final receiver spots out of camp. Anderson did return for the final three games in the regular season, but in a special teams role.
2013 fared better for Anderson, making the final roster out of camp after spending time as the No. 4 wideout and appearing in six games, but he was waived after suffering some injuries. He’d re-surface with Philadelphia and the Canadian Football League briefly before landing a contract with the Jets in 2015.
Anderson’s standing outside the Texans’ NRG Stadium with a sign displaying “Will Run Routes 4 Food” caught fire on Twitter prior to signing, but Anderson was waived by the Jets shortly following this past draft. Anderson is currently a free agent.
WR Andy Fantuz
NFL Tenure: 2011 preseason
Career Stats: Two receptions for 19 yards (Four preseason games)
About once every offseason, one or two players from the CFL pop up on NFL team’s radars, and Fantuz’s 6-foot-4 frame, 87 catches and league-leading 1,380 yards for the Saskatchewan Roughriders the previous season was hard to miss. Fantuz worked out for a couple teams, but the Bears succeeded in securing him to a reserves contract for the 2011 season.
Buzz was aplenty heading into camp, but Fantuz struggled to receive snaps in practices and games. In four preseason games, the former Canadian star had two grabs for 19 yards. He returned to the CFL shortly after being cut.
RB Michael Ford
NFL Tenure: Three seasons (One with Bears)
Career stats: Five returns for 37 yards in 12 games (special teams)
An undrafted product out of LSU, Ford possessed blazing speed and ideal return skills evidenced by his 27.5-yard average on kickoffs his junior and final season.
In the 2013 preseason, his 149 rushing yards and two touchdowns plus a 100-yard kickoff return impressed enough that he made the team as the Bears’ third back behind Matt Forte and Michael Bush, as well as a special teams contributor. During the season, Ford returned five kicks for 37 yards. Ford did enough to stick around for most of the following preseason, but was cut in August 2014.
S Al Afalava
NFL Tenure: Three seasons (one with Bears)
Career Stats: 73 combined tackles, eight passes defensed, two sacks, one interception (29 games)
Afalava came to Chicago as the Bears’ 2009 sixth-round pick – yet another attempt to solve the team’s perpetual revolving door at the safety position under then-head coach Lovie Smith.
Afalava flashed early in training camp with five tackles in the preseason opener against the Bills. A hamstring injury to Danieal Manning and Afalava’s versatility in the defensive backfield opened the door for the rookie to take a starting role early on. He held it for 13 games, finishing seventh on the team in tackles.
Due to inconsistencies on the field, Afalava became a victim to roster cuts the following offseason. Afalava later found work with the Colts in 2010 and the Titans in 2012
CB Isaiah Frey
NFL Tenure: Three seasons (two full seasons with the Bears)
Career Stats: 74 tackles, two passes defensed, two forced fumbles (27 games)
A 2012 sixth-round draft pick, Frey joined a roster that had a veteran cornerback group headlined by Charles Tillman, Kelvin Hayden and Tim Jennings. After an impressive preseason, Frey spent all of 2012 on the practice squad, but was likely in-line for a roster spot the following year with the veteran corps nearing the end of their current contracts.
In 2013, slot cornerback Hayden suffered a season-ending injury with a torn hamstring, so Frey’s path to a starting role was clear. Appearing in all 16 games and starting six, Frey produced 47 tackles and one pass defensed.
Frey’s up-and-down performance in 2013 put him on the roster bubble heading into following training camp. A hamstring injury forced the former Nevada product to miss the first three preseason games, and he was cut the week he returned.
Just 24 days later, Frey returned to Halas Hall before finding himself re-joining former coach Lovie Smith in Tampa Bay for eight games. Frey hasn’t seen NFL regular season action since 2014 and, has bounced between the Steelers and most recently the Cowboys.