Wake-up call: Seventh day of practice

August, 1, 2014
Aug 1
Every day of Chicago Bears training camp, we'll have a wake-up call that previews the day ahead.

10 a.m. ET (9 a.m. CT) -- Bears practice with full pads (open to the public).

Approx. 12:30 p.m. (11:30 a.m.) -- Marc Trestman and select players are available to the media coming off the practice field.

Friday is the final practice of the week scheduled to be in Bourbonnais. The Bears will hold their annual Family Fest at Soldier Field on Saturday evening. ESPN 1000’s “Carmen and Jurko Show” will again broadcast live from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. ET (10 a.m. – 2 p.m. CT) from one of the white tents adjacent to the practices fields near the entrance to the complex.

Among the storylines we’ll be following:
  • The unsettled safety position.
  • Kyle Long's road to recovery.
  • Will a No. 2 running back begin to emerge?

"SportsNation" debates whether or not Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is a legit MVP candidate.

Bears Camp Report: Day 6

July, 31, 2014
Jul 31
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Chicago Bears training camp:
  • Safety Adrian Wilson seems to be gaining a level of comfort in Chicago’s scheme, which in turn has resulted in the veteran playing somewhat faster. But don’t be fooled by Wilson’s seemingly average workout pace as some within the organization believe he’s “practicing like a veteran,” meaning he’s expending as little energy as possible just to make it through camp and into the preseason games. For Wilson, the exhibition games are where he’ll make his mark, and that’s when people within the organization expect the safety to go full bore. Considering he’s currently in a backup role, expect Wilson to receive significant snaps late into the games against mostly backups, and he’ll need to play well -- nearly dominate -- before the staff feels comfortable enough to put him into the mix for one of the starting jobs. The coaching staff hopes Wilson pans out because if he does, it gives the Bears an intimidating force on the back end they haven’t had in several years.
  • The Bears pumped in the music as usual for the individual portions of practice, but when the team simulated some live situations, staffers piped in crowd noise through the public address system. The extra noise didn’t seem to affect execution on either side of the ball.
  • Strangely, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, and Matt Forte seemed to drop more passes in one day Thursday than they had throughout all of training camp. Jeffery and Forte each dropped two passes with the former making up for it by hauling in a long ball late in practice between two defenders. Chris Williams, a candidate to become the club’s primary punt returner and a backup receiver, muffed a punt and also dropped a pass.
  • Despite Marshall's drop, he made perhaps the catch of the day in a goal-line drill. With Demontre Hurst draped all over him, Marshall made a spinning one-handed grab for a touchdown. Marshall receives points for difficulty on this one as he caught the touchdown with his left hand.
  • Just before the start of practice, the Bears announced they signed offensive lineman Graham Pocic to a one-year contract and waived receiver Terrence Tolliver with an injury settlement. Pocic signed with the St. Louis Rams in 2013 as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Illinois.
  • Non-participants at practice Thursday included safeties Craig Steltz (groin) and Chris Conte (shoulder) along with guards Kyle Long and Eben Britton (hamstring). Long has been cleared to return to practice, but won’t be back in pads until the club’s night workout Saturday at Soldier Field. Britton wasn’t on the field with teammates as he spent all of the practice rehabilitating inside with athletic trainers.
  • Jermon Bushrod, Stephen Paea, Austen Lane, and Jordan Mills were the stars of one-on-one drills featuring offensive linemen against defensive linemen. Paea made the most impressive move of the day, using a swim move to blow past Roberto Garza in just one step.
  • The Bears practice again Friday at 9 a.m. CST.

Lance Briggs wants to retire a Bear

July, 31, 2014
Jul 31
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- For all the changes made on the defensive side of the ball, the key to the unit’s overall success might hinge on the health of 12-year veteran linebacker Lance Briggs.

The linchpin of the defense, Briggs started strong in 2013, but ended up appearing in a career-low nine games because of a shoulder injury that kept him on the inactive list for two straight months.

 One of the best linebackers in franchise history, Briggs was voted to seven straight Pro Bowls from 2005-2011 where he developed the reputation as one of the hardest hitting linebackers in the league.

