The Chicago Bears conducted their first practice of rookie minicamp this afternoon under the dome of the Walter Payton Center at Halas Hall.
It was an up-tempo practice that carried over the standard Marc Trestman and his coaching staff set last year. Rookies were shuttled from station to station at a moment's notice, participating in positional drills, 7-on-7s, 11-on-11s and special teams.
For the vast majority of this afternoon's 66 participants, today was their first taste of a live NFL practice, yet Chicago's coaching staff took no quarter on them. This was true with Trestman specifically, who kicked an entire offensive group off the field after a false start, screaming, "I want another group on offense. Everybody out."
With a rainy, dreary, overcast sky pelting rain on Lake Forest, today's warm, dry practice ended injury free after roughly two hours on the field.
Notes from Day 1
-Second-year players that saw limited action as rookies are eligible to participate in rookie minicamp their sophomore year. The following players, while not technically rookies, were present for today's practice:
-One of the team's employees told me at the start of practice that last year's first rounder, offensive lineman Kyle Long, never leaves Halas Hall. Apparently, he spends every hour he possibly can either working out, watching film or working on his game.
When the new crop of rookies showed up yesterday, both Long and fellow second-year lineman Jordan Mills were at the facility greeting the incoming class.
Roughly a half hour later, I noticed both Long and Mills on the practice field talking with offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer. When 11-on-11 drills resumed, Long and Mills stayed on the field as de facto coaches, working with the players, giving them tips and encouragement.
Long was especially vocal with the group of youngsters. After one rep, Long grabbed OT Cody Booth and demonstrated proper technique coming out of his stance. Shortly after that, Long had the ear of T Joe Long, again passing down knowledge on technique.
No one can ever accuse Long of not being a team-first player. He's a positive presence throughout the roster and the city of Chicago, and has always given priority to his teammates and the community. He comes from an NFL family and has quickly developed into one of the faces of the franchise.
It's likely the emergence of Long as an upstanding representative of the team is the reason the Bears spent nearly every draft pick this year on players with NFL bloodlines.
-Also in attendance was K Robbie Gould, who took particular interest during special teams drills.
-Trestman took particular interest in sixth-round quarterback David Fales early in the session. During positional drills, Trestman stopped Fales mid-rep to teach him the proper way to come out of his shotgun stance and into a rollout.
Fales had a shaky start to the day and was inconsistent for about the first hour of practice. He settled down later and delivered some accurate balls in 11-on-11 drills, yet his lack of arm strength is very noticeable. He'll need to show great anticipation and accuracy throughout OTAs and training camp if he's going to supplant Jordan Palmer as the club's backup QB, because no one is going to accuse of him of having a cannon.
-On the other end of the spectrum, Arkansas State quarterback Adam Kennedy is not an NFL quarterback. His passes were wobbly and off-target all day. Unless Fales or Johnson gets hurt this weekend, it's extremely unlikely Kennedy will earn an invite to training camp.
-The club's linebackers coach in 2013, Tim Tibesar, was a quiet coach who went virtually unnoticed during practice. The same can't be said for his replacement, Reggie Herring, who is a loud, demanding coach. Herring could be heard throughout the dome barking orders to his position group.
It remains to be seen whether Herring's active, aggressive approach will have a positive effect on the club's linebackers but it's worth noting the difference in on-field demeanor.
-Under both Rod Marinelli and Mike Phair, the Bears defensive linemen worked actively in high-tempo bag drills. Practices were about developing speed in combination with technique.
Under new defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni, the bags were left on the sidelines for most the session. His focus is technique, with drills run at a slower pace.
Hand usage was of at the top of Pasqualoni's list today. He put his defensive linemen through numerous drills that focused on hands and arms that worked actively to disengage blockers.
-As a pass catcher, fourth-round running back Ka'Deem Carey looked very good. He was fluid out of the backfield and showed solid hands. After the catch, he showed a burst that belied his unimpressive 4.70 40-yard dash at the combine.
After one snap, Trestman searched out Carey to give him a pat on the back. A few snaps later, Trestman again approached Carey and told him, "That's how you do it."
Make no mistake, Trestman is a Ka'Deem Carey fan.
-First-round CB Kyle Fuller worked with the first-team defense alongside Hurst. During team drills, the defense ran mostly a base zone coverage, with Fuller sitting in the underneath zone. He didn't make any standout plays yet he was easily the quickest, fastest and most fluid secondary player during positional drills.
In other words, his athleticism stood out like a first-round selection.
-Second-round DT Ego Ferguson is large, larger than I expected. He towers over third-round DT Will Sutton, who is just as "undersized" as he was billed to be. The duo worked side-by-side during 11-on-11 drills for every rep.
Sutton was particularly impressive, showing very good quickness out of his stance. The players did not have pads on, so it's tough to accurately evaluate linemen but Sutton showed very well in his get off.
At one point, a swing pass was dropped and Sutton, who was following the ball after disengaging from his blocker, scooped it up and ran it back for a touchdown. It was a play that showed off the big man's athleticism.
Sutton also showed quick feet and hands during positional drills. On the other hand, Ferguson struggled a bit. At one point, Pasqualoni stopped an agility drill to break down in detail the technique with which Ferguson was struggling.
Ferguson is a work in progress. He's big and powerful but he's raw and, if one practice is any indication, it might take him a while to fully reach his potential.
-The Bears spent a sixth-round pick on punter Pat O'Donnell, a selection met with skepticism by a lot of fans and analysts. If those critics had seen him punt today, they'd all be apologizing.
O'Donnell's leg is as strong as advertised, if not stronger. At one point during special teams drills, he booted roughly 10 balls in a row into the rafters of the Walter Payton Center. To give a better idea of how impressive that is, in three seasons covering Adam Podlesh, I can only remember a handful of times he punted a ball into the rafters.
O'Donnell did it 10 times in a row during one ST drill. It was very impressive.
Cody Booth worked exclusively at left tackle with the second team. A tight end up until his senior year, Booth did not see any reps at the position. He also has long-snapping experience yet Brandon Hartson served that role on special teams.
-Undrafted free agent linebacker Christian Jones worked at SAM linebacker with the first team. For Florida State, he played both outside linebacker positions and defensive end, yet he said there's no plan for him to rush the passer off the edge. The team wants him to focus on just position for the time being.
Jones looked fluid and confident in coverage during 7-on-7 drills, although he needs to improve his anticipation.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his fourth 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.