BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears signed guard/center Dylan Gandy to a one year contract on Friday and waived defensive end Jamil Merrell.

Terms of Gandy’s deal weren’t disclosed.

An eight-year veteran, Gandy (6-foot-3, 295 pounds) has played in 120 games with 19 starts with the Indianapolis Colts (2005-07), and Detroit Lions (2009-12), and has spent time playing both center and guard. In addition, Gandy has contributed on special teams on kickoff return units as well as the field goal teams last season for the Lions.

Gandy has played in at least 15 games seven times in his eight-year career, and has played in all 16 games five times.

Gandy played in 15 games last season for the Lions, contributing mostly on special teams.

Merrell, meanwhile, was an undrafted rookie out of Rutgers.
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Offensive linemen Kyle Long and Jordan Mills bonded almost immediately as rookies in 2013, and a similar development seems to be afoot at training camp with rookie defensive tackles Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton.

“As soon as we got in here together, we kind of cliqued up and we’ve been by each other every day,” Ferguson said. “Our rooms are right next door to each other. He was a great pass-rusher in college, won defensive player of the year two times in a row. I looked up to him a little bit as far as pass-rushing skills. I felt like he was a great player. “

Interestingly, the duo wants to incorporate one another’s strengths into their own games. Looking to plug leaks in the league’s worst rushing defense (161.4 yards per game) from 2013, the Bears drafted Ferguson and Sutton in the second and third rounds, respectively.

Ferguson stuffs the run. Sutton gets after the quarterback.

Ferguson wants to improve as a pass-rusher, and Sutton hopes to hone his skills against the run.

“I feel like our games are two different styles,” Ferguson said. “I’m more of a run-stopper trying to develop and get better on my pass-rushing. He’s more of a pass-rusher trying to develop more against the run.”

At Arizona State, Sutton won Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year two years in a row, becoming just the second player in the history of the conference to win the award twice. Sutton racked up 20.5 career sacks in college.

Ferguson, meanwhile, started just 12 games at LSU, where he notched only one sack before declaring for the draft after his junior season.

Despite those meager numbers, Bears general manager Phil Emery felt confident in his decision to draft Ferguson. Prior to making the pick, Emery watched tape of Ferguson in games against Alabama, Mississippi State, Mississippi and Georgia to confirm his belief in the defensive tackle’s worth. In those games, Emery said, “nobody could run the ball against him inside at all.”

It was clear, though, that Ferguson’s pass-rushing skills needed work.

That’s part of why Ferguson took a yoga class in the offseason to improve his flexibility, which in turn, should help with movement skills as a pass-rusher. Ferguson said he noticed the difference Friday in his first training camp practice as a pro.

“I felt like my flexibility was a lot better today,” Ferguson said. “I’m just trying to take it one play at a time, one day at a time.”

Chicago Bears alter practice routine

July, 25, 2014
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BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears treated the fans in attendance at ONU on Friday to a new wrinkle in the team's practice routine.

Since the beginning of the offseason program in May (closed to the public), the Bears have pumped loud music through a speaker system when the team conducts individual drills at the beginning of practice.

The practice playlist, selected by the players, ranges from AC/DC and Bon Jovi to T.I.

"I've talked a lot about this with guys around the league," Bears head coach Marc Trestman explained. "I just want to bring a little more energy to practice. I thought talking to the players about it we would be able to get our work done in individual and coach them close up and still have a little fun as well.

"It translates to games because there is music before games. So because they are working with music before games why shouldn't we have music in that same warm-up or individual period we have in practice? That was really the No. 1 reason to do it; to make the practices as game like as they can be and those warm-ups are going to be similar as well."

Is Trestman allowed to make any song requests?

"Nobody has asked me," Trestman smiled.
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- While Jared Allen’s physical skill set made him an alluring offseason acquisition for Bears, it’s the intangibles that stood out in Day 1 of training camp, according to Bears coach Marc Trestman.

“I thought Jared set the tone defensively with Lamarr [Houston] and the guys up front, Jeremiah [Ratliff] up front, just in the start of practice,” Trestman said. “That was clear through his performance today that he not only started fast and finished strong.”

Chicago’s defense netted a Kyle Fuller interception early on in full team work Friday at Olivet Nazarene University, and the momentum from that play seemed to carry the unit through the duration of practice. Walking off the field just minutes after the workout, cornerback Tim Jennings felt “the defense came out with a lot of energy.”

