Good afternoon. Today we were inside. Weather brought us inside. Third down, a lot of special situations, Third-down football today was high energy, a very focused group today. Very good practice. I’ll leave it open to questions.
He’s good to go.
DOES THAT CHANGE PLAN TO ROTATE IN GUYS?
No it doesn’t. Right now we’ve got, four safeties will be up, and Chris will be a part of that rotation.
SOMETHING YOU WANTED TO SEE FROM CONTE?
I thought obviously the one hit in Seattle showed me something there that he came back, he wanted to tackle and make plays. He’s gonna continue to get better as the season moves forward. But he’s been cleared to go, and he’s had good practices. We’re looking forward to seeing him out there this week.
FAIR TO WONDER ABOUT WHETHER CONTE IS IN SHAPE?
Yeah, that’s why we’re gonna rotate safeties. We’ll see where he is as the game moves along. We feel good about the fact we’ve got guys we can move in there. That’s kind of the approach that we’re gonna take. It would be with anybody who is coming off this type of situation, who hadn’t had a lot of training camp. We’re in the same boat a little bit on the right side of our line. Same thing there. We’ve got a couple of guys there who have missed some time. They’re gonna have to work themselves back into shape and condition. We think they’re pretty good, but there’s nothing like a full game, 70 plays that’s gonna do for each player who hasn’t had many reps during the preseason.
CONCERNED ABOUT HOW CONTE HANDLES ALL THE CRITICISM?
It’s not a concern because I hadn’t thought about it. I haven’t even addressed that. Chris has played a lot of football. He’s a professional. He made a commitment to come back and be at his best. I think he’s done everything he can to do that, and he’s gonna get an opportunity to play this week. We’ll continue to assess his play just like we’ll assess everybody’s play on the team. But like I said, I don’t have a concern because the thought never entered my mind quite frankly. He’s up. He’s gonna play. He’s gonna get time on the field. He’s gonna have an opportunity to show what he can do, and we’ll assess and evaluate him just like we’re gonna do everybody on the team the first month of the season and during these games.
WILL CONTE START?
The plan is for him to play. The plan will be to see where we are tomorrow after practice, and make a determination after that.
I’ve known Mario for a long time. He was at N.C. State when I was there. I know the type of person he is. I know the type of player he’s been. He’s a difference-making player, no doubt about it. His size, his length, his speed, athleticism, that’s all part of it. When we look at the Bills’ defense, we know we’ve got to neutralize him. So it just won’t be Jordan’s responsibility. It’ll be our entire offense’s responsibility to make sure that we do whatever we can to keep him from making those types of plays that can be difference-making plays in a game.
WHAT WILL DIFFERENCE BE IN YEAR 2 OF OFFENSE?
As I look at it, we’ve done a lot of different things with the offense in terms of growing, and adding different concepts that we think will help us. Not dramatically. I think it goes back to what I’ve said since the end of the season, as [far as] what the expectations would be. We would be more consistent in terms of playing at a high level, playing at a high level over a longer period of time and not have the periodic dips that we had where we come back and say, ‘Man, we had a chance to finish that drive’ or ‘We could’ve made that play. We took the improper step which caused us to have…they had penetration which allowed Jay not to be able to get the ball off and we had a guy wide open.’ It’s those types of things. We just want to be cleaner with the way we play the game, and play more consistently at a high level.
ON CUTLER REFINING TECHNIQUES
I think that’s all part of it. Jay’s worked very hard on fundamentals and techniques, and drops. Part of this offense is really bringing clarity and definition to drops and the rhythm of these throws and how they play out, not only under center, but in the gun because there’s differences in drops and the rhythm and the types of drops we take because we’re taking the snap at 4 ½ yards instead of under center. So these are all things that with a year under our belts, we feel like we’ve been able to have a little more expertise in those areas. That should help us in our productivity.
IS CUTLER A CHANGED MAN? HE ACTUALLY SMILES NOW.
Well I hope he’s having fun, but I can’t define the change because he’s been pretty much the same guy since I’ve been around him, since the day I met with him when I first got here, I’ve really enjoyed the dialogue that we’ve had. It’s been up front and honest. As I’ve said along the way, I’ve enjoyed talking football with him and things that are not football-related. I don’t see changes the way maybe others see them, I just see a relationship between two guys trying to help their football team. That comes through conversation and dialogue and working together as much as we do, not just Jay and I, but all the guys in that quarterback room and the offensive meeting room.
WHAT COACHES INFLUENCED YOU?
I think it’s probably more of a melting pot of watching the way people did things, not just head coaches but assistant coaches, and finding a place where you feel most comfortable in dealing with the day-to-day ups and downs and the winding road of being in this position, which changes every day. There’s always something going on that demands your attention and decisions and I never feel it here, as in other places, that I’m doing it alone. I feel I’ve got the support of the organization of people that we work with, from Phil and George, Ted, Cliff, the guys that are decision makers in the building.
