Day 14: Training Camp News & Notes

After leaving Bourbonnais behind for a few days, the Bears will finally get a chance to sleep in their own beds after practice. Wednesday was Family Night, and the feeling at Soldier Field was one of excitement and anticipation. This was the last practice session before Friday's preseason opener in San Francisco, and Lovie Smith's team looks ready to go.

It's only 6p.m., still an hour before practice is officially supposed to begin, but the lower level is almost full already. It really is great to be back home at Soldier Field for the first time this year. Here is a look at what happened at Family Night on Wednesday evening:

The NFL Films highlight video from 2005 is blasting on the JumboTron to the delight of many. You can actually hear the screaming and applause of the crowd over the volume of the P.A. system when Nathan Vasher's 108-yard touchdown return is shown. That play will never get old ...

The specialists are the first players out of the tunnel. Robbie Gould, Josh Huston, Brad Maynard, Joel Stelly, and Patrick Mannelly are welcomed by a warm cheer. This is the first time many of these fans have seen any of the Bears since last season's crushing playoff loss to Carolina ...

Bernard Berrian is suited up and will apparently give it a go tonight. His plan was to wake up this morning and work out nice and early to test his groin injury, and if all went well, he'd participate in the evening practice. Looks like things went well, which is a very good sign for the passing game ...

Devin Hester gets a raucous ovation from the crowd as he fields a kickoff and weaves his way through traffic and sprints down the sideline to the end zone. The Bears have a good rookie class in camp, but Hester might have the potential to make the biggest impact as a first-year player. He could be one of those special talents that will make you creep to the edge of your seat when he gets the ball in his hands ...

Ricky Manning Jr. is dancing all over the field during warm-ups. He's a very excitable guy and is always entertaining himself in some capacity. Somebody get Steve Sabol on the phone and get this guy miked-up for a game ...

During player introductions, Mark Bradley is announced as the other starting wide receiver opposite Muhsin Muhammad. Worth noting. He and Berrian will both be on the field an awful lot as the second and third wideouts, so it's almost irrelevant who actually gets the starting nod ...

Dwayne Slay is actually announced as a linebacker and not a safety, so it appears that he is officially making that position change. He had a reputation for being a big hitter back at Texas Tech, but he'll need to put some serious weight on his 210-pound frame before he's ready to make an impact. Brian Urlacher already had the necessary size when he came out of New Mexico ...

Cedric Benson is on the sideline right now, and he's not wearing the sling around his shoulder. Both the x-ray and the MRI looked good, so he will most likely be ready for live action again by the third preseason game or so. As for Friday's game, it's going to be the P.J. Pope and Andre Hall show in the backfield for most of the night ...

Michael Haynes is once again nowhere to be found. Both the Chicago and Denver front offices claim that there is nothing to read into that regarding a potential deal for Ashley Lelie, but every other injured player is on hand for Family Night. Haynes didn't get it done as an end and hasn't shown much at tackle either, so the odds of him being a Bear on September 10th are growing longer by the day ...

Slay is doing some light running in the north end zone with Thomas Jones and Brandon McGowan. Tank Johnson is also doing some agility drills and appears almost at full speed. Jones is moving much better than he was in Bourbonnais two days ago, and he receives all kinds of encouraging hoots and hollers from the Soldier Field crowd. No one can claim this guy wasn't working out when he skipped OTAs. Jones is nothing short of ripped in his half-shirt ...

Rex Grossman finds Rashied Davis perfectly in stride on a post pattern and draws a big roar from the fans ...

Both Gould and Huston convert all three of their field goal attempts, one each from 30, 35, and 40 yards. Gould has been very sharp all camp long. Plus, his leg strength is noticeably stronger than Huston at this point ...

Grossman overshoots Muhammad on a streak down the right sideline, another in a long line of overthrown deep balls. On the bright side, it's better than underthrowing the ball and giving the opposing defensive backs a chance to make a play. There are good mistakes and bad mistakes ...

Charles Tillman intercepts B.J. Symons and takes it all the way to the house, and he makes a new friend as he flings the football up into the stands for a souvenir. Peanut has always been a little bit of a ham. He never met a crowd he didn't like ...

Lance Briggs gets into the pick-six act a few plays later and takes another Symons pass all the way to paydirt. If he's playing for that big contract extension he's looking for, he can go ahead and book a flight to Hawaii this February ...

There is actually a wave being performed by the 22,000 fans in attendance right now. In other breaking news, everyone in TV land is wondering who shot J.R., and the Rubik's Cube is all the rage with the young people ...

Grossman delivers a perfectly thrown ball to Muhammad on a post in the end zone, but just as the crowd is ready to erupt for a TD catch, Moose drops it at the last second. There was way too much of that last year. It has to be a concentration thing because he normally has feather-soft hands ...

"Green Bay sucks! Green Bay sucks! Green Bay sucks!" ...

Muhammad redeems himself and makes a leaping catch on another post pattern, this time from Brian Griese and good for a touchdown ...

Gould is good on consecutive field goal attempts from 50 and 55 yards, and he had some room to spare on both. He was 18-19 from inside 40 yards last year but only 3-8 from beyond. If he can become more consistent from long range, he'll be a major weapon this season ...

The Bears will travel to San Francisco late tomorrow for their Friday night exhibition season debut against the 49ers, so be sure to visit Bear Report for all the analysis leading up to kickoff.

JC


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