CLEVELAND -- Santonio Holmes wasn't certain how to respond. He was standing in the visitor's locker room at FirstEnergy Stadium late Thursday night after delivering a breakout first half during the Bears' 33-13 exhibition loss to the Browns.
Holmes scored the Bears' only touchdown, a 32-yard reception that featured a cyclone spin and 24 yards after the catch. Not long after, he returned a punt 30 yards.
So here came a reporter's question asking whether Holmes needed those big plays for his own psyche, to prove to himself and the Bears' decision-makers that even at 30, and in only his second week with the team, he still could make a significant impact.
"That's a very open-ended question," he said. "I really felt in my heart I could continue playing. And given this opportunity to play again, I just truly tried to take advantage of it."
With the NFL's cut deadline looming, Holmes' job now seems safe. The Bears need to have their roster down to 53 players by 3 p.m. Saturday. But they also need receiving depth behind Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. And Thursday's exhibition showed a former Super Bowl MVP probably still has enough speed and savvy to help, particularly within a receiving corps that was far from spectacular in August.
At halftime Thursday, Holmes came out of his pads with the coaching staff apparently having seen enough. Coach Marc Trestman took note of Holmes' burst. Rookie quarterback David Fales sensed Holmes' steadiness.
"You could see the experience," Fales said. "Just having him out there, the kind of calm he brought and reassurance he brought to the entire huddle, you could tell."
On top of that, Holmes' willingness to be involved on special teams and his one big punt return put him in the mix to be a potential opening day answer.
"I just know as a punt returner and a veteran after doing it for so long, you get good blocking from the guys up front first and foremost," Holmes said. "Then you hit the hole fast and get what you can get."
He returned 60 punts for the Steelers in 2006 and '08 but only six since then, none in the last three seasons.
Said Trestman: "We're going to take a good hard look at our team as we put the 53(-man roster) and the 46(-man game day plan) together and see what he can do best to help us win in Game 1.
"If he's going to be with us, that's what we're looking at."
Overall, Trestman and general manager Phil Emery must come to an agreement on how to align the receiver depth chart. Behind Marshall and Jeffery, should they keep three more receivers or four? Did Chris Williams or Josh Bellamy flash enough to deserve a spot? And how will the Bears handle Marquess Wilson, who had surgery on his fractured clavicle Aug. 5, creating another roster dilemma with his iffy recovery timetable?
The numbers games at other positions also will affect answers to those questions.
Holmes, however, seized his moments Thursday. And when asked if he would feel any unfamiliar anxiety with this weekend's cut deadline looming, he shrugged.
"I'll still don't think I'm going to be concerned," he said. "I'll leave it up to the coaches. If they want me here, I'll be here. If not, hopefully I'll land a job somewhere else."
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