Good afternoon. It was back to work today. Day 1 — first down stuff inside. Guys came back to work. They were very focused. A lot of energy in practice. A very efficient practice.
We focused in the second half of the season, you have a tendency to lose sight of fundamentals and techniques and we want to make sure that doesn't happen. So we went right back at it, had good individual periods, spent time with our guys before and after practice on that aspect of it. The energy was very good. They practiced fast today throughout. It was good to get out on the practice field and moving onto Baltimore.
Right now it'll be obviously Lance and Jay will be out. And then guys that didn't practice today — Mannelly didn't practice. Shea didn't practice — he got some work on the sideline prior to practice and Jeremiah [Ratliff] as well. Just got work but didn't practice.
BIGGEST CHALLENGE OF PLAYING SO MANY GUYS WITHOUT EXPERIENCE?
That's that challenge right there. You don't make excuses about it. They're here because they're expected to play. We're expected to develop players and coach them and that's what we're doing — demanding and passionate way to get them ready to play. This is going on throughout the National Football League. We're in the middle of the season and things happen. We embrace the opportunity to get them ready. I know they're excited to be a part of it.
WORRIED ABOUT A HANGOVER FROM LAST WEEK?
I don't worry about much. I try to spend time focusing on what we can get done. You can worry about hangovers after wins and hangovers after losses. Each and eveyr week it starts over. It starts with proper mind set, proper work ethic, laying a foundation and setting the tone for the week. We've got all we can handle right now getting ready for another very important football game like they all are against a team that came off of a good win. They're the defending world champions and a great coaching staff and players. We're focused in on that. We're not focused in on worrying about anything. This is our opportunity to go back to work today and that's what we did today is try to get better today.
ANY SENSE ON HOW CLOSE RATLIFF IS TO GAME ACTION?
You know, I don't. And it would be hard for me to answer that right now. I know the reputation he's had from talking to coaches who have played against him. He was one of the most difficult players to play against when he was playing at his best in the Eastern Division. Playing against Andy Reid and Andy Reid spoke, a very difficult guy to play against and other coaches I've talked to as well. We'll just have to see. He's here to get himself restarted. I think his attitude is excellent. I know the guys are trying to get him ready to go so we'll see. It's week-to-week and we'll see where we are. Hopefully he'll make a contribution before we go too much further.
HOW HAS MEL HANDLED HIS SITUATION, WITH ALL THE INJURIES?
I can tell you Mel has done an amazing job in my opinion. He has been consistent with the guys in terms of his passion, the way he's teaching. He's a positive guy. I thought was I talked to the team on Monday, I thought our defense played well enough to win under unusual circumstances because of the situation of having so many players out they gave our team a chance to win. I think that starts with Mel and our staff getting the guys ready, continuing to work with them to try to improve. Are we where we want to be be? No. We're always trying to get better. But I think he's done an outstanding job in the classroom. On the field he's excellent and I think he's done a great job being on the field and managing the team for the last couple of games on the field as well. It's very impressive to watch.
THOUGHTS ON Joe Flacco
I don't think it's an unreasonable question. I just can't answer it right now. Usually, I spend Wednesday nights looking at the offensive side of the ball. I haven't had a chance to do that. I certainly know that statistically, they're not where they want to be. They haven't been as efficient as they want to be. They haven't scored as much as they want to. But to comment on his particular play, I just don't feel today I'm in a position to do that. I know this: that he's got the ability to play at a high level, and that can come at anytime and it could certainly come on Sunday. So I've got a lot of respect for him. He's a champion. He's led his team to a championship, and you can never count a guy out regardless of performance along the way. I really can't specifically comment on it at this time.
TOUGH TO PREPARE FOR Ray Rice
I think you just, when you prepare for the team and the players that you're playing with the expectation that they're gonna give you their best. I don't think we spend a lot of time analyzing how he's doing in relation to other years. We know that if he's in there, he's got the ability to play at a very high level. We've got to do our job and make sure our fits our right, and we're tackling. The rest of it will take care of itself. We certainly want to minimize his productivity. But you've got to respect what he's done and what he's accomplished and what he's meant to that football team. So that's how we're approaching the game.
ON RATLIFF TIMETABLE
I really couldn't say. I'm not trying to hold anything back. I just really can't say. I've left it up to the trainers to let me know when things are getting close, and we're just gonna continue to work with him. He seems really positive. But to give you a specific time, I don't have that.