[+] EnlargeJared Allen
Jerry Lai/USA Today SportsDefensive end Jared Allen's infectious personality has made an impression on the Bears.
Combined with veterans such as Charles Tillman, Lance Briggs, Jennings and Houston, perhaps Allen served as the catalyst. Of course, Allen won’t take credit. He knows his worth is proven by what’s done on the field, not rah-rah motivational speeches.

“You’re a leader by what you do. I’ve had success in this league, so for me, it’s nothing I want to say to a guy,” Allen said. “I’m going to encourage a guy. I’m going to help young guys out if they want it. But the way I’m going to lead is I’m going to show up to work and I’m going to put my best on the field, and I’m going to expect the guy next to me to be his best.”

Tillman, Briggs, and Jennings have taken a similar approach, making Allen seemingly a natural fit in Chicago’s revamped group chock-full of a mixture of young, ascending players combined with established veterans.

“There’s so much change,” Allen said. “Guys get to know each other from playing against each other and you have a mutual respect. So it’s not like I was totally new. I know Lance. I know Peanut. I know these guys, and as they get to see how I work, the young guys see that, and they see how the vets who have had success in this league collaborate and work together. So there’s not much that has to be said. You show up and go about your business, and you expect guys to do the same.”

Allen joined the Bears with Hall of Fame credentials as a five-time Pro Bowler, and member of the 100-sacks club, but Trestman believes the defensive end’s infectious personality could play into him positively affecting other players on Chicago’s defense, which hit historic lows last season, ranking last in the NFL against the run.

Obviously, the addition of Allen doesn’t automatically fix things. But his combination of skill and intangibles certainly helps.

“He’s a very likable guy in the locker room. He’s a fun guy to have a conversation with,” Trestman said. “We’re excited to have him with us. He’s been a tremendous addition in our locker room and we’re hopeful it’ll translate to the field and the games as well.”

The Bears worked a few packages during Friday’s workout which feature Allen, Willie Young, Ratliff and Houston all on the field at the same time. When the team runs its base defense, Allen and Houston are the starters at defensive end. But in some packages, Houston kicks inside to defensive tackle next to Ratliff, which should allow Young and Allen to better attack the edges.

As an 11-year veteran Allen knows to temper his excitement, because once the season kicks off, anything can happen. But having been a part of successful defenses in the past in Kansas City and Minnesota, Allen believes the Bears have the ingredients to put together something special.

“We’ve got quality vets, we’ve got Pro Bowl guys,” Allen said. “We’ve got guys who are right on that precipice of exploding. I’m excited to work with Willie and Jay Ratliff being healthy again, and Lamarr. We worked on some different packages and stuff today to get all four of us on the field. It's exciting to see the talent level we've got with Briggs behind us and Bostic. You can keep going. I'm excited to play with the DBs, honestly, to have some lockdown corners -- the young guy running there flying around and picking balls off today. So that's what's exciting about it. The fans and the media want to talk about what happened last year. I wasn't here. To me that doesn't matter. I know how things can change in one year. I honestly believe -- I've been a part of really good defenses -- we have those components. As long as guys continue to grow and develop and understand how each other work and the coaches continue to let us work within our scheme, I think we'll be fine.”

Bears camp report: Day 1

July, 25, 2014
Jul 25
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BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Here is a quick recap of highlights from Chicago Bears training camp at Olivet Nazarene University:
  • Welcome-to-the-NFL moments generally aren’t favorable, but rookie first-round pick Kyle Fuller bucked that trend with a pair of interceptions during his first training camp workout.During the first session of full team work, Fuller broke on a pass from Jordan Palmer intended for Terrence Toliver, diving just before the ball arrived to make an interception worthy of a highlight reel. Later in the practice, Fuller picked off a throw by Jimmy Clausen on a play when Terrence Toliver ran the wrong route according to Bears coach Marc Trestman.“Just playing my technique and fundamentals, and when the ball is in the air [I’m] just trying to go in and make a play,” Fuller said of his first interception.

