Day 18: Training Camp News & Notes

The Bears took to the ONU practice field for the first time since last Tuesday, and with the bitter taste of a poor showing in San Francisco still in their mouths, things got a little chippy out there. Several shoving matches highlighted a beautifully cool evening in Bourbonnais. Rex Grossman in particular needed a good day throwing the ball just to feel better about himself.

The Bears headed back to Olivet Nazarene University for Sunday night's practice and will be there until training camp breaks on Wednesday. This was the first session since Friday night's disappointing display in the preseason opener against the 49ers, and there was a feeling of angst in the air that was palpable to anyone in the vicinity. Here are some obervations from the sidelines:

The team has flip-flopped jersey color assignments for some reason. The offense is now wearing blue tops as opposed to the white they had been sporting since training camp opened, and the defense switched from blue to white. Maybe it's laundry day ...

Thomas Jones is doing some running drills with fellow injured player Brandon McGowan, and although he's not going full speed yet, he's close. He is moving with much more fluidity than he was just a few days ago, although there is still no specific time table for his return to action ...

In addition to the usual walking wounded, Justin Gage is taking the night off to rest a mild hip pointer, and Mike Brown has a minor lower leg issue. Head coach Lovie Smith said after practice that neither is anything to really worry about, describing them as "general injuries from the game." Nathan Vasher is also skipping practice tonight, and considering how reckless he was with that bizarre hit on Kevan Barlow on Friday night, he's lucky he can still walk ...

Cedric Benson still has his shoulder wrapped, but he appears to be moving his upper body with good range of motion, and there aren't any signs of discomfort on his face. He seems quite giddy tonight, actually. As the wide receivers are practicing catching passes on the sideline, Benson strips a ball out of Muhsin Muhammad's hands for his own amusement ...

The crowd at Ward Field tonight seems a little agitated, and based on what they saw on television this past Friday night, it's understandable. Muhammad and Bernard Berrian both drop a pass within a few minutes of each other, and the groans from the fans are becoming more audible. It sounds like a collective "hear we go again." ...

Joel Stelly is either feast or famine with his punts and has been for quite some time. He booms one, then he shanks one. Over and over and over. The kid has a serious leg, but he has no consistency right now. Brad Maynard does ...

Muhammad provides one of the highlights of the night as he beats Carlos Hendricks with a stutter-step then hauls in a pass from Rex Grossman that was slightly overthrown with one hand and tumbles into the end zone. Why do so many of these receivers make the tough catches but drop some easy ones right between the numbers? It's maddening. But that was a gorgeous play. Highlight reel material ...

Devin Hester better make an impact on special teams this year because there's no way he'll see the field as a cornerback any time soon. He has a world of ability, no question about it, but his technique needs a ton of work. This guy could turn into one of those Mel Gray types who does nothing but return kicks and punts because it's the only thing he does well ...

Practice is much more physical tonight than it has been lately. Not just one but several shoving matches break out between the offense and defense. Hunter Hillenmeyer and Mark LeVoir get into it for a minute, and then a huge scrum breaks out that has so many bodies in the middle of it, it's impossible to tell what started it all. My money's on Dusty Dvoracek. He's just that kind of guy, but in a good way ...

The biggest story of practice tonight is the performance of Grossman. He looks awful, there's no other way to describe it. After Friday night's game, Brian Griese is obviously a little closer in his rearview mirror than he was before, and you have to wonder if Grossman is psyching himself out just a little bit. He's wild. He's indecisive. His body language doesn't look good. He needed a strong practice just to feel better about himself, but he did nothing to put out the Griese fire today ...

As Jones comes through the tunnel and back out onto the field, a teenage boy in the stands shouts the line of the night. "I saw your ‘Cribs' episode!" ...

Urlacher gets a big paw up in the passing lane and swats a Grossman pass intended for Desmond Clark. Grossman hasn't hit a wide receiver in an hour. Even his safety valve throws look arduous. Nothing is coming easy, and he appears to be out-thinking himself. If Crash Davis were to give him some advice, it would undoubtedly be, "Don't think. It can only hurt the ballclub." ...

Charles Tillman runs with Bernard Berrian stride for stride down the right sideline on a fly route and intercepts Grossman's pass near the goalline. That ball was underthrown, something Grossman hasn't done much of in camp. Peanut is always so aggressive in practice, but he has a strange tendency of giving too much cushion in game action ...

Shortly thereafter, Danieal Manning undercuts a flat route and picks off another Grossman pass for an easy touchdown return. Manning has been getting all kinds of reps tonight with Mike Brown resting, and he looks better and better with each session. And it's official. Grossman is having his worst practice yet. Not good at all ...

The Bears will practice at 3p.m. tomorrow, and Bear Report will have your daily News & Notes as usual.

JC


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