PROGRESS ON OFFENSE
As an overall offense I feel like the knowledge of what we're trying to get done is getting greater and greater. That's what's big in the offseason. We're in shorts. We don't have full pads on, the full blocking, the full tackling, all the things that make football football, can't happen in these periods. The idea is to set yourself up with the knowledge to run the plays, to pick up the blitzes, to throw to the right guy, in these periods, the OTAs and minicamp. If you get that done, then you've accomplished something because now you can go into training camp and play full speed.
Jimmy Clausen has come in and absorbed a lot of the offense in a short period of time. I wouldn't say that he has it mastered by any means at this point. He has a long way to go in that fashion. For him, it's basically taking a lot of our plays and learning Spanish because it's a new terminology to run plays that he knows from different teams. As he continues to translate what our words mean by pictures, and then putting them together, the quick he'll learn. He's done a good job. He's in a tough position to have it all mastered. He missed a lot of the introductory meetings that we had prior to OTAs.
ARM STRENGTH COMING OFF SURGERY
If you didn't tell me he didn't have surgery, I wouldn't know. He appears to be throwing the ball with enough velocity to complete passes.
CONTINUITY FOR CUTLER
The beauty of continuity in football is learning the system and understanding where the problem lies on each play and each down and distance, and having the answer for that. The more you know about the play, the more you know about the offense, the more problem-solving you can do as opposed to just running the play. So when you're new, we talked about this a lot last year, when you're in a new program, things come up during the game that make a big difference in the game but seem like such a small thing. Whether it's not seeing a blitz or knowing how to new MIKE it or whether a coverage read, those kinds of things, and that's where Jay has grown through his study. Just understanding where we're trying to go with the offense and him being the field general, not us.
THE MEETINGS WITH QUARTERBACKS, HOW MUCH GIVE AND TAKE IS THERE?
Within the system there are answers and so what we're trying to do is best relate those answers to Jay. And then as Jay absorbs them, he then takes it to we might be talking 101 answers. So you're in your freshman year class and you're taking the 101 course. And then as we move on he might take it to 201 and be able to ready the play a little bit more in depth. And that's where we're getting to with a lot of our football right now.
HOW IS THE PROGRESSION COMING WITH THE NO. 3 AND NO. 4 RECEIVERS?
Very good. And like I said, when a guy knows he can catch a ball and not get hit, it's different from -- or play football and not get hit -- it's way different. What we're doing right now is learning football, learning plays and so when the whole thing comes down to full-go football we'll really know is their growth and knowledge being gained? Yes. But it's hard to tell at this point.
Jordan Mills WASN'T PRACTICING TODAY
Jordan was coming off of last season, the Green Bay game with his foot. He had practiced enough and done enough that there was no reason to keep pressing him on.
WITH MILLS AND SLAUSON OUT, WHAT HAVE YOU SEEN OUT OF THE BACKUP O-LINEMEN?
It's a great opportunity for them. It gives the backups all the chances to play against guys they don't play against. That's what you see in these camps is you see the same guys playing against the same guys all the time and then all the sudden a backup has to play against a One, against what our defense would consider a One, or vice versa, and so they get a new technique, they get a new style of play that they have to conquer. And it really helps them grow more than we see anything. It helps them grow as a football player because they're not going against the same old move all day.
WITH ALSHON BEING LESS OF A BIG NAME, HAS THAT CHANGED HOW YOU PLAN TO USE HIM?
When we go into a football game we make every effort to call plays to spread the football around. In no way do we want to go into a game and throw it to one guy the entire game. And so we try to balance our attack with who we're throwing it to and who we're handing it to and how we're getting it to them. So we'll continue to do that.
FAMILIARITY WITH OFFENSE HELP?
We're going into my ninth year, I think this is only the second or third time I've been in an offense multiple years. Still a little bit new to us, you know we did some good things last year, we're still in the learning process, but guys have a much more familiar with what the concepts are and the formations and everything so that's definitely gonna be a help, less thinking and able to go fast.
SHARPENING OF PLAYBOOK; TRIMMING THE FAT?