    Positivity didn’t rule the day for Fuller, however. Chris Williams pulled in a bomb from Palmer, who dropped the ball right in between the bracket coverage of Fuller and safety M.D. Jennings for a touchdown.
  • Trestman introduced one new wrinkle the fans and players could appreciate at practice, as the team pumped music over the loudspeakers during warm-ups and individual periods. Trestman pointed out that during pregame at stadiums, music blares over the loud speakers during warm-ups, and the coach wants to simulate real situations as much as possible.Perhaps more interesting is the eclectic selection that included songs from Bon Jovi, Guns & Roses, T.I., Bob Marley and AC/DC. Trestman said the players pick the music.“It translates to games because there’s music before games,” Trestman said. “I just wanted to bring just a little more energy to practice.”
  • Chicago’s revamped defense definitely came out of Day 1 as winners, compared to the offense. But let’s remember, it was only the first day. In addition to Fuller’s pair of interceptions, cornerback Sherrick McManis picked off a Jay Cutler pass, and later stripped Marquess Wilson near the sideline before recovering the loose ball.There were also several instances in which the rush affected the quarterbacks enough for them to abort plays. Cornelius Washington also batted down a Cutler pass.“We looked great, came out here, got a few turnovers,” cornerback Tim Jennings said. “Defense came out with a lot of energy. I know some of the offensive coaches wish they could’ve had some plays back. We’re not at all disappointed with this first day.”
  • Non-participants at practice included guard Kyle Long (viral infection), and safeties Craig Steltz (groin) and Chris Conte (shoulder). Conte started camp on the active physically unable to perform list. But the club decided late Thursday to add Steltz to the active PUP list and put Long on the active non-football injury list.Long is considered day to day, according to Trestman, who said, “We don’t anticipate it will be too long” before he’s released to practice.
  • Receiver Eric Weems and McManis became involved in a brief shoving match near the end of practice that was quickly broken up by teammates.

McClellin convinced he belongs at LB

July, 25, 2014
Jul 25
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BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Shea McClellin re-affirmed on Friday his conviction that linebacker is “where he belongs” on defense, but added that he remains in the process of refining certain skills necessary to successfully make the transition from defensive end.

McClellin
Specifically, McClellin is trying to train his eyes to see the field from a wider and broader sense at linebacker, as opposed to lining up at defensive end where a player’s field of vision is narrower.

“That’s one thing I need to work on is getting my eyes right,” McClellin said. “That’s something I need to work on over the next two or three weeks. Especially at middle linebacker, you have to see the whole field and know what’s going on with the entire defense.

"The more reps I get the more comfortable I feel. I said back in the spring this is where I belong."

Pushing McClellin back to a two-point stance is expected to have its advantages. While McClellin failed to generate enough sacks as a defensive lineman, there is no denying his pure speed and athleticism. McClellin should greatly benefit from having more open field to work with at linebacker, especially when he is asked to blitz.

“It helps out because you are out there in space and the guy isn’t on you,” McClellin said.

Because of McClellin’s high-profile as a former first-round draft pick, the transition to linebacker will be heavily scrutinized over the summer. But the coaching staff appears to remain squarely in McClellin’s corner, including new linebackers coach Reggie Herring.

Herring, a 33-year coaching veteran, was hired in January to replace Tim Tibesar, who the Bears fired after just one season coaching linebackers.

“I think Shea has been encouraged by Reggie,” Bears head coach Marc Trestman said. “I think Reggie has a lot of confidence in him and his ability. I think he’s feeling that encouragement, not only by Reggie, but by Mel [Tucker] and by all of us. We’re excited to see where this can go with Shea. It’s the first day, and we’ll continue to watch him progress as we go through camp.”

Bears' Kyle Fuller shines on Day 1

July, 25, 2014
Jul 25
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BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears drafted Kyle Fuller at No. 14 overall because the organization believed Fuller had the ability to make an immediate impact on defense, even though two Pro Bowl cornerbacks were already on the roster.

[+] EnlargeKyle Fuller
Nam Y. Huh/AP PhotoRookie CB Kyle Fuller impressed coaches and teammates during Friday's training camp session.
It’s dangerous to get too high or too low on a player based on one training camp practice, but Fuller sure looked like an NFL-ready defensive back on Friday. Fuller stole the show on defense intercepting a pair of passes, including a spectacular diving pick on a Jordan Palmer throw during 11-on-11 that showcased the cornerback’s immense wingspan.