They're impressive. They're very impressive. They're number 1 in the league against the run. They're not that far behind against the pass. They're very very tough to run the football against. They're physical. They've got big, big people up in front. Then you get to the back end, and they're corners are as physical as we've played. They get their hands on you. They're great at technique. They're a very smart defense. They understand structure, they understand passing structure, they seem to be in the right place at the right time. They read the quarterback very well. Our quarterbacks, just watching tape, and our receivers, we spent some time on it today talking about these guys. We're really impressed. Teams have been able to run the ball, not tremendously well, but have been able to run the ball. They're one of the top scoring defenses in the league. They're only giving up around 19, 20 points a game, so this is going to be a real challenge for our offense. I think our guys are excited about playing against this defense. It's a very good defense in all three levels.
IS THERE A MORE DISRUPTIVE DUEO THAN ELVIS DUMERVIL & Terrell Suggs?
On the edges, you know – last week, we faced a disruptive group inside, not that the outside wasn't, because I thought the ends played very well last week as well. But certainly on the outside, their sack totals together are as high as any in the league, and those two guys inside are run stoppers, they're big, strong, inside guys – those three guys. As I said, it's very impressive to watch their defense, not only how physical they are, but the structure and you can see the coaching behind it, the technique and fundamentals of how their corners play and how physical they are, and the back end, how they read. It's a good group, as good as we've faced.
DO YOU KNOW IF MCCLELLIN CAN PLAY?
I don't. I know he worked with the trainers today. I know he wants to get out there. We'll see where he is tomorrow. I think that we'll know a little bit more tomorrow. If he's out on the practice field getting some work in, that will be a good sign.
HOW DO YOU ACCOUNT FOR RUN-BLOCKING BREAKDOWNS AFTER SEEING TAPE?
That's what we did. We just went through it. This happens week to week in the National Football League. When you lose a game, it's just a little bit more magnified that there's a lot of ifs involved, if we would have run inside instead of outside, if we would have been a little bit tighter – the little details that go with any aspect of the game, and the running game is inclusive of that. If you're not detailed and one guy is doing it just a little bit differently and we're not in coordination with the other guys, that's what happens. I really can't be any more specific than that.
DO YOU THINK MARTELLUS STRIKES THE RIGHT BALANCE BETWEEN FOOTBALL AND OTHER PURSUITS
I think it's a good question. We see Martellus here. We know that he's got a lot going on. He's an artist, he's doing things out in public. When he's here, he's all in. He walks in the door, he's all business. He's one, as I've said before in this room, he's one of the most detailed note takers that we have. He's constantly asking questions to try to improve himself. And out on the practice field, he works as hard as anybody. So what we see in the business side of it is a guy who is extremely focused on his job when he's in the building. He's not a guy who makes a lot of mental mistakes, and that being said, that means he's doing some work outside of here as well. And he comes in every day with energy, ready to go, and physically ready to go, which tells us that he's not hurting himself. As I said, he's got energy, he looks rested, and he's all in during the course of this long day that we spend together. That's how I interpret it. I think that what he's got going – whatever that is – is not inhibiting him from doing his job in this building.
BENNETT A BETTER FOOTBALL PLAYER BECAUSE OF HIS OTHER INTERESTS?
Ya know, I don't know if I can comment on that. I think that everybody's number one thing, beside our families, is to focus on how important we are as a single element to this entire process. And I think he understands that. As long as we don't lose sight of that, I think we can keep it all in perspective.
QB CONTROVERSY IF MCCOWN LIGHTS IT UP?
I'm not dealing in the future or hypotheticals. I think we all know that Josh has been our back-up, Jay's our quarterback. And Josh has done a tremendous job of filling in. I expect that he'll do the same on Sunday.
JEFFERY AND Marshall, BEST DUO SINCE HALL AND OATES?
I think Alshon would be a good complement in and of itself. I think we're lucky to have them both. The best part of what you're seeing in Alshon is how much Brandon has had to do with his growth. And I've said that in his room many times – from his offseason work to teaching him how to train and take care of his body. I think Brandon is one of Alshon's biggest supporters in all this and in the process. So certainly, he is a terrific receiver in and of itself. The fact that he's with Brandon I think helps our football team tremendously. Because obviously they can't focus strictly on Brandon and it allows us to be and will allow us to be a better offense as we get down the road. I don't know if I can answer it any other way. I think we're lucky to have them both. And it's a young player who's going to continue to get better. He works every day as hard as anybody on our team. I know you've heard me say that on countless occasions.
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.