27,000 fans here at practice today. I couldn't believe it when I came out of the tunnel and saw everybody in the stands. That's a lot of people when the regular season hasn't started.
It was a great experience having the opportunity to play at Soldier Field for the first time. I couldn't believe I was really here. There's a lot of history to football in Chicago, and now I am a part of that. That's exciting.
The noise level was amazing. It kind of bounces off from one side of the field to the other. I can't even imagine what that will be like once we have our first home game. It was definitely fun to hear the crowd and to soak up some of the atmosphere.
I've been asked if the weather was a problem. For me, at least, playing in pads today was not terribly difficult – pretty much just like any other day. Remember, I played college ball in California, so a practice in equipment when the temperature is right up there wasn't exactly a new experience.
The thing you always need to watch for is to stay hydrated. We always had plenty of liquids available and the trainers made sure we all were drinking, so there was no real problem – at least nothing that I saw.
We're only a week away from the first preseason game. It's something I'm definitely looking forward to. As I mentioned last time, the tempo of practice is increasing daily. I noticed a definite difference between the intensity of spring practices and camp. Now I am noticing a difference from the first few days were in camp until now. I'm sure this trend will continue right into the start of the regular season.
I am fortunate to have the chance to work with such great coaches. I had good basic skills from college football, but now things are being refined to a whole other level. Everybody is good in the pros, so you need to be able to perform much better than you ever did before just to be able to compete.
I've been asked if I've notice any difference between the coaching I had in college and the coaching here at the professional level. My college coaches were great. I learned so much from them, Coach Marinelli is an excellent teacher who emphasizes fundamentals and overall skills. I feel that he helps me take what I know already and move forward with that.
I've been working quite a bit with the first team. That's an adjustment, for sure. All the players here play well, but when you are up against the first-string guys, it's something else all together. They are very talented, and it can get pretty intense.
The major thing that I notice is that I need to adjust my moves quickly depending on whom I am facing across the line. Some of the guys on offense can move really fast and block you before you know they're there.
Having the chance to line up across from different guys is great preparation for my first game. I'll be going against players I don't know. It will be up to me to pick up on what they're going to do, then react. So in that sense, playing against the first team, the second team and the third team on the Bears is extremely helpful. Nothing is ever the same, and I always need to pay attention.
Physically, I am feeling as well as any other player on the team right now. I guess, to a certain extent we're all pretty banged up right now. It's something that you expect to happen as training camp progresses. You do the best you can to preserve your body and get rest when you can. That might be the biggest adjustment for most of the rookies: learning to pace ourselves.
The fans that were here at the practice today might have noticed that my jersey number has changed. I used to be 73, now I'm 90. This is the same number that I had in college. It was available, and a few days ago I asked if I could have it. Actually, 90 wasn't the only number I had in college. I started out there wearing 53. But 90 is what I feel most comfortable with, and I'm glad that I've got it back.
I've been asked about hazing in camp. There's not too much going on, nothing that I'll talk about here. But I will l say I am still responsible for getting snacks for the players. I've done that since camp began. It's not a bad job. In fact, it's something I'm pretty good at.
Sunday we have the day off, and then we head back to Bourbonnais to begin preparation for next Saturday's game against Buffalo. It's an away game, and it will be interesting to see what an NFL road trip is like. I'd imagine it would be pretty similar to a college road trip, but I'll know for sure soon enough.
I feel ready to play, and I am looking forward to the whole process.
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Gilbert Rookie Diary: 5th Entry
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