The first practice of Chicago Bears training camp finished a few hours ago. It was a spirited affair, with a full house of raucous fans cheering on the team's every move. On the field, it was a sloppy session with a lot of mistakes being made from every position. Overall, the footing was bad, with players slipping left and right.
Off the field, the big news came mid-practice, with the Bears announcing they have acquired defensive tackle Brian Price from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for a seventh-round draft pick. Price is a quality 3-technique lineman whose recent family tragedy – he lost his sister in May due to a hit-and-run accident – has left him emotionally unstable.
GM Phil Emery said after practice that he felt Price needed a change of scenery. If the third-year player can get his head on straight, he'll easily earn the backup under tackle role.
The Bears came out of their first practice unscathed. The only player not participating on the field was Johnny Knox, who placed on the active/PUP list yesterday. He'll likely sit out all of 2012 as he recovers from spinal surgery.
News and notes from Day 1
-We'll start off with WR Devin Hester. As usual, he looked phenomenal on the field today. He was beating defenders easily during 1-on-1 drills – he repeatedly made CB Tim Jennings look foolish – while also standing out during the team portions of the session. He did drop a pass during 11-on-11s but that's to be expected.
This is a repeat from last season's training camp, and all the camps before. There is not a player in this league that looks better in shorts and a jersey than Devin Hester. It's a testament to his amazing natural talent. But it also raises questions about why he's never been able to carry that over to the game field.
Under new offensive coordinator Mike Tice, there's hope Hester can reach his potential but I'll wait until I see it before proclaiming him a stud wideout.
-J'Marcus Webb split reps at left tackle with Chris Williams during walkthroughs. Yet during 11-on-11s, Webb took the vast majority of snaps with the first team, with Williams playing on the second squad. That was until Webb false started on one play. Tice immediately threw Webb off the field and replaced him with Williams, who himself false started later in the practice. It appears Webb is the frontrunner but Tice said after practice that neither player is in the lead.
"No, it's not [Webb's] job to lose. He happened to be in there first today because of the fact that he finished the season as a starter. It's going to be a dogfight for those two guys. I'm not going to put up with any crap as far as turning guys free and not protecting the quarterback. I just told you I have too many athletes to not be able to throw the football explosively, and no, it's not his job to lose. He might think so, but if he thinks so, he's wrong.
"There's going to be a competition between he and Chris, and we'll see how that turns out. We're going to keep the heat on both of them, and we want to see when we get in pads who's going to block our good pass rushers. I know they can both run block, but we're not going to go out there and run the ball 50 times a game, so you've got to be able to protect. If they can't protect, they can't play for us."
-Edwin Williams is playing center with the twos. That may not last long. He fumbled two snaps today, one with Josh McCown and the other with Jason Campbell. It's always hard to tell who is at fault with a botched snap but Tice was not happy about it afterward.
-QB Matt Blanchard did not look good today. During positional drills, his accuracy was way off. I was very impressed with Blanchard during OTAs and veteran minicamp. He's better than he showed today and will need to step up his game if he's going to beat out McCown for the third QB position.
-WR Alshon Jeffery was getting a lot of love from receivers coach Darryl Drake during positional drills. Yet Jeffery is still running poor routes. He has a tendency to round out his cuts, which will do him no good on game days. He also fumbled a ball. Beyond that though, he showed very good hands and is currently working as the team's No. 4 wideout.
-WR Brandon Marshall dropped two straight passes during 1-on-1 drills. He's an elite receiver but he does drop passes. Be ready for that reality on game day.
-RB Kahlil Bell had one fumble today. During his two starts late last season, he had three fumbles. Tice was steamed about it afterward. If Bell continues to put the ball on the ground, he'll lose his roster spot to Armando Allen.
-First-round rookie DE Shea McClellin was working with the third team today. Chauncey Davis and Corey Wootton took reps with the twos. It appears the coaching staff is going to force McClellin to work his way up the roster.
-WR Brittan Golden looked very good in 1-on-1 drills and made an outstanding leaping catch with a defender draped all over him. When I asked Drake if any receivers down on the depth chart have stood out, the first name that came out of his mouth was Golden. We'll be keeping a close eye on him as camp rolls on.
-Rookie CB Greg McCoy was outstanding in 1-on-1s. Those drills are weighted toward the receiver, yet McCoy got a hand on nearly every pass thrown his way. He was covering the backups, so we shouldn't get too excited, but his dominance shows promise.
-Poor Dane Sanzenbacher. Last year's feel-good story obviously realizes his chances of making the roster this season are slim to none. He looks flat out disinterested on the field.
-TE Matt Spaeth was being used in numerous roles today, one of which was as an extra edge blocker. On a couple of occasions, Tice lined up Spaeth next to the left tackle, with the two double-teaming Julius Peppers. Expect to see a lot more of that this season.
-CB Charles Tillman again dominated WR Brandon Marshall in 1-on-1s, as he did throughout OTAs and minicamp. Yet during the team portions of practice, Tillman was beaten repeatedly. On two occasions, he had to do pushups on the field for allowing his receiver to get open.
-CB Jonathan Wilhite, working with the second team, made a number of nice pass breakups during 11-on-11s. He's fighting for a roster spot and did himself well today.
-Finally, it was great to see Matt Forte back on the field. He looks like he's in the best shape of his life and demonstrated blazing speed. He's poised for a monstrous season.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.