We weren't for sure what kind of team we were last year, what we did well, what the guys felt comfortable doing, so going back and looking at what plays we were successful with, some feedback from the players, what they liked, what they didn't like and just taking a look at what the quarterback room was comfortable with of each play so it's been a combination of a lot of different guys talking and the coaches have done an excellent job this off-season of combing through not only what we do but everybody across the league and take some stuff from other teams.
ARE YOU BIGGER AND STRONGER?
Yeah, I don't really know about that, I think Mike Clarke's done a good job with everybody in the weight room of making sure it's a program that's going to get us through the year, whether that's putting more weight on guys backs or less running I think this year, but I feel good, I got back into it a little bit earlier this year because with the dual injuries I just wanted to get my whole left side back to even with my right side, so I feel good. I didn't do anything out of the ordinary to get ready for this year.
ANYTHING UNIQUE ABOUT GETTING LEFT SIDE EVEN WITH THE RIGHT?
It takes some time. I waSn't really feeling good until into March, really right before we started so it took a little bit of time.
QUARTERBACK A MATTER OF PROBLEM SOLVING?
Yeah, it is problem solving. After you do it a few years, you know what the answers are already. You're not guessing, you know where guys are going to be, you know what the calls are, you know why the call came in, you know what you want to get to if it is a problem. We're going in that direction, but we're still trying to figuring some stuff out and we had some areas last year we struggled in and we weren't perfect so we have to keep working and keep trying to get better.
TRESTMAN FAMILY ATMOSPHERE?
He was like that from Day One, the first day I met with him, that was him, so this is nothing new to the guys. I think it's just kind of leaking out to the rest of the world and the media that that's kind of his stance, but we've been hearing this for over a year now, so the guys are in tune to it. It just creates an atmosphere where you can be yourself and you can be respected and you know at the end of the day you've got a locker room of guys and coaches and management that are behind you.
WILL THAT RESULT IN MORE WINS?
I don't think it can hurt. I mean I think you can ask anybody. If they go to work and they like where they're working, they like who they're working with, the atmosphere that they're in promotes good ideas and promotes any idea no matter if it's good or bad. I think anybody's going to enjoy that atmosphere.
TRIP TO NY WITH MARC?
It was good. It wasn't foreign to us of why we were going or who we were talking to. Just wanted a little bit more clarity on what direction we were going, why we were doing what we were doing, and we got some stuff out of it.
OFFSEASON WITH TEAMMATES AND Marshall IN Florida
It was fun. The off-season gets long so at times it's good to get with the guys and get with coach and just make sure we're all on the same path and talking the same language. I don't think we got as much football done as we wanted to in Florida, but that was OK, we got to know some guys, we've got a lot of new players this year and we got some new guys down there, mixed with the guys that have been around and that's what it was about. It's hard to simulate that once OTAs start and once minicamp starts and training camp starts because it's all football, it's hard to get to know the guys on an off-the-field basis like we did down in Florida.
LOSS OF Earl Bennett
It was tough, it's a business though, I think we all understand that. You hate to see a guy like that go that means as much to the team and did the little things right, but we have a backup plan, we have some guys here and we wish Earl the best, and I think at the end of the day it's probably better for Earl anyway to go somewhere and get some more balls and have an opportunity to play a little bit more, so at No. 3 we've got a bunch of guys, I think offensively once you get past the first-team guys there's a lot of competition with the O-line, tight end group, receiver, running back, there's a lot of posittion there that are kind of up for grabs so we'll see how it Plays out.
DO YOU THINK THE OFFENSE HAS A LOT MORE POTENTIAL THIS YEAR?
We did OK last year, for the first year. We have the same guys we had last year, which is always good. Talent-wise it's hard to top our o-line and some of the guys we have on the outside and Matt Forte, who is hugely underrated. Talent-wise and being in the system two years and the way the guys work, all that adds up. Hopefully we can stay healthy and see where this thing goes.
HOW MUCH DOES IT HELP TO AHVE Marquess Wilson GO DOWN TO Brandon Marshall'S ACADEMY IN FLORIDA?
