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Bears’ Bryce Callahan hopes nickelback spot is a slam dunk

Bryce Callahan could start at nickelback for the Bears this year. (Getty Images)

BOURBONNAIS — If the Bears ever hold a dunk contest, the favorite wouldn’t be Alshon Jeffery, Jay Cutler or Kevin White. It’d be a nickelback listed, perhaps generously, at 5-9.

“On the basketball court, he can do just about anything as far as dunking-wise,” Bears safety Adrian Amos said of Bryce Callahan. “I’ve seen him throw it off the backboard and jump off the vertical (free throw line) and slam it.”

He’d be Muggsy Bogues, or the next generation version.

“He’d probably do things people can’t do,” Amos said. “Just like Nate Robinson, he’s going to win the dunk contest regardless.”

At his Rice pro day last year — before he was ignored in the NFL Draft — Callahan posted a vertical leap of 43 inches. Since 2010, only five players invited to the NFL Scouting Combine have done better.

He’s athletic enough, then, to start at slot corner.

“He’s got natural instincts to cover,” coach John Fox said Sunday, after the Bears’ fourth training camp practice at Olivet Nazarene University. “He might be small in height but he’s got an outstanding vertical, good ball skills.”

He’s getting a long look at nickelback in camp, one year removed from being an afterthought.

“Coming in last year I was an undrafted free agent, bottom of the list and everything,” he said. “During camp I really didn’t know where I stood. Being able to play as much as I did as a free agent, and a rookie, at a new spot I was learning last year meant a lot.”

He appeared in at least 59 percent of the Bears’ defensive snaps five times last year, starting in Week 8. In a small sample size — Callahan was limited by a quad injury last year — he could settle a position that’s been open since the Bears cut Tim Jennings after failing to convert him to slot corner last August.

The 194-pound Callahan, who added 10 pounds this offseason, spent the offseason working on his footwork. He had work to do, having never played the slot until joining the NFL.

He knows its importance in a pass-first league, especially because the Bears seem set with Tracy Porter and Kyle Fuller on the outside.

“It’s just my style of play,” he said. “I’m a short quick little rascally dude. I feel like I fit the nickel position pretty well.”