Well, OTAs are just about done, and the experience has been pretty much what I expected it to be. It's been a lot of fun, but it's also been hard work.
There is definitely a noticeable difference between practice in college and practice at the professional level. Everything you do needs to be that much more intense when football is your job. In college, football is part of your daily life – not the major part of your day.
Practice in the pros is a time-consuming process. Things are taken apart here on each play. You break things down, refine them, then put the play back together. It's a great way to learn.
Once the whistle blows and the play is underway, things tend to speed up considerably. That is pretty much what I had expected going in, and I've changed my technique to accommodate that faster pace. I am making my adjustments the best that I can for right now, but I do understand that it is a learning process. By the time the regular season begins, I want to be really quick out there.
At this level, it's all about the details. That is what the coaches have spent quite a bit of time on so far. Everybody here is a very good player. But to get to that next level, you want your technique to be perfect. Players who succeed in the NFL have refined things quite a bit. That is what I am trying to do, as well.
One thing that has helped my speed and my technique in general has been that we've been playing without pads. Once you are loaded up with all of the heavy equipment, moving quickly is much more difficult. It can also get distracting when you are wearing pads. Playing in a t-shirt and shorts is just a lot more comfortable. It frees you up to concentrate on your moves.
We've been fortunate so far that the temperatures on the field have been pretty cool. Heat can be a distraction. It tends to tire you out fast, and you have to be careful to hydrate. But I am from California, so the temperature shouldn't have too much of an effect on me.
We get a few weeks off now. My plan is to head back home to see my friends and my family. It'll be nice to reconnect a little before coming back here. I know some of the veterans are planning to take a little time off, but rookies really don't have that luxury.
I'll be heading to San Jose State and working with the machines in the football facility. Keeping in shape is extremely important for me throughout this year, so you can be sure I'm taking nothing for granted as far as that goes. I'm more than willing to put in the time it takes to be at my best.
Gilbert is heading back to California for a while.
Nam Y. Huh/AP Images
As far as actually moving to this area for the season, that will come closer to the time of training camp. There's a lot to do back home before I have time to concentrate on relocating. I do have to say, though, that I like the Chicago area, and I do feel that the team and I are a good fit for each other. It's a comfortable situation.
I signed my contract with the Bears a while ago. It's good to have that done. I'm not going to give any specific details, but I have to mention that at no time did the team pressure me to get it done. I felt confident and relaxed that this would happen in its own time.
As a rookie, you aren't that involved the actual negotiating process. That is what your agent is for. I discussed the parameters with him, and he took it from there. I am very satisfied with the agreement we reached, and it is good to have that behind me now so I can concentrate on football.
One thing I'd like to mention is the high level of coaching that I have found here. Coach Marinelli has put in a great deal of effort with the defense, and I believe that all of the players really appreciate that. I think there is a very positive energy on this team and a sense of confidence. Most of the players have remained healthy through these weeks of practice, so I think we will be going into training camp very strong.
I continue to appreciate the efforts of the veterans, who are helping all of us rookies. They answer our questions and help out when we ask. I know that hazing is coming in camp, but so far it's all been good.
I've been asked what I am taking with me to camp. I've heard all kinds of things that players bring with them: flatscreen TVs, bicycles, stereos, all the creature comforts. The one thing I know I'll have with me is snacks. Not for myself, but for the veterans. I've been told it's my job to get everybody's orders and have exactly what they want at all times once we all arrive in Bourbonnais.
So I guess I'll be doing a little grocery shopping between now and the end of July.