Day 12: Training Camp News & Notes

After a rare training camp off day on Sunday, the Bears sweated their way through practice on the muggiest day Bourbonnais had seen this summer. Some late-morning rain also made the field awfully slick, as several players were spinning their wheels all afternoon long. The defense is making a habit of intercepting several passes each day, and Monday was no exception.

There is one thing in particular that Bears fans should be excited about after Monday's practice, and it had nothing to do with what was happening on the actual practice field. Thomas Jones was doing some light running along with some of his fellow injured brethren, Dwayne Slay and Brandon McGowan. Jones ran at about half-speed under the watchful eye of a team trainer, and he also ran backwards at quarter-speed to test his injured hamstring. He is still a way's away from putting on the pads, but the very fact that last season's leading rusher is progressing has to be encouraging for the coaching staff. The fact that the fans in attendance visibly saw him making strides to get back on the playing field is also a great sign. Here are some other observations from Monday's afternoon session:

In addition to the normal list of players missing practice due to various injuries, Muhsin Muhammad is a little sore today and will take the day off just to make sure he gets the proper rest. Since Bernard Berrian is still nursing his hip flexor and Airese Currie will miss the next few weeks after getting his knee scoped, the wide receiver position is very thin today. Justin Gage and Rashied Davis should get plenty of reps with starting quarterback Rex Grossman ...

Just like that, Davis gets mildly chewed out for running the wrong route after Grossman called an audible at the line of scrimmage ...

Rookie J.D. Runnels missed Saturday's practice with a minor quad strain, but he's back out there today and seems to be just fine. With yet another injury bound to sideline Bryan Johnson for a significant period of time, Runnels is another guy who will get more looks with the starting unit. He was a very good receiver out of the backfield at Oklahoma and has shown that in training camp just about every day ...

Mark Bradley slips and falls on a curl route in 7-on-7 drills, but he still manages to make the catch from his keister. Good thing the throw was a little low. Bradley has shown breakaway speed on the fly route so far in camp, but it remains to be seen if his route-running is good enough for the short passing game this west coast offense predominantly utilizes ...

John Gilmore has a reputation for being more of a blocking tight end than a receiving threat, but he makes a gorgeous one-handed snare of a Grossman pass that is well behind him. Not only does come up with the football, but he makes a half-turn in order to get back upfield and does it all in one smooth motion. The tight ends have been a pleasant surprise all camp long, but we'll see if Ron Turner actually calls their number when the whistle blows for real in September ...

The track is a little sloppy out there, and the offense is looking quite sloppy right now, too. A false start, a fumbled snap, and a few ugly throws all happen in the span of five minutes. It was only a one-day vacation, but somehow, Grossman & Company look rusty out there ...

Bryan McClendon scorches Ricky Manning Jr. on a double-move during receiver drills. Manning is beat so bad, he doesn't even turn to run after McClendon comes out of his break and streaks up the sideline. When you're beat, you're beat, and Manning will never be beaten any worse than he was right there ...

Grossman is wearing out the curl route on the right side of the field in front of Manning and Charles Tillman. The receivers have a huge advantage on a day like today with the wet track. They know where they're going, as opposed to the DBs, who have to read and react ...

Brian Urlacher gets the biggest ovation of the day when he accelerates and breaks up a Grossman pass intended for Bradley. He could move to safety tomorrow and be a Pro Bowler right away. It's truly amazing to watch his instincts at work up close ...

Last season's right-place-at-the-right-time extraordinaire, Nathan Vasher, picks off Grossman and blisters his way down the right sideline for a score. It's so funny to hear the fans try to get Vasher's attention before and after practice to sign autographs. Instead of shouting "Nathan!", they all scream "108!" ...

Lance Briggs gets into the act and steps in front of Davis for yet another Grossman interception. When I asked him after practice about all the INTs being thrown, head coach Lovie Smith didn't seem overly concerned. "Well, today I was concerned with some of the ones that we had," he said. "But overall, I think our offense has been doing a great job, especially Rex Grossman." ...

Jamaal Green does a brilliant job of getting his hands up to knock down a pass from Brian Griese. Alex Brown speaks very highly of Green and can be heard encouraging him quite often when the second unit is getting their time. He's going to get some opportunities in the defensive end rotation, no question about it ...

With the offense in goal-to-go range, Mike Brown gestures to the crowd gathered near the end zone to start making some noise. This is a perfect example of why the veteran safety has to stay healthy for 16 games this year. His very presence in the lineup makes a palpable difference on almost every play ...

Gage is having another wonderful day, and considering how many receivers are on the sideline in bucket hats right now, he's doing a lot of damage with the first team. For some strange reason, he tends to wilt when he has competition for playing time around him. But when he's comfortable knowing he's going to get his snaps, he seems to perform better. You'd think it would be the other way around. But the play-making Gage we've enjoyed the last few days bares no resemblance to the confidence-challenged Gage who arrived on July 26th ...

Moose has been verbally encouraging his receiver protégés all day from the sideline, and better yet, all the youngsters tune in and listen intently when the veteran has something to say ...

Fittingly on a turnover-rich day like today, Dante Wesley picks off a Griese pass that was deflected in the throwing lane by Leon Joe on the last play of today's practice. Wesley was brought in to be a special teams contributor for the most part, but both he and Manning have impressed at corner since Day 1 ...

The Bears will have another two-a-day on Tuesday, and Bear Report will have the play-by-play from Bourbonnais once again.

JC


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