Bears’ TE depth tested with Dion Sims still sidelined by illness

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Bears tight end Adam Shaheen blocks against the Panthers. (AP)

The Bears’ tight end room has a rule: if a player is absent, you don’t sit in their seat. If they’re gone for a while, you move their seat to the side of the room so the others can stretch out.

The last week has featured plenty of furniture arranging.

“We’ve been playing a little musical chairs,” tight end Daniel Brown said.

Zach Miller was lost for the season Oct. 21, when he dislocated his left knee. Dion Sims hasn’t practiced in more than a week with what the Bears are calling an illness. He has participated in some of the meetings.

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The Bears might only have their third, fourth and fifth tight ends available Sunday against the Packers. Brown would be the senior man of the group — “It falls on my shoulders to be the calm during the storm,” the third-year player said — with rookie Adam Shaheen and second-year player Ben Braunecker, who was promoted from the practice squad Tuesday, behind him.

Brown has one catch for nine yards this season, and Shaheen has one catch for a two-yard touchdown. Braunecker hasn’t been on the active roster, but caught four passes in 13 games last season.

Coach John Fox refused to give specifics about Sims, who has nine catches and three drops on 18 targets. Since signing a three-year, $18 million deal in March, he has 113 receiving yards and a touchdown.

“We have a lot of options,” Fox said Thursday. “It’s common knowledge that we brought up Ben. I think people understand that we have Adam and we have Daniel Brown. We’ve lined up tackles at that position before. Those are all options that really everybody uses and we could look at that ourselves — just in case.”

Brown, who began his career as a receiver, spent the offseason improving his run-blocking.

“I’d like to think it’s night and day from last year,” he said. “Just footwork. A lot of it’s technique. Good footwork, good hand placement, good hands.”

Shaheen, meanwhile, feels more comfortable than he has since being drafted in the second round out of Division II Ashland. The Bears have been pleased with his improved blocking.

“Between me and Dan, we’re expected to step up,” Braunecker said. “As soon as Zach went out — and you saw the replay; everyone knew he was done, unfortunately — since then, we knew it was going to be go time for us,” he said. “Really just trying to be on top of it this week.”

The Bears saw a familiar face in their tight end room Wednesday — but on a screen. Miller FaceTimed from his hospital bed.

“It seemed like he was in good spirits,” Shaheen said. “Can’t wait for him to get out of the hospital and get back to his family at home.

“I still owe him a rookie dinner. Whenever he’s good enough, I’m going to have to take him out.”

Follow me on Twitter@patrickfinley.

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com

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