A lot has changed since this time last year. Heading into training camp in 2012, the Chicago Bears were following the familiar schedule of former head coach Lovie Smith. With Smith gone, new head coach Marc Trestman has initiated a number of changes to the training camp schedule.
Under Smith, veteran players routinely received full or partial days off throughout camp. Seemingly every practice, at least one fully healthy veteran was standing on the sidelines watching his teammates go through the paces. Under Trestman, that isn't likely to continue.
"We've got a new system of football going in on two sides, and arguably even three, with a new staff," Trestman said this afternoon in Bourbonnais. "We've got 14 days until the first preseason game. It used to be that we had 50 practices, approximately 50 practices that went on before our first preseason game. You might have about 27 two-a-days. It's totally different now. We can't afford to do a lot more than just practice football, meet on football and do football because there's not a lot of time, like there has been. We're going to try to keep it as consistent as we can. Time is of the essence. We've got a lot of work to do. That doesn't mean we can't change but we have a practice plan."
Although the new CBA limits the amount of time the Bears can practice during camp, Trestman still believes in the new restrictions.
"We've done that over the years and give them a break because players were broken down in the past," said Trestman. "Literally broken down with two padded practices a day over X period of time. They'd come in great shape and then they'd wind up two weeks later they're broken down. Or one week later, you're starting practice with the seconds because you've got hamstrings with the firsts."
Beyond making the veterans work as hard as the rookies, Trestman has also changed the start times of every practice. Under Smith, afternoon practices were the norm. With Trestman, the vast majority of Bourbonnais practice will start at 9 a.m. in the morning.
And as always with Trestman, the time shift is all about long-term preparation.
"I have experience over the years with all kinds of practices and all different times and places," Trestman said. "I just felt that with our 12 o'clock [game-day] starting time, we want to build a habit. We know that players like an itinerary. They like to know where they're supposed to be and what they're supposed to do and on Sunday in September we've got a 12 o'clock game. We've go to get up early and get ourselves and our body's functions moving in the right direction, so we can be ready to come out of the gate at 12 o'clock and be ready to play and [the schedule] allows them to do that.
"There's also the residual effect of having more time off their feet. But we want to get up and get our work done and this is how we're going to operate during the season. We're going to start at 7:30 with the team. So they've got to be up and ready to go. We've got some guys traveling longer distances than others and they get used to waking up early and getting their systems functioning in a way that they'll be ready to work and practice at those times."
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his third season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.