Shorts are out, pads are in

So the start of training camp 2004 kicks off Wednesday in the familiar surroundings of Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais for the new-look Bears.

A revamped coaching staff joins a slew of new players who will try to answer plenty of questions this season. Lovie Smith seems ready to make his mark and turn around a franchise that has had one winning season in the last eight.

The former Rams defensive coordinator has made his presence felt since mini-camps began in March. He's stressed conditioning and cutting out the "fat" during his short time on board. He's all about working hard and showing a commitment to your job.

Unlike the days of Jauron, when training camp seemed more like Club Paradise at times, players won't be enjoying much of the nightlife. You can bet players won't be enjoying all those shorts and helmet practices like they did under the old regime.

"You've seen our practices without pads; they've been pretty physical," Smith said. "Now of course it's going to move up a notch, but I still don't think (players are out to hurt their teammates).

"Our quarterbacks will still have on orange jerseys. We won't do anything stupid. But now we have to find out what we can do in pads and to do that you have to go a little bit further. I don't believe you worry about injuries. Injuries are going to happen, as long as you're not stupid with it and just let the guys go."

With the free agent departure of Chris Villarrial, Kreutz is now the veteran among the offensive line and considered a team leader. Still the three-time Pro Bowl center doesn't plan on complaining about the increased intensity of tempo Smith's practices.

"No, that's not my job," Kreutz said. "It's his job to monitor it and run his camp how he wants to run it. Dave Wannstedt ran his camp how he wanted to run it even with guys like ‘Big Cat.' Those guys were here when I first came in and we still hit every day. So they're going to run the camps how they want to run it and you just go through it."

The majority of the roster has dropped weight in preparation for the season, but the conditioning doesn't stop with the players. Smith joked he's also lighter but couldn't compare to some of his assistants. Defensive line coach Karl Dunbar dropped 30 pounds and WR coach Daryl Drake lost 22.

Running out of time
While the Bears haven't officially started training camp, players are due to report by midnight tonight. The window for the team's first-round pick to be on the field for the first practice is closing.

"We drafted Tommie (Harris) in the first-round, so when he gets here we'll welcome him with open arms," Smith said Tuesday. "For any player that isn't here (they're missing something). He will eventually get here and we'll start coaching him then."

Harris is expected to challenge for a starting role, but missing time on the field will only hinder his development.

Bryan Robinson and Alfonso Boone are clearly in jeopardy of losing playing time, if not their starting roles to Harris and 2nd-round pick Tank Johnson.

Harris is the quick, athletic defensive tackle that the Bears' new defensive scheme craves. He should become a significant contributor sooner rather than later, but missing time could mean he falls behind Johnson, who has similar qualities.


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