The Chicago Bears conducted the ninth practice of 2014 Training Camp this afternoon on hot, muggy day that appeared to raise the internal temperature of everyone on the field.
The session was originally scheduled for 3 p.m. but due to “inclement weather”, practice was pushed up to 11 a.m. As a result, I missed the first half of practice driving into central Illinois from my west suburban home. Fortunately, I didn’t miss any of the good stuff.
As I type this at 5:30 p.m. it’s nothing but clear skies and sun in Bourbonnais.
-As we reported earlier, Marquess Wilson fractured his clavicle today. It happened on a play in which Wilson ran a fly route and dove for the ball 40 yards down the field. He stayed on the ground for a few seconds to catch his breath. Wilson then stood up but it was obvious he could barely move his right arm. The trainers looked at him briefly before he was carted off the field.
“I’m extremely disappointed,” coach Marc Trestman said after practice. “He was continuing to ascend. That’s football, unfortunately. We will pray for his recovery.”
It’s uncertain whether Wilson will need surgery and there is no timeframe for his return, although he’s expected to miss at least eight weeks.
This is a tough blow for Chicago’s offense, as Wilson was developing into a playmaker his second year. Just a few plays previous to his injury, Wilson made a great downfield grab in which he high-pointed the ball over the head of Charles Tillman.
“You saw a little bit again the other night in the short throws, intermediate throws and the deep throws, [Wilson] is able to make all those kinds of plays,” Trestman said. “Our evaluation of him would have continued through camp because he hasn’t had significant playing time. Certainly the exhibition season was going to give us more of an assessment of where he is and we were confident that he was going to continue to improve and grow and be ready for the season. We already know that probably won’t be the case.”
No other receiver on the roster has established himself as the primary backup behind Wilson, so it’s unclear who will fill his role.
“We’re nine days into camp and we’ll find out more this weekend and into the exhibition season,” said Trestman. “Being fair to them, I think we have to see more before we start putting together an analysis of where they are right now. They’ve done a great job of digesting the offense, they’re getting lined up right, running the right routes, they’re catching the ball pretty darn well.”
Also, don’t rule out the possibility GM Phil Emery will add another wideout to compete at the position while Wilson is out.
-G Kyle Long (viral infection) returned to practice this past weekend and participated in his first live team drills today. The coaching staff limited his reps but Long did not show any effects from the illness.
-S Chris Conte (shoulder), S Craig Steltz (hamstring), OL Eben Britton (hamstring) and CB Tim Jennings (quad) all sat out practice. LB Lance Briggs was held out for the final 20 minutes of practice due to a sore knee. DE Jared Allen and RB Shaun Draughn were excused for personal reasons, although Draughn made an appearance at the tail end of practice.
NOTES FROM DAY 9
-It was a relatively quiet practice until Wilson’s injury. The session then finished with a bang after a fight broke out in the end zone.
On a play from the 5-yard line, TE Martellus Bennett caught a pass in the right flat. CB Kyle Fuller reached around Bennett’s chest, grabbed the ball and tried to rip it out. This spun Bennett all the way around, taking him off his feet and putting him on the ground.
Bennett then stood up, grabbed Fuller by the shoulders and body slammed the rookie into the turf. Teammates quickly separated the two players, with Bennett being led off by Lamarr Houston.
As Bennett was being removed from the fray, Brandon Marshall began yelling in his direction and was visibly upset with the tight end’s actions. Bennett then had to be talked down by Houston, then Matt Forte, then Jordan Palmer, then Aaron Kromer, then tight ends coach Andy Bischoff.
Yes, he was that livid over Fuller’s attempt to strip the ball. Afterward, Bennett showed no remorse.
“I come to training camp for one reason and that’s to prepare to win a championship,” Bennett said. “Every single play I’m scratching and fighting for it. The same way I play every single day. I play hard, go hard every single day. I’m probably one of the most violent people on the field. That’s just my style of play. That’s how I play. I’m going to continue to play the way I play. That’s what I’m here for. I’m not really here … everybody’s talking about friendships. Really, we’re all preparing for a championship. If we make friends along the way, that’s cool. But at the end of the day, I’m just trying to help the Bears win a championship and the do the job to the best of my ability.”
Here’s the thing, if Fuller breaks his arm because Bennett can’t keep his cool on the practice field, that would have severely diminished the team’s ability to win a championship.
Bennett has been involved in at least four fights with teammates in a little more than a year’s time with the Bears, and those are just the ones we know about. At what point is enough enough? It’s great to have a fiery personality and to bring it every day on the practice field but when you’re putting your teammates at risk on a regular basis, something needs to be done.
If I were Trestman, I’d have a sit down with Bennett to tell him how much he’s been fined, and if I’m Lance Briggs, D.J. Williams, Charles Tillman or any other veteran on the defense, I institute my own form of discipline on the practice field. A message needs to be sent before things spiral out of control.
-After the scuffle, Trestman immediately sent everyone into the final walkthrough session, which ended practice 20 minutes early.
“I stopped the practice. I felt it was time to stop,” Trestman said. “There were a lot of people involved that care a lot about this football team were involved. I felt we got enough done today, and it was the best (for) the team to move forward, finish with the walkthroughs and move on to our meetings this afternoon.”
-Here was today’s first-team field goal unit (from left to right): Dante Rosario, Kyle Long, Jordan Mills, Taylor Boggs, Chad Rempel, Roberto Garza, Jermon Bushrod, Michael Ola and Martellus Bennett, with Patrick O’Donnell holding and Robbie Gould kicking.
Notable is O’Donnell working with the starting FG unit. To this point, P Tress Way has taken all of the first-team reps as holder. O’Donnell could be on the verge of officially passing Way on the depth chart.
Also worth noting is the omission of James Brown, who was replaced by Long on the left edge of the line.
-Today’s starting safety tandem was Ryan Mundy and Adrian Wilson. That is now the fourth different first-team safety duo the club has used the past four practices. It’s a full-on rotation at this point, although today’s combo appears likeliest to start in Week 1.
-During one snap in team drills, WR Eric Weems attempted to catch the ball on a 15-yard out route. CB Kyle Fuller was all over him and the pass fell incomplete.
After the play, coordinator Mel Tucker shouted encouragement to Fuller: “Good job. Make him win outside the numbers.”
It’s not much but it gives us a bit of insight into the technique and protocol of Chicago’s wide corners in zone coverage. Their job is to take away the sidelines and force pass catchers inside, where there is help in the form of linebackers and safeties. This requires discipline and toughness, both of which Fuller has shown in spades to this point in camp.
-WR Dale Moss took a rep with the first-team today, which is the first time I’ve seen him work with the starters since the team signed him last week. Moss has good size (6-3, 215) and could put himself in the mix to replace Wilson if he can shine in the preseason.
-Tucker today was using a Walkie Talkie to call plays into the helmets of his middle linebackers.
-During one snap in 11-on-11s between the backups, QB Jimmy Clausen tried to hit TE Zach Miller down the seam. Yet two defenders blanketed Miller and CB Isaiah Frey came up with the easy interception.
To this point, it’s tough to have faith in either Clausen or Jordan Palmer. Neither backup has looked good, with each making many more poor decisions than good ones. Bears fans, keep your fingers crossed for Jay Cutler to stay healthy this year.
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.