At 33-years old, can Briggs still elevate his game to a Pro Bowl level?

“I don’t know. I’ve lost a couple of steps,” Briggs said with a smile on Thursday. “Now sometimes I have to fall into a tackle. If I’m lucky, a tackle will fall, and I’ll put my hand on him and get credit for it. That’s where I’m at in [this] stage of my career.”

The Bears believe otherwise. The organization feels Briggs is the best striker on the defense and will look to the 12-year veteran to help lead a revamped unit that includes other proven older players such as Jared Allen, Charles Tillman, D.J. Williams, Tim Jennings and Jeremiah Ratliff.

“If [Lance] is playing at full-strength the way he started last season, we’re going to be a much better football team all around,” Bears head coach Marc Trestman said. “What he can do ripples through the entire team.”

Of course, there is the issue of Briggs’ expiring contract.

 In the past, Briggs has gone public in expressing his displeasure with contract negotiations. He famously predicted he would never play another down for the Bears after the club slapped Briggs with the franchise tag in 2007. Briggs eventually signed a six-year extension in March, 2008 that the club later re-worked in 2012 to include another year and more guaranteed money.

However, Briggs said on Thursday he does not plan to make his contract a talking point this season.

“I’m not talking about a contract. I’m talking about playing football,” Briggs said. “I just want to play football. I’ve seen a lot of guys come and go. I’m here. I’m happy. I’m just appreciative.

“In a matter of one day, I learned that the coach that I’d been coached by for the last years was going to gone, and that whole staff was going to be gone. Everybody that I was used to everyday was going to be gone. The guy who I shared a room with for 10 years was going to be gone. A lot of the guys that I had built relationships with were gone. There’s some new guys coming in and filling up those numbers and those lockers. That’s life. That’s the way it is. It’s business.”

Briggs later reiterated that he wants to finish his career in Chicago.

“The only time I might not retire as a Bear was the time when I said I’d never put on a Bears’ uniform again,” Briggs said. “And I haven’t said that again since that time. So, of course [I want to retire as a Bear].

“I’m a Bear. I’m a true Bear. This is Year 12. I’ve given my blood, sweat and tears and my heart to the city and playing for this team. When it’s all said and done, I’ll retire a Bear.”
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- It’s a tad premature to start the usual back and forth between the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions, but former Lions defensive end Willie Young indicated Thursday that his new scheme is a little more complicated than what he had become accustomed to in the Motor City.

Asked how much he’s learned playing in a new scheme with so many fresh faces, Young took a small swipe at Detroit’s scheme.

“You can learn a lot, actually,” Young said. “Coming from a scheme I came from in Detroit, you know, you didn’t have too many responsibilities should I say besides getting after the quarterback and doing everything on the run. But here, [we’re] a lot more fundamentally sound, and everyone’s held accountable.”

Young didn’t divulge details or share intricacies of Detroit’s system, but spoke positively when asked whether the Lions utilized his skill set properly.

“I’ll tell you what, it took a seventh-round draft pick, and I guess got him paid to some degree,” Young said, laughing.

Young signed a three-year contract with the Bears in March worth $9 million with $4 million in guarantees to become a part of Chicago’s makeover along the defensive line. Young, 28, played the previous four years in Detroit, and produced a breakout season in 2013 when finally given an opportunity.

Young started 15 games last season and contributed three sacks to go with 48 quarterback hurries. Young also proved himself a capable run defender.

In discussing the prospect of facing his former team on Thanksgiving in Detroit, Young said it’s going to “be interesting.”

Young smiled when asked about finally receiving an opportunity to go full speed at former teammate Matthew Stafford.

Young went after Stafford “a few times” in practice, “but I wasn’t allowed to hit him.”

“This will definitely be a different taste,” he added.

MNF moments, No. 39: Bears' big block

July, 31, 2014
Jul 31
Mason CrosbyAP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
To celebrate the 45th season of "Monday Night Football," a panel of ESPN.com contributors has selected the 45 most memorable moments in MNF history. Follow along as we reveal one per day and count down to this season's MNF debut.

