Training Camp Report: Day 1

The Monsters of the Midway had a big crowd on hand for the first day of training camp last season, but the throng of Bears backers that made their to Bourbonnais on Friday afternoon was staggering. Based on the chatter surrounding the practice field, they liked what they saw. had a front-row seat for all the action at Olivet Nazarene University and filed this report.

There is only way to describe how big the crowd is today in Bourbonnais: gargantuan. Just like Elle Driver in the Kill Bill movies, I've always liked that word and so rarely had an opportunity to use it in a sentence. Bob LeGere of the Daily Herald knocked on my door after dinner and asked for my best estimate as to how many fans were in attendance, and we both settled on about 5,000. And not only were they there, but they were really into it. "We gotta sign you next!" one maniac shouted to receiver Bernard Berrian, who responded "hope so" with a wry grin ...

The team is practicing in "shells" today, which is just a fancy football term for shorts and shoulder pads. The offense is wearing blue jerseys while the defense is in white, just the opposite of last year as a matter of fact. Receiver Brandon Rideau tells me after practice that he can't wait to put all the pads on for the first time since Super Bowl week, but it looks like he'll have to wait another day ...

Special teams work gets the day started, and it appears that kicker Robbie Gould's All-Pro performance last season was no fluke. He keeps splitting the uprights from both hashmarks no matter how far the line of scrimmage keeps getting pushed back. He does eventually shank a 53-yarder after a prolonged series of perfect kicks, but he redeems himself and converts from 53 on his second attempt to the delight of everyone sitting in the bleachers ...

Continuing with special teams, there is absolutely no reason to have either Filip Filipovic or Joel Stelly – a pair of scrub punters – on the roster at this point. Apparently, reliable veteran Brad Maynard hit the weights in the offseason for the first time in his career and is absolutely booming the ball right now. He's punting tighter spirals than most people could hope to actually throw the football, and his sideline accuracy is simply surgeon-like. At one point, return man Devin Hester actually gets some mild applause from the fans just for catching one of those moon rockets. Yep, the kicking game appears to be in good hands (feet?) once again ...

Rookie tight end Greg Olsen is going to find his way on the field an awful lot if offensive coordinator Ron Turner has any say in the matter – he does, by the way. In addition to his usual tight end position, Olsen sees some time at fullback, H-back and even receiver at various times with both the first- and second-team offense. He was split out wide left on one occasion and ended up being covered one-on-one by safety Adam Archuleta, which is just the kind of mismatch that Turner needs to exploit this season ...

On consecutive plays, Olsen and then rookie tailback Garrett Wolfe make their first reception of the workout, each drawing some hoots and hollers from an approving crowd. Laurence "Don't call me Larry" Holmes from 670 The Score comments that the 5'7" Wolfe looks like a high school player out there, and even though it sometimes kills me to agree with my boy Laurence, he's absolutely right. His game is all about speed and elusiveness, but if he ever gets hung out to dry on a pass in the flat, we might see the first decapitation in NFL history ...

Perhaps the most positive note of the day is the fact that every single player in camp is healthy enough to compete in every single drill. Just a year ago, you had the likes of defensive tackle Tank Johnson on the non-football injury list and safety Brandon McGowan not quite ready to go as he recovered from an Achilles' injury. Safety Mike Brown is no longer wearing the lower-leg wrap he adorned during mini camp and OTAs, and defensive tackle Tommie Harris' hamstring must be back at full strength since he's currently running with the first-team defense ...

If there's one player who is simply not having a good day, quarterback Brian Griese is at the top of everyone's list. Not only is he grossly inaccurate seemingly all day long, but he actually has consecutive passes intercepted during 7-on-7 action. First it was cornerback Dante Wesley coming up with an acrobatic INT in coverage on receiver Mark Bradley, and then rookie cornerback Trumaine McBride picks off a pass intended for receiver Mike Hass. Speaking of Hass, he drops two routine catches in the early going before righting the ship later in the day with a few tough grabs. Tailback Cedric Benson gets a little lackadaisical after breaking through the line of scrimmage on two occasions and has the football stripped from behind, and everyone knows that nothing gets a ball-carrier in the doghouse faster than a few fumbles ...

As for today's shining stars, the aforementioned Bradley was unquestionably the best wideout on the field. Much like quarterback Rex Grossman gets labeled "Good Rex" and "Bad Rex" depending on how he plays, there seems to be a "Good Mark" and a "Bad Mark" at times. During the offseason program, Bradley was either terrific or terrible with absolutely no in between. Defensive end Mark Anderson looked to be getting good pressure on left tackle John Tait during 11-on-11, and Adewale Ogunleye batted down a swing pass from Grossman intended for Benson later in the day. And I've simply grown tired of describing how good Hester looks on offense, this time catching passes on the sideline and dragging his feet to stay in bounds like Cris Carter in his prime ...

In one of the more intriguing matchups of the day that happened several times, Hester, the newly-converted receiver, was lined up against Danieal Manning, the newly-converted cornerback. Hester wins the battle more often than not, as Manning struggles with his footwork on the longer-than-usual turf that also appears to be a little slick. Larry Mayer of Chicago tells the media around him that Hester is going to author some of the most electrifying touchdowns we'll ever see, and I think I'm starting to drink the same kool-aid.

DT Tommie Harris (M. Spencer Green/AP Photos)

WR Muhsin Muhammad
On if the team has a little extra hunger coming into this season:
"I can't say the losing team [in the Super Bowl] is ever satisfied. I think we definitely have something to prove, definitely have hunger pains and all that kind of stuff. All the clichéd things you can think of now. We just need to prepare, be consistent this year, and just finish the job."

DT Dusty Dvoracek
On the differences between a nose tackle and a three-technique tackle:
"It's two different positions. Three technique, you're kind of more out on an island. It's usually you one-on-one with the guard more or less. Nose, you're kind of in there in the middle. You're going to see a lot of double teams. You're right over the center. There's no space in between you and the man. You're right there lined up on the football, so you're going to be making contact quicker. So it's different. There's some similarities, but they're totally different positions."

CB Nathan Vasher
On being an instructor at football camps this summer back in Austin:
"It was good. I got a chance to get back with a lot of my old teammates and see those guys out there. They've been having great success on and off the football field. Just great Longhorn pride out there, and I'm always happy to give back to Austin."

RB Cedric Benson
On knowing he doesn't have to compete with Thomas Jones anymore:
"It's funny because last year at the same time he wasn't here, so I had the exact same mindset. It's hard for me to keep reiterating on it because I never really paid too much attention to it. That wasn't as big of an issue to me."

Head coach Lovie Smith
On if we're finally seeing what a healthy Mark Bradley can do:
"Yes. Mark has been healthy for a while. He had a great offseason. Of course, he wanted to carry that on to training camp. And after the first day, you noticed him. You're asking about him, so evidently he did some good things."

John Crist is the Editor in Chief of and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit and become a Chicago Bears insider.

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