They don't do as much football… they do a lot of football, but they do a lot of stuff in the weight room. That's kind of Brandon's … he's a physical specimen. All the things he does great on the field, he does a lot of things in the offseason in preparing his body and just showing Q and Alshon that direction of what he does in the offseason and how hard he works. How dedicated he is to his craft. It means a lot. Q's one of those guys, he doesn't say much, but he's always listening. He's always watching and I'm excited for him this year.
HOW DID YOU LEARN OF BRANDON' EXTENSION?
How did I learn of it?
YEAH. DID YOU HAVE TO WATCH ON TV?
I think Kristin sent me a picture. She saw Twitter or something. So she flipped it on and she sent me a picture. So that's how I learned. I don't even know if Phil said … I don't think many people knew what was going on or when he was going to do it. It doesn't surprise me. Brandon has his way of doing things that have never been done. So he was going to do it.
OBVIOUSLY THAT HAD TO BE PRETTY SATISFYING?
Yeah. I think it was a little touch-and-go there for awhile. But I think Phil did a great job of keeping everything together and working with Brandon and his agent. At the end of the day, everyone wanted him to stay here. The organization wanted him t stay here. Brandon wanted to stay here. Just finding that common ground. We've got a great group of people, scouts, management and ownership upstairs that when they've got a good guy, they try to keep him around.
DO YOU SEE THE SAME QUALITIES IN PALMER AS YOU DID IN McCOWN?
Yeah, I think all those guys have done a good job. We've got a crowded quarterback room in there. I don't think I've ever had five in there. It's tough on those guys to get reps. And Jordan's been nicked up a little bit. So the young kids have been in there. But they're all doing well. I feel for them because I know what it's like being in the first year in an offense and trying to learn everything while everyone else is speeding ahead. They're doing everything they possibly can. We'll see how that goes.
HOW HAS THE DYNAMIC OF YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR TEAMMATES CHANGED WITH YOU BEING HERE FOR SIX YEARS?
The locker room's completely changed from when I first got here. You've got Peanut and Lance, Pat if he comes back and Robbie. Those are kind of the guys who were here when I first got here. Other than that, there's been a lot of turnover. A lot of new coaches. Like anything else, the older guys, most of the time have to show the way and be professionals and that's what we try to do — offensively and defensively, we've got a great group of guys. So we've just got to keep pounding away and come to work every day.
DID PHIL MAKE YOU AWARE OF THE PLANS TO SIGN ALLEN WHEN HE RESTRUCTURED YOUR DEAL?
He said, "Do you want your money now?" and I said, "Sure." That's kind of how the restructure went down. (laughter). I got some credit for that, but I didn't really do much. They said, "Do you want it now?" I said, "Yeah. Absolutely." You knew there was a reason for him to do it. He's not going to divulge his plans — that's kind of how they operate, which I think is great. It was good for the team. And to get a guy like Jared Allen is huge for that defense — a veteran guy, a veteran presence that gets it done every week. I was happy to do it.
MARC SAID YOU'RE BIGGER, STRONGER. WAS THAT A GOAL?
We talked about it earlier. I don't think I'm … I've been bigger in my career. I think I just started a little bit earlier this year just to get over the injuries and get my body back where I wanted it. I don't know if I'm any stronger or physically any bigger than I was in previous years.
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU COULD DO TO IMPROVE YOUR DURABILITY?
I was straight until I really got here for awhile and it was a hit parade back there. It takes its toll from time to time. I think with the offensive line we've got here, the guys are doing everything possible. Last year was last year. Kind of two freak injuries. I don't really foresee that happening again.
BRANDON GAVE YOU A LOT OF CREDIT FOR SAVING HIS CAREER; DID HE EVER MENTION THAT TO YOU?
When Brandon gets in the moment he gets emotional sometimes. But I know what path he was on when he was in Denver. When he went to Miami he was desperate, he was searching for something. He kind of found it with Michi and coming here and being with Trest and Phil and the guys. Anybody is going to like being in this organization I feel like. They respect everybody. They give everyone a fair chance. They're going to tell you exactly where you're at and the way you should be going. They're not going to tell you any lies. It's a good place to be and I understand why B loves it so much here. If you knew some of the background I knew about Brandon, his comments don't surprise me because he's fairly lucky to be here after all the stuff he went through.
