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Offseason upgrades promising for Bears’ special teams

Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson returned a kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown against the Bears in Week 2 last year at Soldier Field — one of three kick return touchdowns in the first seven games of last season. (AP)

On paper, the big winner of the offseason so far might be Jeff Rodgers.

The Bears’ special teams coordinator struggled through a challenging first season in Chicago in 2015. But the Bears made special teams an emphasis in the offseason. They re-signed their top four special-teams tacklers from last season — Sherrick McManis, Joshua Bellamy, Chris Prosinski and Sam Acho, plus running back Jacquizz Rodgers, who was an effective special-teams player before he suffered a season-ending broken right arm in Week 5.

They signed veteran safety Omar Bolden in free agency. And they added potential upgrades in the draft — particularly linebacker Nick Kwiatkowski, safeties Deon Bush and DeAndre Houston-Carson and wide receiver Daniel Braverman.

“It will definitely help,” coach John Fox said Sunday. “We needed to improve our team. I thought our special teams improved quite a bit as the season sent on. It couldn’t have started much more miserably. We’ll continue to improve.”

Rodgers didn’t want to denigrate the players from last year, but couldn’t help but acknowledge the upgrades. But just being in Year 2 of the program is an upgrade in itself.

“I feel like we’re at a better starting point,” Rodgers said. “Some of the skill positions, we’re a little more athletic, a little faster. A lot of things can happen between now and [Week 1]. But we feel good about where we’re at. We’ll see how far we can go with that.”

Line of the day

Rookie tight end Ben Braunecker, an undrafted free agent from Harvard, still aspires to become a doctor, with an emphasis on infectious diseases. He was asked if he had any advice for Olympians in Rio de Janeiro on dealing with the threat of the Zika virus?

“Don’t get pregnant,” he said, eliciting a collective guffaw from reporters at Halas Hall.

Deal of no deal?

First-round pick Leonard Floyd, who has yet to agree to his rookie contract, said that he’s not concerned.

“I don’t get into it,” he said. “I just let my agent deal with it and just play football.”