No. 39: Bears 20, Packers 17 (OT) | Dec. 22, 2008

Sixty minutes wasn't enough to determine a winner in the 176th regular-season meeting between the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers.

The temperature at Soldier Field was announced at 2 degrees, which at the time was the coldest home game in Bears' history since they started keeping temperature records in 1963.

The Packers came in almost as cold, having lost four straight games while being eliminated from playoff contention in Aaron Rodgers' first season as starting quarterback. The Bears, on the other hand, were fighting for their playoff lives.

After the Packers jumped out to a 14-3 halftime lead, Chicago would rally to tie it at 17 with just over three minutes left in regulation. A 32-yard Will Blackmon kick return, paired with a 15-yard personal foul, put the Packers in field goal range.

With a chance to eliminate its longtime rival from playoff contention, Green Bay sent Mason Crosby out for a 38-yard field goal attempt. But it was not meant to be for the visitors, as Chicago's Alex Brown blocked the potential game winner and the Packers never touched the ball again.

In overtime, Chicago's Robbie Gould connected on an identical 38-yarder to keep the Bears' season alive despite being outgained by more than a 100 yards and never leading in regulation.

Wake-up call: Sixth day of practice

July, 31, 2014
Jul 31
Every day of Chicago Bears training camp, we'll have a wake-up call that previews the day ahead.

9 a.m. CT -- Bears practice with full pads (open to the public).

Approx. 11:30 a.m. CT -- Marc Trestman and select players are available to the media coming off the practice field.

An NFL officiating crew is expected to be present at practice on Thursday. Each summer a group of officials travels to Bourbonnais to work one or two practices to help give players a better feel for what would be called a penalty in a live game. The officials also meet privately with the entire team for a question and answer session. Again, the weather is expected to be ideal, plan to arrive early. An estimated crowd of 10,500 watched Wednesday’s session. ESPN 1000’s “Carmen and Jurko Show” will broadcast live from 10 a.m. CT – 2 p.m. CT from one of the white tents adjacent to the practices fields near the entrance to the complex.

Among the storylines we’ll be following:
" An update on safety. Is Danny McCray on the first-team?
" The latest on cornerback Tim Jennings’ quad injury.
" Depth on the offensive line with Eben Britton (hamstring) day-to-day.

Bears' defense in good hands

July, 31, 2014
Jul 31

Jared AllenAP Photo/Nam Y. HuhMuch of this season's fate for the Bears is in the hands of their defenders, including Jared Allen, right, who joins a slew of new D-linemen.

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- After Wednesday's practice, most eyes at Chicago Bears camp were on one practice field, as the always magnetic Michael Irvin taped a TV segment with the squad's receiving stars of Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett.

As Phil Emery and Marc Trestman would say, there was a lot of catching radius in that group.

On another practice field, away from the noise, rookie interior defensive linemen Will Sutton and Ego Ferguson were quietly working on their hand-to-hand combat skills with consultant Joe Kim.

The art of the empty hand could pay dividends for a rebuilt defensive line whose new motto could resemble a weekend golfer's: Grip it and rip it.

"There's a really big emphasis on using our hands and flipping our hips," Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said. "[Kim] has been a good addition to our staff in terms of we all believe in using our hands on defense."

Suttin and Ferguson had to match moves with Kim in karate-style drills. If Quentin Tarantino were at practice, he would have had a great idea about a 1970s kung fu football team.

(Read full post)

McCray takes first-team safety reps

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – In the latest twist to the Chicago Bears’ “wide open” safety competition, fifth-year veteran Danny McCray handled all the first-team reps alongside Ryan Mundy on Wednesday, while rookie fourth-round choice Brock Vereen worked exclusively on the No. 2 defense.

A core special-teams contributor the last four years in Dallas (74 career special-teams tackles), McCray’s only real NFL experience on defense occurred in 2012, when he recorded 87 tackles and one interceptions in 10 starts for the Cowboys.