GETTING RID OF BALL QUICKLY HELP TO AVOID HITS?
It's two-fold. Once you start getting hit a lot you start taking guys off the secondary, you lose a lot of trust up front and it gets difficult to play quarterback that way. You look across the league and you see guys that are getting hit a lot, they're probably not going to be doing very well. The guys who stay pretty clean are in offenses year-in and year-out and get a feel for the guys, those guys are going to be the ones who are in the top of the league every year. So we'll see how it goes. I think Trest does a great job of emphasizing getting rid of the ball; protection first, and that's how everything is designed here.
HOW HAVE YOU CHANGED SINCE ARRIVING IN CHICAGO?
There are a lot of factors I think involved in that. Looking back at my younger days in Denver and even when I first got here, you do some things that are foolish and you regret, and I think anyone does that. Me and Kristin getting married, having kids, being involved with Phil Emery and Trest and just kind of the way everyone operates kind of forces you to grow up. If you don't want to grow up, you're probably not going to last. They're going to find somebody else. I think we've done an excellent job of bringing in the guys that are good people and are very good football players. It's just a conducive environment to be a football player as a quarterback in my mind.
HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR OFFSEASON
We had another baby. I think that Kristin was ready to get that one out and kind of get the summer going. So that's been the highlight. Going from one to two is a little bit different. For anyone who has kids, I'm sure that you know. You go from zone defense to man-to-man and now there's just zero free time. It's been hectic, but it's been fun.
EMBRACING CITY MORE
Yeah, we're going to be here longer. We're definitely more comfortable. I'm more comfortable. I think Kristin's more comfortable [with] where we're at with the organization, the teammates around me, the coaches around me, and I love Chicago. We love being in Chicago. So I think that's definitely fair. We do the tournament coming up July 18.
WHAT LOOK FOR IN A NO. 2 QB
That's tough. They either get it or they don't get it. All those guys in the room understand what the role is as a backup. Sometimes you have to be a go-between guy. Sometimes you have to be a guy that says, ‘Hey, you're doing it wrong. This guy's open. You messed it up.' Sometimes you've just got to let the starter vent and just listen to him moan and go on about stuff. But you also have got to be ready to go, so he's got to spend some extra time figuring out what happens if he goes in because he's not going to get the reps. It's a tough position. It's a really hard position to be in.
IMPRESSIONS OF CLAUSEN
I watched Jimmy when he was at Notre Dame. Liked him. He was in a tough situation out there in Carolina. Offensive line was pretty rough; he was getting hit a lot. The system turned over on him. He throws the ball well. I didn't have any input on bringing him here though. Once he did get here, though, he was in the quarterback room over the weekend three straight days grinding way, trying to figure out this offense. He was peppering me and David Fales, Cav, all questions. So he's been working hard. I think he likes the opportunity he has here. He's a little bit humbled going through the experience of being on the streets and getting picked up again. He's got a good attitude. Training camp and preseason, we'll see how it works out.
GOING TO BE ON THE LEAGUE THIS YEAR?
No. Kristin might be. I'm not sure what she's got going on.
Today was a little different than normal OTAs. It was more of a training-camp regimen. We had more time today, like 30 minutes longer. So we got a few more plays in with the players as well as a post-practice walkthrough.
GREENE, SUTTON, CONTE NOT HERE
All excused for personal reasons today. Family reasons, nothing out of the ordinary.
IS CUTLER BIGGER OR NOT?
Sounds like we agree to disagree on that one. Yeah, I was watching him from upstairs. I think the point is probably taken a little bit out of proportion. I did say that I think he looked a little bit bigger. I didn't think he looked enormous, I just felt that up top he looked to be a little bit stronger. It was just an observation. I'll stand by that. I know he said that overall he didn't feel that much bigger or that much stronger, and I'll agree with him. But I felt that he did spend a little more time, or he at least started a little earlier, on his strength and conditioning.
