Bears

Former Bears QB Mark Sanchez gets four-game suspension for PED violation

The NFL suspended Mark Sanchez, who spent last season as the Bears’ third-string quarterback, for four games for violating its policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

Sanchez, who is a free agent, said in a statement that he tested positive for a substance on the NFL’s banned list.

‘‘I was blindsided by the news, and I want to say unequivocally that I never cheated or attempted to gain a competitive advantage by using a banned performance-enhancing substance,’’ he wrote. ‘‘During the past nine years as an NFL player, I have been subject to 73 drug tests — an average of over eight tests per season — and all but one have been clean.

‘‘I have taken the same regimen of supplements for the past five years without any issues. The timing and results of my tests establish circumstances of unknowing supplement contamination, not the use of performance-enhancing substances.’’

Bears quarterback Mark Sanchez didn't play during the regular season last year. (AP)

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Sanchez was lauded for his mentorship of rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky last season but never played a regular-season down. The Bears signed veterans Chase Daniel and Tyler Bray this offseason to back up Trubisky, letting Sanchez leave after he became a free agent.

Sanchez hasn’t landed a job yet, though he briefly was linked to the Seahawks late last month.

The No. 5 overall pick in the 2009 draft, Sanchez last started a game in 2015, when he played for the Eagles. He has thrown only 18 passes since — all for the Cowboys in 2016.

Bears sign receiver Fowler

Two days after losing Cam Meredith to the Saints, the Bears added former Broncos receiver Bennie Fowler to their rebuilt corps.

The 6-1, 217-pound Fowler caught a career-high 29 passes for 350 yards and three touchdowns last season, his last of four with the Broncos. He signed with the Broncos as an undrafted free agent in 2014.

Fowler started four games last season after starting only once in his career to that point. He had 11 catches for 145 yards in 2016 and 16 catches for 203 yards in 2015.

Training camp opens July 20

Bears fans will get their first look at the Matt Nagy-coached team July 20, the first day of training-camp practice at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais.

The Bears will report to camp July 19 and are scheduled to hold an open-to-the-public practice the next day, the team said.

Camp will start one week earlier this year than in 2017 because the Bears are playing an extra preseason game, the Hall of Fame exhibition against the Ravens on Aug. 2 in Canton, Ohio.

The Bears will announce future training-camp practice dates later. Last year, the team began requiring fans to download free tickets to attend.

After starting their offseason program last week, the Bears will hold a three-day voluntary veteran minicamp next week at Halas Hall. That will be the first chance for the team to practice together, albeit with league-mandated restrictions.

They’ll present the Brian Piccolo Award, given to one rookie and one veteran, on April 24. After the NFL Draft, which runs April 26-28, the Bears will hold a rookie minicamp May 11-13, followed by three weeks of organized team activities. Their mandatory minicamp runs June 5-7.