“It’s a big opportunity,” McCray said. “I think that’s what we are all here for. It’s open competition. They are just running people around to see what fits and who can make plays.”

The Bears have refused to anoint any starters at safety, citing it as an open competition. However, Vereen and Mundy spent almost the entire offseason program and the beginning of camp as the top duo until Bears head coach Marc Trestman met on the off-day (Tuesday) with his staff to evaluate the club after four practices in Bourbonnais.

“We wanted to take a look at [McCray],” Trestman said. “He’s been practicing well. We’ve said all along the safety position is wide open and we wanted to take a look at him with the first group today. We talked a lot about it yesterday. Like I said, like we’ve all said, I don’t think you should take any one day and start making decisions on who is playing that position, other than certainly the guys that we all know. But the safety position is wide open and Danny has worked to an extent that he gets a chance to get some work there, so that’s what we did today.

“No. 1, [McCray] been in the right place in terms of covering and terms of the run game. His effort level has been very high. He’s a highly intelligent football player. He’s played consistently and continued to ascend over the last few days and we wanted to get a look at him with the ones. That’s what we did today and we’ll see what the tape shows.”

To be clear: The Bears announced last week they planned to look at various combinations at several positions throughout the preseason. Just because Vereen ran with the second team on Wednesday doesn’t mean he won’t be back on the No. 1 unit in the near future.

“I feel like whoever I’m out there with, I’m worthy of making a play,” Vereen said. “I don’t care who is to my left and to my right. I’ve got a great group of guys around me that I’m going to give my top effort to.”

Meanwhile, veteran Adrian Wilson benefited from increased reps on Wednesday with Vereen on the second team. Up until Wednesday, the four-time Pro Bowl selection had been regulated to mostly the third team, where playing time is sporadic at best.

Bears Camp Report: Day 5

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Chicago Bears training camp:
  • Coach Marc Trestman watched as Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin held court in front of a JUGS machine with receivers Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Marquess Wilson along with tight end Martellus Bennett. For Trestman, the moment seemed a perfect one to pull out his iPhone to snap a shot. Instead, the coach was forced to handle his daily news conference duties with the media. “I was just getting ready to go take a picture with my iPhone, but I missed out,” Trestman joked. “That’s a nice picture. That man was a heck of a player and knows a lot of football. So I’m glad they had a chance to spend some time together.” The opportunity to snap a picture remained for Trestman after fulfilling his media obligation as Irvin and the Bears players remained grouped together talking shop. But if Trestman pulled out his phone to take a picture, “You guys would be taking pictures of me taking the picture,” the coach joked.
  • Cornerback Tim Jennings (groin) took part during individual drills, but the staff continues to hold him out of full-team work. Rookie Kyle Fuller worked in Jennings’ place with the starters, while Kelvin Hayden kicked inside to nickel. Isaiah Frey worked as the extra defender in dime packages. Other non-participants included safeties Chris Conte (shoulder) and Craig Steltz (groin), guard Kyle Long (viral infection) and receiver Terrence Toliver (toe). Jeffery (foot) returned to the practice field after being held out on Monday.
  • Trestman spent several minutes after practice working with backup quarterbacks Jordan Palmer and Jimmy Clausen, putting the duo through rope-ladder drills. Holding the ball, the quarterbacks simulated their drops through the ladder. It appears the coach is working to improve the quarterbacks’ footwork.
  • Out since the start of camp after undergoing shoulder surgery in the offseason, Conte spent several minutes before the start of Wednesday’s practice catching balls from a JUGS machine. Conte started camp on the active physically unable to perform list, but the expectation is he’ll be cleared to practice soon. Regardless of when Conte returns, he’s been all but declared out of the preseason opener Aug. 8 against the Philadelphia Eagles by Trestman. Conte needs to return soon, though, as competition at the safety position remains heated with several players vying for two openings.
  • The Bears signed receiver Dale Moss to a one-year contract on Tuesday, and on Wednesday he made one of the most eye-popping plays of the day. Coming over the middle in heavy traffic, Moss made a leaping grab as linebacker DeDe Lattimore laid a bone-jarring lick. Moss managed to hang onto the ball, and even threw out a first-down hand gesture on the way back to the huddle.
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Athletic trainers carted off backup Chicago Bears guard Eben Britton after the veteran suffered a left hamstring injury during a one-on-one drill against defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff.