Fuller intercepted six balls and broke up 34 passes in 50 games at Virginia Tech. That propensity for getting a hand on the football in pass coverage was one of the traits that attracted the Bears to Fuller in the pre-draft process.

“It was a good start for Kyle,” Bears head coach Marc Trestman said. “That was a tremendous play he made in the first series of the day. The second one [interception] we had [the receiver run] the wrong route but he [Fuller] was in the right place and made the play. That’s a good thing. He was around the football. That’s a good start for him today.”

Fuller spent the entire offseason program working on the Bears’ first-team nickel unit at cornerback opposite Charles Tillman, with Tim Jennings generally bumping inside to cover the slot. That personal grouping did not change on Friday, raising expectations that Fuller will be asked to contribute immediately in the regular season, if he avoids injury in the preseason.

“I had a good start, but I definitely have a lot of work to do,” Fuller said. “I definitely enjoy coming out here and competing with guys like Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery every day. They are making me better.

“I just try and come out here every day and show the coaches what I can do. My goal is to just get better, and whatever happens, happens.”

Chicago Bears Preseason Live

July, 25, 2014
Jul 25
9:00
AM ET
Welcome to Chicago Bears training camp! ESPN.com Bears reporters Michael C. Wright and Jeff Dickerson have live updates and the latest news from Bourbonnais, Illinois.

Wake-up call: First practice of camp

July, 25, 2014
Jul 25
7:00
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Every day of training camp, we'll have a wake-up call that previews the day ahead.

9:00 a.m. CT – Bears practice without pads (open to the public)

Approx. 11:30 a.m. CT – Marc Trestman and select players will be available to the media walking off the practice field.

Friday marks the Bears’ opening training camp practice of 2014, but by NFL rule, teams must train without pads for the first two days of camp. The Bears will be spread out over at least two of the Olivet Nazarene University practice fields during individual drills, but keep an eye on where the tall, camera cranes are set up when you arrive. The location of the cranes indicates which practice field the team will conduct full-team drills, the highlight of every training camp practice.

Among the storylines we’ll be following:

1) Jay Cutler's command of the offense in Year 2 under Trestman.

2) How the Bears line up at safety, linebacker and along the defensive line.

3) Plus, we’ll keep tabs on any injuries and other practice developments.
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- The body-language cops and critics knock Jay Cutler enough that new signees aren’t sure what to expect from the quarterback upon joining the Chicago Bears.

That’s partly why backup quarterback Jimmy Clausen expressed surprise Thursday about Cutler’s willingness to take on the role of mentor. After signing with the Bears on June 5, Clausen spent his first weekend as a Chicago Bear with Cutler learning the offense.

[+] EnlargeJimmy Clausen
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastJimmy Clausen is looking to impress coach Marc Trestman enough to earn the Bears' No. 2 QB job.
“Just hearing different things around the league, ‘Jay’s this, Jay’s that, different guys are this or different guys are that,’" Clausen said. “But you’ve just got to get to know a person, a man on the team. He’s just like all the rest of the guys, just hungry to get out there each and every day, work hard, and win on Sundays.”

With Cutler’s help, Clausen put on enough of a show during veteran minicamp in June to convince the team’s brass to extend the audition to training camp. Now, Clausen finds himself in prime position to overtake Jordan Palmer to become the primary backup to Cutler.

“He helped me out a lot,” Clausen said of Cutler. “Obviously, you get a whole entire playbook, but a lot of the plays in the playbook aren’t necessarily the ones you run. So he kind of went through pretty much the whole entire playbook and said, ‘Hey, you need to know this, this, and this. He really helped me a lot.”

That assistance perhaps plays a role in intensifying the competition between Clausen and Palmer for the No. 2 job. Palmer originally signed with the Bears last August, was cut after training camp, and returned two months later to finish out the season with the team.

Early in the offseason, Bears coach Marc Trestman and general manager Phil Emery expressed confidence in going into the 2014 season with Palmer as the No. 2 quarterback. But the Bears drafted David Fales in the sixth round, and signed Clausen in June following a strong workout and personal interview session with the brass at Halas Hall.

