Day 21: Training Camp News & Notes

The media gathered on the sideline at Olivet Nazarene Univesity for the final time on Wednesday, many of them wondering if any worthy lead story would develop. Their prayers were answered as Thomas Jones very quietly was removed from the PUP list and practiced with his team for the first time this camp. The Bears will have tomorrow off before hosting San Diego in preseason action of Friday.

There were few potential storylines on the last day of training camp from Bourbonnais, but about half an hour into Wednesday morning's practice, the sight of Thomas Jones participating in drills with his teammates became the only headline that mattered. He worked at about three-quarter speed and actually saw some time with the scout team. Seeing Jones taking handoffs from B.J. Symons was certainly a little awkward, but his mere presence in the huddle created quite a buzz around the ONU campus.

Unfortunately, the only time Jones kicked it up to full speed was when he jumped on a golf cart to avoid talking to the press. A Bears assistant chauffeured last season's leading rusher around the back of the field before practice was officially over and vanished without making a comment. Jones has never been a big talker, and he is even less of a self-promoter.

Head coach Lovie Smith seemed pleased with Jones's progress but remains content to bring him back into the offensive fold slowly. "It's a step at a time," he said. "He's missed a lot of time, but we like where he is right now. I don't think he had any trouble. It wasn't full speed work, and we wanted to ease him in that way. We'll pick up the tempo a little bit more, but with what we've asked him to do, we feel good about where he is right now."

As far as a timetable for his return to full-contact action, Smith was only clear about one thing. "Thomas will not play this weekend," he said. With regards to whether or not Jones would be ready to go the following week, Smith was much more vague. "It's a possibility."

Running backs coach Tim Spencer echoed Smith's sentiments after Wednesday's session. "Thomas has been working hard to get back," he said. "He really didn't do that much out here today. He didn't really burst or anything like that. I think we're going to take it easy, take it one step at a time. But hopefully in terms of knowing what he's supposed to know, he'll be fine there. Obviously, getting in there, getting some reps and some cuts, he hasn't done that. He'll fine tune a little bit I think and be OK."

Offensive coordinator Ron Turner seemed especially pleased to have his most productive offensive weapon back in the mix. "It was nice to see him out there," he said. "Yeah, it really was. It was hard to tell. He wasn't really going full speed as you can tell. It was just nice I think for us and for everybody on this team to see him back in the huddle and back out there and know that he's going to be back in our offense very shortly."

Something tells me that Cedric Benson's sprained left shoulder is going to start feeling much better very shortly, too.

The Bears will have the day off on Thursday before hosting the San Diego Chargers in Week 2 of the preseason on Friday.


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