Britton said the injury isn’t serious, that he’s “fine,” and club officials expect the veteran to be on a day-to-day timeframe for recovery.

Britton sustained the injury battling Ratliff during a pass-rushing drill in which the defensive tackle appeared to win. As Ratliff rushed past Britton, the veteran grabbed his left hamstring. After spending a few plays watching the drill, Britton walked over to the athletic trainers’ station to be checked.

Minutes later, the athletic trainers carted off Britton.

A sixth-year veteran, Britton played in 13 games for the Bears last season, starting in four of those as a sixth eligible lineman. Britton’s production last season prompted the Bears to sign him in April to a one-year contract.

Prior to joining the Bears, Britton started 30 games for the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2009-12, making 23 starts at right tackle and seven more at left guard.
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears announced Wednesday that Pro Bowl guard Kyle Long has been cleared to return to practice, after starting training camp on the non-football injury list due to a viral infection.

The club plans to spend the next few days putting Long through conditioning work, and the expectation is he’ll join teammates Saturday when the Bears conduct a night practice at Soldier Field.

“We’re just going to continue to condition him,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “He’s got to get his legs back underneath him. I think by Saturday night you’ll see him in pads. We’ll work him into individual [drills] in pads on Saturday night. That would be the hope and we’ll take it from [there]. If we feel he’s got his feet underneath him and his pads are where they should be, we’ll see where Saturday night goes. That would be the plan, but we’re going to take one day at a time.”

Long declined to speak with reporters Wednesday, as he walked off the field at the conclusion of practice.

Long met with a physician on Monday, and the club held him out of practice again on Wednesday. After the workout Wednesday, Long was still listed on the team’s non-football injury list.

In all, Long has been held out of all five training camp practices. During the period of inactivity, Long has “done minimal things” to stay in shape, Trestman said.

“He hasn’t put pads on for quite some time, and hasn’t played football for quite some time, even through the OTAs and now the time away of the first five days of practices,” Trestman said. “We’ve been here six or seven days learning and doing those kinds of things, and he’s been away some of that time. That all goes into the mix and we’re trying to do the right thing. We’ll do what the trainers and doctors tell us to do. He’ll be back in meetings and he’ll get back on his feet and we’ll get him going.”


BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Hall of Famer Michael Irvin visited Chicago Bears practice on Wednesday, and Brandon Marshall continuously bent the former Dallas Cowboys receiver's ear, telling him that in 2014, quarterback Jay Cutler could be the MVP of the league.

Did Irvin believe him?

"I don't think anybody would believe it," Marshall said. "I don't know why they wouldn't believe it. [But] this is a different person. I don't know this guy. I don't know this new Jay Cutler. Maybe his new name is like Joshua or something. This is a totally different guy. Just call him Joshua Cutler. That's what the 'J' stands for."

Marshall "absolutely" believes Cutler could win MVP, citing changes in the quarterback's personal life and a strong supporting cast as his reasoning. Cutler comes off a strong 2013 campaign in which he finished with the second-highest completion percentage (63.1) in franchise history, in addition to posting a career-best passer rating of 89.2.

"I want to see what happens when they have a healthy Jay Cutler," Irvin said. "I asked Brandon that very question; what do you think a healthy Jay Cutler for 16 games [can accomplish]? He said 'MVP in the league.' I said that's high praise right there; you're just going to take Peyton Manning off that shelf and just going to put Jay Cutler right up there like that? That's the way he sees it.

"And that type of confidence with the kind of feeling they have about this offense, and what coach [Marc] Trestman is doing, is just incredible. With the diversity of your offense, you feel good about your opportunities."

(Read full post)

Great expectations for Jared Allen

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30

video ESPN Chicago Bears reporter Jeff Dickerson says veteran Jared Allen is expected to infuse enthusiasm and leadership to a rebuilt defensive line.