“Right now, Jordan Palmer has the first shot at being No. 2,” Trestman said. “There’s three guys there up for the No. 2, but it’s going to start with Jordan, and we feel really good about Jimmy. We felt really good about David’s performance as well. We’re just going to work at it like that. We’re going to give Jordan the first shot. He’s been here the longest. Jimmy Clausen has the most experience, so we’re going to work to get him in there.”

Does Cutler have a preference? The quarterback certainly didn’t indicate as much Wednesday when he arrived at camp.

“Jordan, he’s been around a long time, his older brother, he’s been able to watch him a lot,” Cutler said. “Jimmy, he’s played in big games at Notre Dame and kind of [has] the pedigree. He’s a high-round pick, was in a tough position in Carolina. They’re both very hungry. They’ve both worked extremely hard this offseason putting in the time mentally.”

Clausen spent the past month going into camp, studying and training in Westlake Village, California, alongside players such as Clay Matthews, Aaron Rodgers and Colin Kaepernick.

“I think I’ve got a good grasp of it right now,” Clausen said. “It’s just taking what I’ve been studying onto the field and having it translate into practice each and every play. It’ll be interesting to get on the field and get going. I’m excited. Day 1 is tomorrow.”

Like Cutler, Clausen has dealt with scrutiny over the years regarding his attitude, and perceptions about his ego. He encourages those hurling the criticisms to do what he did in establishing a relationship with Cutler.

“Everybody has their own opinion, but until you get to know somebody, you can’t really make a judgment on the person,” Clausen said. “A lot of people say different things about me, or different guys on the team, or Jay, or whoever it may be. I think it’s unfair if you just make a judgment without knowing somebody, but that’s just how this world is today.”
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Surrounded by media outside the cafeteria at Olivet Nazarene University on an unseasonably cool July afternoon, Chicago Bears safety Adrian Wilson wanted to say what was truly on his mind.

Instead, he kept calm when asked Thursday how it felt to miss the entire 2013 season.

Wilson
“It was terrible,” Wilson said. “It was pretty bad. I really can’t describe it now because all of the cameras are in my face. The words I want to use aren’t words I can use on camera.”

But what the lenses might be able to catch once the team straps on the pads for workouts at training camp are flashes of sheer nastiness and physicality not seen in Chicago’s secondary since Mike Brown roamed it. Wilson says he’s ready. Bears general manager Phil Emery thinks he is, too.

But age (he’ll be 35 in October) and health remain concerns. Wilson missed all of 2013 after suffering an injury in the preseason finale as a New England Patriot, which was revealed to be Haglund’s deformity and required him to wear a hard cast for more than two months.

Wilson joined the Patriots after a 12-year tenure with the Arizona Cardinals, which released the aging veteran despite his five Pro Bowl selections and contributions in 181 career games.

When Wilson suffered the injury with the Patriots, it was believed the safety was in jeopardy of not making the team.

Yet in Chicago, for Wilson, there’s new life, provided he can stay healthy and consistently showcase the burst, superior instincts and athleticism he displayed back in June during the workout at Halas Hall which prompted the Bears to sign him.

“It’s an open competition back there,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “If he’s ready to go condition-wise in terms of on a daily basis and practice effectively, we’ll see where he’s at. We’re excited and hopeful that what we saw in the workout will transcend over the course of training camp.”

Wilson signed with the Bears after they had already conducted organized team activities and minicamps. So he didn’t participate in the team’s offseason conditioning program. To get Wilson up to speed, defensive coordinator Mel Tucker and secondary coach Jon Hoke reached out, as did Jared Allen, Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs, among others.

Wilson also got a hold of an iPad loaded up with Chicago’s defensive system, and crammed day after day, learning the intricacies of the scheme.

“Good thing they made iPads,” Wilson joked. “I missed pretty much everything [in the offseason]. So I got caught up with the iPad and I’m ready to roll. For the people that know me, they know how obsessed I am with just learning the ins and outs of the defense.”

There’s also an infatuation with disproving the naysayers. During his 12 seasons in Arizona, Wilson missed significant time only once (seven games in 2007 due to a season-ending heel injury). That’s partly why Wilson -- despite missing all of 2013 -- never doubted he’d return to action.

Now he’s in a wide-open competition at the safety position, as both spots are up for grabs.

