The Chicago Bears finalized this morning the 11th practice of 2014 Training Camp. The weather was hot and humid as usual, with overcast skies that parted way to sunshine roughly halfway through the session. Fans numbered 10,000 in the final practice before Friday’s preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
-S Chris Conte (shoulder), OL Eben Britton (hamstring), S Craig Steltz (hamstring), CB Tim Jennings (quad) and T Jordan Mills (foot) did not practice. Mills said after practice he expects to play in the preseason opener.
-G Kyle Long was not in attendance due to a sore ankle.
-DE Jared Allen missed his fourth straight practice due to the recent birth of his second daughter.
NOTES FROM DAY 11
-Today’s session was little more than a glorified walkthrough. The players started in shells, which is basically shorts, helmets and shoulder pads. Yet after 30 minutes coach Marc Trestman had the players take off their shoulder pads. There was no contact and many of the veterans took the afternoon off.
“We’re two days before a game so we tried to get a Friday tempo before a Sunday game. With the added value, we kept the pads on early to get through individual and we had a run-game emphasis early on. And we wanted the guys padded up and they really wanted to be padded up in the shoulders just to protect themselves and be able to pick up the tempo, which I thought was very good.
“Then we took the pads off to lighten the load a little bit. We asked them to keep the energy up and the effort level up throughout. I blew the whistle earlier today so we could do a little less running and I thought from start to finish it was a very focused, energetic and cooperative, competitive practice. I felt very good about that.”
-The third teams saw a lot of action today and I felt QB David Fales had his best practice of camp. He looked very sharp and accurate, and was decisive with his throws.
Fales’ long-term prospects don’t appear great, due in large part to his less-than-average arm strength, but it’s a good a sign to see him progress. It’s likely the team will attempt to sign Fales to the practice squad. His accuracy could give Trestman enough to work with over a full season or two to develop Fales into a viable backup. He’s still a long way away from that point but today’s solid session was a positive move forward.
Notable here is the inclusion of M.D. Jennings, who replaced Danny McCray.
-Special teams got an extended session today. Coordinator Joe DeCamillis worked on every possible scenario in both punt and kickoff. He practiced onside kickoffs, onside free kicks (which was something I had never seen before), multiple different onside returns, firebreak drills and more.
The Bears today were mimicking a Friday or Saturday practice during the regular season. A big part of that is making sure your special teams units are full prepared, which is why we saw the extra time with Joe D.
-Here is the first-team punt unit: Rosario, Trevor Scott, Shea McClellin, Chad Rempel, Bostic, Senn, Greene. Danny McCray is the up back, while Weems and McManis are the gunners. Punter Tress Way continues to take first-team reps ahead of sixth-round rookie Patrick O’Donnell.
Notice the names that appear in both of these special teams units: Rosario, Bostic, Senn, Greene, Weems and McManis. When we consider the final 53-man roster, be mindful that these players, no matter their value on offense or defense, are very unlikely to be cut.
-The only players to return kickoffs today were Weems, Ford and Chris Williams.
-During wide receiver positional drills, the only wideout to drop a pass the entire seven-minute session was newcomer Greg Herd, whom the team signed last night. Herd beat out both Santonio Holmes and Ben Obomanu in workouts yesterday.
Herd is 6-3, 207, which is the body type QB Jay Cutler prefers in his wide receivers. Herd will be given an opportunity to claim one of the club’s final receiver spots, although the uphill climb ahead of him is steep.
-During those same pass-catching drills, receivers coach Mike Groh spent time lined up five yards across from the wideouts. Each time the ball was snapped, Groh would shade to either the inside or outside of the receiver. Both the wideout and the quarterback had to recognize Groh’s positioning and adjust the route accordingly.
It’s not much but it shows the process of drilling in option routes so that both quarterback and receiver are on the same page.
-During team sessions, the offense ran a number of screens. I hadn't given it much thought but the Bears haven't run many screens to this point in camp. That may not mean much but from my vantage point, it doesn’t appear Trestman will be using a heavy dose of screen passes this season.
-LB Shea McClellin’s struggles in coverage continue. During 7-on-7 drills, McClellin lined up a yard across from TE Dante Rosario. At the snap, Dante ran a deep cross to other side of the field. McClellin kept pace but he lost track of Rosario and drifted too far underneath the receiver. The pass from Cutler had good arc and McClellin could not leap high enough to stop the 25-yard gain.
-Trestman was using a walkie talkie to call in plays to Cutler’s helmet during team drills.
-Former Bears long snapper Patrick Mannelly was in attendance for today’s practice.
-After practice, Trestman outlined what he’ll be looking for from his players during this year’s four-game preseason.
“The preseason is a season amongst its own entity,” Trestman said. “We’re looking for every player to see how they can play under the lights in a different environment against another team and it all goes into the equation when we decide who is going to make this team.
“No. 1 is we got to see them be assignment-right, fundamental-right, technique-right, be able to do their job in another kind of situation, see how they respond to that. That would be the first thing. If all them do it at the same time, we got a chance to move the ball or stop the ball. We’ll see. I think we’re all excited to play against another opponent, somebody other than ourselves. We’ll see what happens.”
-Trestman also outlined his overriding camp philosophy:
“The overriding philosophy is to get to know each other, to develop levels of trust between each other, coaches-to-players, players-to-coaches and to define our behavior through respect and humility,” he said. “We’re going to respect everybody around us. We’re going to treat them in high regard and we’re going to understand what humility means, which is that we’re part of something that’s bigger than ourselves.
“It’s really that simple. If you understand the definition of those three terms and you love football and want to play it and are a baller, we’ll find a place for you.
“We’re also in a position where we don’t expect everybody to understand that immediately. That’s a process. That’s a transformational process. It doesn’t take one week. It doesn’t take one month. It may not take a year; it may take more. But that’s the day-to-day message that we’re sending our coaches and I’m sending our players, that if we do that, we’re going to be in a better chance to win football games.
“You can have one without the other, but it helps to win football games with that kind of environment and it’s not perfect – it never will be – but it doesn’t take an entire stadium to make a wave either.”
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.