Shift in Philosophy

This year's training camp schedule appears to be much less strenuous than last year's, when an epidemic of muscle pulls sidelined players throughout Lovie Smith's first summer session.

This year there will be fewer twice-daily practices and more night workouts. New strength and conditioning coach Rusty Jones played a part in the new format, as did holdovers on the coaching staff that wanted to avoid a repeat of the numerous groin and hamstring injuries of 2004.

"It's a combination of all of us really," Smith said. "First off there's five preseason games (rather than the usual four), so we feel like we can get a lot better evaluation from the game and of course practice. We're just going to spread it out a little bit more."

Players will get more of an opportunity to perform in preseason games this year than they did a year ago. Smith said players would get more snaps in preseason games than they did a year ago.

The additional game action should be especially valuable for an offense working in a new system that will have a minimum of five different starters from a year ago.

With John Tait's shift from left to right tackle, the offensive line will have new starters at three of five spots. Fred Miller takes over at right tackle for Tait and either Terrence Metcalf or Roberto Garza will start at right guard.

The team surrendered 66 sacks last season, which can be linked to a number of factors. Among them was lack on continuity on the offensive line. Six different starting combinations were used over 16 games, while ten players were shuffled in and out of the starting lineup. Center Olin Kreutz is the only member of the o-line to every game.

Rex Grossman will need the additional reps to feel comfortable after missing the final 13 games of last season. There's also a new crop of receivers to build timing and get familiar with.

Another benefit of having the extra week of training camp and one additional preseason game is it makes a potential contract holdout with RB Cedric Benson less damaging. Obviously the Bears want him in Bourbonnais on time, but if the first round pick were to miss a few days of practice as a contract is finished there would be plenty of time to catch him up to speed.


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