“There’s no challenge, man,” Wilson said. “Football is football. I’m a guy who’s very prideful. I’m a little bit disappointed from last year. I don’t have any goals. I’m just going out there and competing with myself. I’m not competing with anybody. I’m just here to play football. I take a lot of the critics that said I can’t play, that it was a terrible signing by the Bears, and all the other stuff that’s being said. I use that as motivation for me.”

Will it be enough? That’s unclear at this point, but we’ll certainly receive at least an indication one way or another on Sunday, when the Bears participate in their first fully-padded workout of camp.

Emery talked about Wilson being a player that will “come down in the box and whack you, and whack you in space,” but also mentioned the veteran is “a very instinctive player; gets his hands around the ball and he gets around the ball carrier. He’s urgent and physical.”

The “physical” part is what Chicago has missed in recent years at the safety position, which is why the brass badly wants Wilson to succeed. Outside of Wilson, no other safety on the roster possesses the physicality to be an intimidating force on the back end.

“Mr. Emery gave me a chance,” Wilson said. “I think it’s low risk for them, high reward. I’m looking forward to the opportunity. Obviously, I think I still have burst. I think I can still play.”

Slimmed-down Lynch ready to compete

July, 24, 2014
Jul 24
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BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Making the move from quarterback to running back at the NFL level is daunting.

But that is the challenge awaiting former Northern Illinois standout and Heisman Trophy finalist Jordan Lynch, a fan favorite who lost 15 pounds since the Chicago Bears' rookie minicamp in May to weigh in at 205 pounds when players reported to Bourbonnais on Wednesday.

“I know Chicago has my back. But I have to go out there and do the work,” Lynch said on Thursday.

“I’m going out there and giving it everything I got. That’s how I made it this far. I’m going out there to prove that I can play running back in this league, and I can play some special teams. So I’m going to do whatever the coaches ask me to do and I’m going to bust my tail. At the end, I’m going to try and make a roster spot.”

With a minimum of three roster spots often reserved for running backs, Lynch finds himself in direct competition with Ka'Deem Carey, Michael Ford, Senorise Perry and Shaun Draughn to earn one of the reserve backfield spots behind Pro Bowl tailback Matt Forte.

A well-rounded quarterback/athlete in college, Lynch, an undrafted rookie free agent, gained 4,344 rushing yards for the Huskies and passed for 51 touchdowns while posting a 24-4 record as a starter in two seasons.

Lynch believes that kind of versatility can only aid his cause when cuts begin to trickle down later next month.

“The more you can do, the better in this league,” Lynch said. “I think my versatility is one of the things that stand out. When it comes down to the last cuts, the more you can do, the better you are.

“Heading into my first professional camp, I feel kind of anxious. But I’m going to go all out and give everything I have.”

Long arrives at ONU

July, 24, 2014
Jul 24
4:09
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BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Chicago Bears guard Kyle Long's absence lasted just one day.

Long
The 2013 first-round pick arrived on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University around lunchtime Thursday, one day after the rest of the team reported to training camp, and told reporters he is recovering from a viral infection that is expected to sideline him through the weekend.

"I was pretty sick and run down this past weekend, but I'm feeling better," Long said before entering the ONU dining hall.

Bears general manager Phil Emery said Wednesday that Long will be re-evaluated at the beginning of next week.

Long was officially placed on the non-football injury list on Thursday.

No official timetable has been set for Long to start practicing, but right tackle Jordan Mills believes the Pro Bowl right guard will return in short order.

"He's going to be fine. He's tough," Mills said. "He hates that he wasn't here to see everybody yesterday."

The Bears ran their annual conditioning test Thursday morning, which consisted of three 300-yard shuttles.

Safety Craig Steltz (groin surgery) passed his conditioning test, but he will begin camp on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list along with fellow safety Chris Conte.
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery and head coach Marc Trestman spent nearly an hour Wednesday addressing the media for the start of training camp at Olivet Nazarene University, and touched on a variety of topics.

Here are three things we think after listening to them as well as quarterback Jay Cutler, who met with the media shortly after reporting to camp:

Wilson
Michael C. Wright

If healthy, Adrian Wilson is a starter. Yes, he’s 34 and coming off an injury which forced him to miss the entire 2013 season. But some within the organization are downright giddy about what Wilson could potentially bring to the table in terms of adding a level of physicality at the safety position. In laying out a case for him, one member of the organization pointed out that many of today’s best defenses feature an intimidating presence on the back end; teams such as Seattle and San Francisco. The truth is the Bears don’t know whether Wilson has anything left in the tank. But if Wilson remains fully healthy throughout camp, I think he leaves Bourbonnais with a starting job.

