Day 13: Training Camp News & Notes

Training camp has been uncomfortably hot for the most part, but Tuesday was the first time it really felt like football season outside. Gray skies and cool breezes were welcomed with open arms by players and fans alike as the team conducted its last two-a-day practice from Bourbonnais. It's hard to believe, but the first preseason game of the year is only three days away.

MORNING PRACTICE
The morning session will be another glorified walk-through with an emphasis on special teams. The players will practice in helmets only, and with so many of them nursing minor injuries right now, the second and third units will get plenty of opportunities to make an impression on the coaching staff. We are still a few weeks away fron the first cut-down day, but now is the time for borderline guys to start turning heads ...

If there is a silver lining to Bernard Berrian's strained hip flexor, it's that Devin Hester now looks to be a lock to open the season on both punt and kickoff returns. Berrian had also been working at those spots during camp, but he has been such a crucial part of the offense so far, the Bears simply have to keep him healthy for what he can do in the passing game. Hester is not going to be a factor at cornerback this season because he still has so much to learn about the position, but he might already be the most dangerous weapon on the team with the ball in the open field ...

"Return right?" Rashied Davis asks the rest of his kickoff return mates. "Why don't you say it louder so they can hear you?" Antonio Garay responds, pointing in the direction of the kickoff team. Now that's funny ...

The aforementioned Berrian seems to be moving around fairly well and does some light agility drills on his own. He also catches a ton of balls from the pitching machine to keep his hands in shape while he's on the mend. Berrian isn' the same player without his wheels, but it's not hard to tell that he's already itching to get back out there ...

Airese Currie and Muhsin Muhammad join Berrian at the pitching machine, and although Moose catches every single ball fired his way, Currie actually drops two in a row that are about knee-high. It's even less impressive considering he more or less knows where the ball is going to be delivered ...

Mark Bradley had been beating every cornerback in sight on the fly route these last few days, but Dante Wesley hangs with him stride for stride and makes a pretty interception on a deep throw from Rex Grossman. It's incredible how greedy this defense has been with turnovers all camp long. But as Gordon Gekko might say in this circumstance, "Greed is good." ...

Curiously, Hunter Hillenmeyer has been working a lot with the second team linebackers the last two practices while Brendon Ayanbadejo has seen some action alongside Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. Head coach Lovie Smith praised Ayanbadejo after yesterday and said that he will be a contributor this year not just on special teams but on defense, as well. Hillenmeyer assured everyone after practice yesterday that the starting gig is still his, but he may be auditioning for his own job here before too long ...

EVENING PRACTICE
It's so beautifully cool this evening, many of the players are actually wearing long sleeves under their jerseys and pads. It just smells like football season right now ...

Robbie Gould is once again having a good day with the field goal unit, and his kickoffs were especially deep during the morning session. They were slightly wind-aided, but if he can get an extra five yards or so, that's all it takes sometimes to win the field position battle. Josh Huston was expected to compete for the kicking duties, but Gould has blown him away all camp ...

The players taking the night off tonight include Dwayne Slay, Chris Harris, Mark Anderson, Tommie Harris, Cedric Benson, Thomas Jones, Bryan Johnson, Brandon McGowan, Bernard Berrian, Jamar Williams, Airese Currie, and Michael Haynes. It's a long list, but almost all these players are expected back in action before long. Although Haynes is not actually on the sideline right now, but more on that later ...

Justin Gage continues to impress and makes a leaping catch down the left sideline on a throw from Kyle Orton. Why he hasn't been used on the goalline for the fade pattern more in his career is a mystery. He is an immediate mismatch for all those 5'9" corners ...

Reggie Harrell comes up with a tough catch on a pass from Brian Griese that was deflected by Ricky Manning Jr. That was not an easy grab because the flight of the ball was completely altered. And even though it was a catch, it was still a nice play by Manning Jr. ...

Devin Hester drops a short, end-over-end punt that he had to field at full speed. Now is not the time for him to be putting the ball on the ground. With Berrian sidelined for a few days, Hester can wrap up the kick and punt return duties for the rest of the season if gets the job done ...

Rex Grossman sets up the screen on the left side to Adrian Peterson perfectly, but Alex Brown has none of it and swats down the pass at the line of scrimmage. Just a good looking play all around. If Grossman would have been able to thread the needle, Peterson could have run for miles ...

Mark Philmore and Orton get their signals crossed on a pattern in 7-on-7 drills. Philmore broke to the inside while the pass was whipped to the outside. Fortunately for Orton, his INT total stays put as the ball falls harmlessly to the ground ...

Peterson bursts through the line of scrimmage on a carry and is hardly touched as he runs through the secondary. I'm not saying he's getting the anti-Benson treatment. I'm just saying ...

Staley has a Cubs hat in one paw and a White Sox hat in the other, and he's taking turns holding each in the air to gauge the fans' reaction. Turns out Staley is a North Sider as he drops to his knees and does the old Wayne and Garth "we're not worthy" bow to the Cubs hat. Bears, Cubs, makes sense I guess ...

Griese is having a solid night throwing the ball. He does a nice job stepping up in the pocket and drills one to Bryan McClendon on a post.

Orton is finally showing signs of improvement, as well. He delivers a strike to Harrell on another post pattern for a TD from about 20 yards out. This was an especially good pass because the ball was thrown low where only Harrell, who made a beauty of a sliding catch, could come up with it ...

Griese takes a chance shortly thereafter and throws the ball to a spot for Rashied Davis to go get it, but Manning Jr. is waiting for it and makes the interception. He explodes down the left sideline and has a convoy of blockers along the way ...

Gage has been so good the last few days, but he just dropped his second pass in a row to the dismay of many observant fans in the Ward Field stands ...

Alfonso Boone and Olin Kreutz are hollering at each other as Boone took offense to a block on the previous play. There has been a little chippiness the last week and a half, but we are still yet to see a full-on training camp fight ...

Muhsin Muhammad jumps high and hauls in a touchdown pass of about 25 yards from Grossman. That toss was reminiscent of what he did in Steve Spurrier's offense back in Gainesville. Throw that ball to a spot and let the superior athlete go get it ...

"Patrick Mannelly! I love you!" just got screamed from the stands. It may have been flattering, but considering it was a man's voice, maybe not so much. Without bothering to turn around and look, Mannelly calmly takes two steps to his right and hides in front of big John Tait as the crowd enjoys a chuckle ...

Anderson has been hurt and hasn't suited up for a while, but he's still carrying two helmets and two sets of shoulder pads to the locker room after practice. Rookie hazing. It never stops ...

Getting back to the Haynes situation, the former Nittany Lion was curiously not on the sidelines for tonight's practice even though the other injured players were. The latest rumor afloat has the Bears sweetening their offer to Denver for Ashley Lelie by including Haynes to go along with the previously-dangled 4th round pick. Head coach Lovie Smith denied the speculation after practice and said that the defensive-end-turned-defensive-tackle is just resting his bad back, but that didn't stop Benson from watching tonight. Or Jones. Or anybody else, for that matter ...

Wednesday's practice will be the last before the Bears open the exhibition season at San Francisco, and they'll hold it in the friendly confines of Soldier Field, so be sure to check out Bear Report tomorrow for all the details.

JC


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