Bears reserve DB Payne out for season with torn ACL

Updated: October 1, 2007, 10:28 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

The rash of injuries that left the Chicago Bears without a single starter in their secondary during Sunday's loss to the Detroit Lions has now claimed one of the ailing unit's top reserves as well.

Rookie safety Kevin Payne, who started his first regular-season game on Sunday but was forced from the contest in the second quarter, has been placed on the injured reserve list with a broken right arm. The move ends Payne's season after only three appearances. He joins veteran Mike Brown, who opened the year as the starting free safety, on injured reserve.

Brown suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the season opener.

Chicago may promote rookie safety Josh Gattis from the practice squad but could also consider going outside the organization to sign a free agent.

Payne, 23, is a promising young player who figures prominently into the Bears' plans for the future. A fifth-round draft choice from Louisiana-Monroe and the 167th player chosen overall, Payne had two tackles in the three games in which he played.

The Bears feel that Payne, who signed a four-year, $1.815 million contract this spring, possesses prototype safety skills, and that he will be a starter in the future. The plan was for Payne to primarily contribute this season on special teams before challenging for significant playing time from scrimmage, but his role was increased as injuries mounted.

In his two college seasons at safety, Payne started in 20 of 24 appearances and had 185 tackles, seven tackles for losses, six interceptions, four passes defensed, one sack, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Payne began his career as a tailback and actually played there and as a slot receiver his first two college seasons. He rushed for 1,234 yards and eight touchdowns and had 54 catches for 607 yards and four touchdowns, appearing in 22 games on offense.

Payne has excellent physical dimensions (6 feet, 220 pounds) for the safety spot and good flexibility. At the combine workouts, he was clocked at just 4.60 in the 40-yard dash but then ran in the high 4.4s during campus auditions.

The Bears play at Green Bay next Sunday and hope that some of their starting secondary players are back for the contest against the pass-oriented Packers offense. The status of cornerbacks Charles Tillman (ankle) and Nathan Vasher (groin) and strong safety Adam Archuleta (hand) won't be known until later this week.

Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.

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