IS IT TO AVOID INJURY
I don't think that has anything to do with it. It just was an observation on how he looked to me when he came in on the first day, on the 22nd, compared to the year before.
CONFIDENT ON BACKUP QB
Yeah, I just think we have to wait and see. All these guys are getting reps and we're flipping them around in there and giving them different plays and different groups to work with. It's certainly too early to make any kind of collective decision. We're going to wait the week, see where we are and in the next couple of practices we'll have to make some collective decisions there and we'll see where we go. Really its no different than it was, when we talked the last time we talked. We'll see how this plays out and we've got a lot of time to do that.
FIVE QBs TOO MANY?
I don't know if that's ever happened, not in the times I've coached the position. These next two days are certainly critical, we've got to continue to analyze the situation. It would be hard to, we need legs at camp, but we'll see. We'll make that decision, and we don't even have to make that decision this week, we'll make it before the start of training camp. I think we've got five viable guys. You take Jay out of it and we've got four guys that are really competing hard and all have the requisite skill set to play in the National Football League, we've just got to continue to watch it and see how it unfolds.
PALMER INJURY WORRY YOU?
I don't think so. He's worked through it, today he certainly got better, he worked in practice today and he certainly worked through it and there is no real residual sign there. He's never had anything like that, but he appears to be in a pretty good place. We'll see where he is tomorrow.
CRAIG STELTZ INJURY
He's still in a recovery mode from the work he had this offseason. It's just day-to-day there. It's leg related – and honestly I'm not trying to be standoffish, it's just leg related. He appears to be healing.
D.J. Williams HEALTHY?
I'm just hoping he can be 100 percent. He's had an offseason to work, he's been out there competing hard, and when he's playing well, it's visibly noticeable in terms of what we can do with the middle linebacker position. But we have competition there. He's certainly the lead dog there, but we do have competition.
CROWD NOISE DURING PRACTICE
You saw today, if you saw it earlier we had a couple of pre-snap penalties early on, and everybody knows what we're up against early in the season, you know we have to go on the road early, we have to play in the noise early, we just wanted to, anything we can do during OTAs, just to give ourselves some practice working in an environment that we're going to work on training camp – so this is like a training camp day, we wanted to get some noise in. Tomorrow we have a barbeque so we didn't want to throw the noise in there with the families all over the building and outside. So we tried to get some of that in today, just to experience everything we would experience during the course of the season, here at training camp or at some time during the OTAs and mini-camps.
CUTLER'S GROWTH IN OFFENSE
Just having a sense for the verbiage – he's been in so many different systems, but just to be able to go back to back in the same environment, the same coaching environment, the same players around him, the way we do things and the way we say things, I think can allow him to enjoy more flexibility at the line of scrimmage and understand what we're trying to get to. Each of these plays we have, there's a lot of different answers against a lot of different types of looks and coverages and I think he's at a place now, because he's had so much experience on these plays, he can utilize the entire play to find the right answers.
AHEAD OF SCHEDULE?
I never thought about that. Jay is incredibly smart football-wise. He's incredibly smart, but very smart football-wise, obviously. His ability to draw from all the different experiences he's had both in the physical aspects of running these plays and then the mental aspects of having to read them out and find the right guy goes into his growth in the second year, plus he's working with the same people, which is a big advantage.
ROTATIONS IN PRACTICE
We're just going to keep flipping people around and try to give guys work. When you watch it, it might not be noticeable. There's really no pattern to how we're doing. We're really just flipping guys in and out, giving an opportunity to work specific plays. Jimmy Clausen hasn't been in as long, Fales is new, Jordan has been here a year, so when plays come up, we try to give them plays they have more experience with.
The situation with Jordan is he had a really good OTAs and we just want to be smart on this foot of his and make sure it continues to heal properly, and it is, we just wanted to give him some time away.