RUNNING THE NO-HUDDLE
We’ve done it. Last year we did it. We have the ability to do anything we want to do with the offense. We can go quickly with immediate snap counts, we can hold the snap count to one second on the clock, and we can do everything in between. We have different mechanisms to get that done. A lot of those are controlled by what’s going on in the game. What we want to do is play continuity football. We’re not three independent contractors out there trying to be good at three different sides of the football. We’re trying to work together in unison, in unity, in continuity to play the game. Sometimes you want to speed it up, other times you want to hang on as long as you can and use as much clock as you can. Tempo football’s really good, from a content standpoint, it’s great to say you want to speed it up, but you go three-and-out, three-and-out, tempo football’s not real good, not from a defensive standpoint. There’s a lot of different ways to look at it. It’s not just about the offense when you decide to go no-huddle. We went no-huddle in Arizona for half the year and had tremendous success. In Oakland, most of the season we were no-huddle, so it just all depends in the scheme of things, not just what works best for the offense but what’s best for the team in the course of the game.
ANY LIMIT ON FORTE’S TOUCHES?
I don’t think of it that way. We don’t go into the game saying we’re going to give Matt a blow. We don’t look at it that way. Skip knows when it’s time for him to come out. We just do it series by series, basically, but you would expect that if Matt came out of the game, that Ka’Deem would go in, he would be the first guy to go in and we’re excited to see what he can do. We’re not going into it thinking that in the third series, Matt’s going to come out and Ka’Deem’s going in. We’re not going to play the first part of the season that way, and it’ll be game by game. We’ve got confidence that when Ka’Deem goes in there that he’ll play hard and play well for us.
CUTLER IS 31. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN FOR HIM?
I always look at quarterbacks like this — they’re all on their own journey. When you watched Josh play last year, can you say he really looked like a 35-year-old quarterback? I don’t think any of us would say that. I didn’t coach Steve Young at 29, but he didn’t start until he was 29. Gannon was getting started at 33. I think each quarterback’s on his own journey, their development and where they are as part of the game is determined by the teams they’re with, the coaches they’re with, the quarterbacks they’re playing behind. I think they’re all independent of each other, and it’s how a quarterback takes care of his body, the kind of condition he’s in. Jay at 31 is in tremendous condition, physically and mentally, in terms of handling the game. He doesn’t appear to be deterred or slowed down in any way. He’s quick in his decision-making, he’s quick-minded. He easily assimilates offenses and game plans. I would say there’s no name player that you can say ‘well, he’s got to be like this.’ You can see what’s happening, they’re starting to play longer and into their mid-to-late 30’s even. Up in Canada, Anthony (Calvillo) was 40 years old and playing a high level in that league, and you’re seeing it now with some of the elite quarterbacks in this league, they’re playing into their mid and late 30s and still playing very well.
WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER ABOUT Jim Kelly FROM YOUR TIME AT Miami?
I was a volunteer at Miami. I never got to coach Jim, but I watched him. And I certainly got a chance to play having known him and then watching him play when I was in Cleveland. We played Buffalo in some key games when he was with Marv. To me, what I remember is he was everybody’s teammate and he is — was as a player obviously — everybody’s teammate. Everybody loved him. And I also remember him as one of the toughest players at the quarterback position, certainly one of the toughest quarterbacks, and there’s a bunch of them, but Jim certainly has to be one of those guys that ranks as one of the toughest quarterbacks in the last whatever years to have played the game. But a guy who was loved by his teammates in Miami and certainly loved in Buffalo.
JEREMY CAIN, LONG SNAPPER AND LINEBACKER
Well, I think you answered the question. The guy is more than a snapper, he’s a football player and that certainly helps in terms of not only the snapping, but the blocking and certainly the coverage side of it. (AND ALSO WHEN HE HAS TO PLAY LINEBACKER BY WEEK 4).
KA’DEEM CAREY AS THE NO. 2
He got up to speed very quickly. First thing he did was show us that he not only wanted to do it, but he physically understood and mentally understood how to do it. And that showed up. Now is he going to be perfect? Nobody is perfect at it. But he came around very quickly. And he also learned how to practice quickly and how to do in a professional (way) and the expectations that we had. And once he turned that corner, he really did progress quickly. We don’t really know how it will transition to the real deal on Sunday and the weeks to come, but he’s learned the right at this point to have the first shot.
KNEE INJURIES TO OFFENSIVE LINEMEN
Well the league has changed the rule. There’s a new rule out you can’t roll into guys. As soon as you start rolling, there’s a penalty. So there’s a major change of rules on cut blocks that become a safety…
(INTERRUPTS) WHAT ABOUT TEAMMATES ROLLING INTO EACH OTHER?
Well we just try to keep guys to stay up and keep their feet moving. If a player’s keeping their feet moving they’re generally not going to get injured. It’s when they get locked up into the ground. So the point of emphasis when we’re moving side-to-side is just to keep our feet moving. I thought you were talking about offensive players on defensive players and that rule has been changed for the safety of the defensive players as well.
OFFENSIVE GAME PLAN FOR BUFFALO?
Well, I’m not going to go there. But as I said the other day, they’ve got four pass rushers. Those guys are still there from last year. They had 57 sacks. Because they have good pass rushers on third down, they were No. 2 in the league in interceptions and turnovers on the interception side. So we know we have to stop that pass rush and keep Jay clean and we know we have to take care of the football on the back end. And we’ll find out where they are this week as we try to attack them both running and throwing the football. We’re going to do both. We’re going to try to make them defend the whole field. That’s nothing unusual there. We’re going to try to sideline-to-sideline, and vertically up the field, we’re going to make them defend the whole field. That’s what offenses do. They try to do that and it won’t be any different for us.
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.