As you know we started outside today, got through individual. Ran a team period and the field got very soft and muddy. Our guys were sliding around. It became a safety issue. I brought them together, they were very good about it. We had a really good period too and a good start, energized practice, it was very efficient. But the safety of the players was an issue so we gave them 20 minutes. Went and changed their shoes and we had a very good practice. A lot of work on third down. Guys moved around, ran around, there was a lot of energy. Really good first day with an extra day off. So it went well.
Earl Bennett'S ABSENCE?
The best I can do with respect to earl - he's got a family issue back home in Texas. It is day to day and we are leaving it up to him on how he wants to handle it. It's a very personal issue and I'll leave it at that.
RODGERS IS PLAYING. THOUGHTS?
It didn't surprise us. If he can play he would And we prepared for that. That's no disrespect to the job Matt Flynn has done. They put up 60 points on the board the last two weeks alone but if Aaron could play we expected him to play and we're prepared for that. We know that Mike [McCarthy] was going to get his team ready to play anyway with whoever was available. He's proven he can do that year in and year out and with Aaron back, they have a feeling they'll be at their best. And we're ready for that, excited about it.
CUTLER HAS STRUGGLED AGAINST PACKERS AND DIDN'T LIKE BEING ASKED ABOUT IT.
The question started with his record against the Packers? (affirmative) I think that's one thing that... (restarts) Every year is independent of the next. I don't know that you can define how it was, how it's going to be. We'll know more about that at 7 o'clock Sunday night and then you got a little more to work with, but this year is this year. He is in a new offense, with new coaches all around him. And I think that's probably the direction and what he was thinking - let's keep it all in perspective here. Perspective is the present and I think that's where he's coming from.
WHAT CAN WE LEARN ABOUT CUTLER IN A GAME LIKE THIS?
I think that we've learned a lot about him the last few weeks, particularly in the Cleveland game. A little adversity hit early and he was able to overcome that. He was able to find the inner strength to move forward. We've seen that during the year. We saw it early in the year. We always learn more about each other and about ourselves with each opportunity to compete and play. That's why we do it. That's part of it, is to stand on the edge and be able to make the plays. But he's just one guy. We've got a whole team around him. Obviously, the quarterback is always the focal point. That's undeniable. But it's a team game. It's going take everybody on Sunday, and I think our guys are up for the task.
ISN'T IT PART OF A QUARTERBACK'S RESPONSIBILITY TO AT SOME POINT PUT THE TEAM ON HIS BACK?
You have a number of different ways of describing that. But I respect the question. I think that the quarterback is the focal point of the football team. He's the guy who really flies the plane. It's not on autopilot. He's got to fly it in all different kinds of weather. That's what the quarterback has to do, so it's extremely important that he plays efficiently from a standpoint of all 11, 10 other guys. He's got to put those guys in position to succeed, and they've got to help him to do that as well. It's a team game, but it is a quarterback-run game. The quarterback is always going to be the focal point, and that's because he has more to do and more responsibility on his shoulders because of all that's involved in the position.
WILL ANYTHING CUTLER DOES ON SUNDAY CHANGE YOUR PERCEPTION OF HIM
"I can't speak to that. We're getting ready to play a game. We're trying to make corrections in practice and try to continue to improve ourselves on Sunday. I don't look at this moment to be a time to be talking about things that are really not relevant to the moment. I think I've been consistent with that the entire year with how I've approached those questions."
YOU'VE BEEN AROUND A LOT OF QUARTERBACKS. WHAT'S THE BIGGEST ISSUE RETURNING FROM TIME OFF?
(smiles) The last thing I want to do is speak for one of the best players in the game. I'm not going to go there. He hasn't played for a while. I know his expectations are and Mike's are that he'll play at a very high level. I don't think they have any other way of looking at it.
TURNING THE PAGE AFTER A BAD LOSS
We went through key areas and made corrections in terms of were our splits right on a certain play? Did we get to the right depth? Did we have the right drop? Did we make the right block? It's our job as coaches to make sure we do make corrections, but they were made on an individual basis and not based on the collective result of the game. Just the matter of fact things that we needed to do on an individual basis to be better, and we did that in all three phases.
WHEN GUYS CAME BACK YESTERDAY, WHAT WAS YOUR MESSAGE?
Basically, it was this: What we've done each and every week – and you've heard it up here – is that each and every game has been the most important game of the season. And because we've collectively approached it that way, this game becomes the most important game of the season. And because we've approached it that way, we hope we've developed a resiliency and a backbone to overcome the week-to-week process of some weeks having adversity throughout the week and some weeks having success. This week, we're playing the most important game of the season, but we've been saying that for 16 weeks, and hopefully that helps us have the toughness, the backbone, to go out and play what is essentially the most important game of the season.
GARZA USE THE PHRASE "MORTALITY RATE" WHEN DESCRIBING THIS UNIT, THE CONTRACT SITUATIONS, ETC. YOUR THOUGHTS?
Everybody has a sense of urgency. We've talked about it since the beginning. We want to develop a program that competes for championships, and we're in a position on Sunday to compete for a championship. Everybody on the team on an individual basis has to have some kind of a sense of urgency daily to create the edge to work on a long, hard road, which is what a season is, and one of the ways to create a sense of urgency is collectively as a team. Because no team is ever the same year in and year out, so there's a mortality issue with the team that no matter what happens, when this season is over, the team won't be the same because there will be at least one player that won't be with us. I mean, that's almost for certain. So, there will be a new team in 2014, and then there's also players that are later on in their careers and they know time is running out, and these opportunities aren't going to be out there for eight years or nine years or 10 years like they might be for a Jonathan Bostic, for instance, a first-year player. So there's a collective mortality issue here because the locker room will change no matter what, and there's an individual mortality rate for guys who are at that stage in their career where they may play next year or the year after or the year after, but they know they're not headed for a 10-year run that's going to enable them to have this kind of opportunity. So, that's where I think Roberto was going.
Back to your question, Adam, I forgot it. No, Clay. Again, people deal with these kinds of injuries. They lose elite players like Clay is and they have a way of working through that. There's nobody more skilled than Dom Capers at trying to facilitate a defense that can find a way to make up for that kind of talent.
SUCCESS RUNNING BALL AGAINST PACKERS IN NOVEMBER
I think we had good balance against them during the game. We were able to have some success throwing the ball early, which gave us some good balance. I think it had a residual effect later in the game. We were able to stay on the field, and move the football. A lot of that running was done at the end of the game. We certainly did it early, but a lot of it was done at the end of the game as well.
HOW GAME MANAGEMENT MAY CHANGE IN AN ELIMINATION CONTEST
I think that it's all relative to you go in with a certain plan in terms of parameters for certain things. That's what you do each and every week. What are the parameters for special situations that might come up. Or what are the parameters for fourth-down issues, whatever it might be, special-situation kicks. You go in with a plan to what those parameters are. Then you just work through the game and see where that takes you. You practice those things and you meet as a staff on them. Your mind has to be in a place when those times come you have to make decisions. Then you do it based on the situation and the best interest of the team.
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.