I think that ‘it' factor is a prerequisite to play in the National Football League and to play at this level. The ability to make something happen when there's nothing there, I think Jay has shown on countless occasions throughout his career that he can do that, and he did it as recently as last year in a number of situations. Obviously 'it' factor combined with understanding of the offense, people around you, good protection, but I don't think there's any quarterback in the National Football League that without their intangibles, they would have a chance to play at a high level. I think Jay's one of those guys who can do that and has that ‘it' factor.
CAN A QB HELP TEAMMATES FOCUS BETTER?
I think that every quarterback stands in the huddle and gives his entire team hope. The ball starts with him and he's got to make it all happen. With that in mind, I don't know that there's any more I can say than that. If a guy's getting in the huddle and thinks the quarterback can't do the right thing with the football, whether it's all good or there's chaos back there and he's got to make something happen, that takes away from the confidence of the entire group. I don't think that's the case with us, but that's what ‘it' factor does.
THIS YEAR VS. LAST YEAR IN EFFICIENCY OF PRACTICES
We take the form every day of we're starting over. It's assignments, it's alignments, it's adjustments, it's continue to repeat the verbiage, it's continue to customize plays and so, I think what we have, we have, number one, is an understanding with the players where we can move through the relationship into the science more because there's no looking around trying to figure out where they're coming from or what they're trying to get done. There's mutual respect between players and coaches here I believe that enables us to grow. We've got a lot of work to do. The ball was on the ground too much today offensively. We've got a lot of work to do. We did a lot of new things, we had a lot of new principles in, so we didn't expect it to be perfect. We're continuing to try to grow and yet customize the offense to the guys that we have.
JAY IS SMART ABOUT FOOTBALL. CORRELATION BETWEEN SMART-GUY SMARTS AND FOOTBALL SMARTS?
I'm not that smart to really answer that. I can answer it indirectly more than directly. Jay's smart on multiple levels that go beyond football. He's very observant, he's got a lot of great personality qualities that make it fun to be around him. but it's easy to talk football with him. it's tough to coach guys if they don't understand football or they don't understand the language of football. We're lucky here, because we look around the room and we ask ourselves, who's not smart, football-wise? And we don't have that issue. We got an entire group of linemen that we can do just about anything with. We've got receivers we can line up anywhere and we're got a back that understands protection as well as the line does, and a quarterback that understands the game and has experience. At the end of the day, we're just trying to get better. We've got a lot of work to do; it wasn't certainly where we want it to be today and we'll move forward tomorrow to try to get better.
AFFECTS HOW YOU COACH …
No doubt it does. No doubt. That's the fun part: when you walk in the room you know that if you're reasonable you can give them anything. And because they love football, they're stimulated by it. We don't wanna bore them; we want to stimulate them anyway we can with new football or new ways of teaching football or new concepts to excite them about it, but yet not inhibit their ability to …. You still gotta block the guy across from them. They gotta be physical. It's a tough tough sport. We don't wanna take that our of them and make it a mental game. We don't wanna be a finesse team. we want to be a physical team. There's a fine line — to use their football intelligence in a way we don't diminish the physicality and the toughness that goes with playing the game.
DON'T SLEEP ON BOSTIC, RIGHT? MISTAKE TO WRITE HIM OFF?
To write off anybody right now would be a mistake. We're not even close to … we've gotta start somewhere. We got a lot of competition on this football team. I talk to our players all the time — if you had to pick our 53 right now and our 46, it'd be very difficult to do. The competition is deep, not only on the defensive side of the ball but to win a position on the offensive line here, to win a backfield position. I'm not talking about Matt (Forte), I'm talking about finishing out the 46 and 53. Who's gonna be the fourth and fifth receiver, possibly. Who's gonna be the second and third tight end. You could just go through the football team at any position. We have a good idea who the starters are going to be — the guys who have been here. But after that, don't get hung up on any position right now. It's just too early. And it would be unfair to these guys. We're getting everybody a lot of reps and they're gonna have a lot of opportunity before we get to the end of august.
BOSTIC IS FAST
He's working at all three different positions and certainly the MIKE position. He's competing at a really high level and has worked really hard and is right in the mix, no doubt about it.
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.