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Bears considered change after Marc Mariani’s struggles

Consecutive muffed punts by returner Marc Mariani in the first quarter against the Vikings nearly led to a change.

“Consideration? Yeah,” special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers said Thursday after practice at Halas Hall. “We never got to that. We have several guys on our team that we feel like can do a good job in that area.”

One option would have been veteran receiver Eddie Royal, but he injured his left knee in the second quarter before the Vikings punted again.

“Sometimes it’s a matter of taking a rep off,” Rodgers said. “A lot of people talk about quarterbacks, young quarterbacks, ‘Hey, let’s sit there and watch a series.’ You don’t try to mess with your returner all that much.”

Rodgers still has confidence in Mariani, who continued to handle kickoffs against the Vikings despite his issues with punts. Rodgers cited the wind at Soldier Field and the differences in handling a left-footed punter as reasons for his struggles.

“A little bit of traffic on the first one,” Rodgers said. “The second one, I think it just moved on him late.”

This season, Mariani has returned 13 punts for 98 yards and 12 kickoffs for 310 yards. According to Pro Football Reference, Mariani fumbled three times on 87 total returns in 2010 and once on 78 in 2011 with the Titans.

“Marc is a very confident fielder of the ball,” Rodgers said. “His history has been very good in terms of a ball security. … We have a lot of confidence in Marc going forward.”

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Email: ajahns@suntimes.com