“He sets a tone,” general manager Phil Emery said. “Talk about a guy that [will] come down in the box and whack you, and whack you in space. That’s what he’s done.”

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Offense isn’t quite as good as everyone thinks. Not yet. That’s not to take away from the group’s accomplishments last season, because it definitely improved. But there seems to be an assumption the Bears will automatically light up opponents this season based on what they did in 2013. Chicago’s offense hasn’t arrived by any means. There’s still plenty of room for growth. That’s part of why Bears coach Marc Trestman constantly laments yardage and points they “left on the field” in 2013, and why a major part of the coach’s message to the team at camp is to “ignore the noise”; the noise being the optimism surrounding the team from outsiders.

[+] EnlargeJay Cutler
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhJay Cutler and the Bears offense still has a lot of work to do if they want to become elite.
Cutler even cautioned against overconfidence.

“You’ve got to be careful with that. Everyone in the NFL is confident right now,” Cutler said. “Everyone likes what they have on paper. Everyone likes their roster. That includes us. But that doesn’t guarantee us anything. We’ve still got to go out there and perform.”

The Bears certainly won’t be sneaking up on opponents this season given what the offense did in 2013. Opposing defenses will be ready. The Bears need to be, too.

Jimmy Clausen will overtake Jordan Palmer for the No. 2 job. Emery raved about Clausen’s workouts, and it seems Cutler has taken to the former Notre Dame standout too. Emery said that upon Clausen’s arrival, he “got Jay on the phone right away. Jay reached him, and they reached out to each other,” and the quarterbacks “spent the whole weekend together learning the playbook so that [Clausen] had the best opportunity to stick with the team post the veteran minicamp. That determination, the literal picture is he squared his jaw and got to work. That is what I like about him. He’s got a certain mental toughness and intelligence, and he showed accuracy.”

To me, it seems the Bears want Clausen to win the job, and Palmer certainly didn’t help his cause by missing practice time during the offseason due to an injury only to return with a couple of shaky workouts.

The team likes how Clausen handled his lack of success and the drafting of Cam Newton in Carolina, and believes the quarterback has displayed plenty of mental toughness in recent years. It also helps that he’s got plenty of NFL experience, which will be a huge advantage in the competition with Palmer.

Jeff Dickerson

Competition not just lip service with Trestman. Genuine training camp competitions under Lovie Smith were few and far between. Most everything was predetermined on the depth chart under Smith, but legitimate battles are expected to take place this preseason at safety, linebacker, No. 3 wide receiver (although Marquess Wilson is the favorite), No. 2 quarterback, No. 2 running back, and for the reserve spots on the offensive and defensive lines. Too often NFL players fall into the trap of feeling comfortable and secure once they’ve established themselves. Emery has removed that security blanket. Read between the lines on Wednesday: notable veteran players are in jeopardy of being cut at the end of the summer if they fail to perform at an acceptable level at camp and in the preseason games. Emery also said on Wednesday the Bears will continue to monitor the waiver wire and free agent market to improve the club, if necessary. Unless a player has a lucrative contract, he is not safe from a roster standpoint.

Clausen
Clausen will overtake Palmer for the No. 2 job. Jordan Palmer might open practice on Friday as the No. 2 quarterback, but Jimmy Clausen has closed the gap in the QB race considerably. The Bears have done nothing but praise Clausen since he joined the club on June 5, lauding everything from Clausen’s arm, intelligence, commitment and desire to prove people wrong following a disappointing stint in Carolina. Emery called Clausen’s free agent workout “the best quarterback workout” he’s seen since arriving in Chicago in the winter of 2012. Clausen has also apparently clicked with Cutler over the last six weeks. Emery has final say over the roster, but Cutler’s opinion does matter when it comes to selecting his backup. Clausen has the most experience of the bunch (10 starts) and the most natural talent. We all see where this is headed.

Kyle Long's expected absence concerning. Training camp is where offensive linemen hone their technique. While Kyle Long made the Pro Bowl in 2013 as a rookie, he is still considered somewhat raw. The news that Long will be sidelined indefinitely due to a viral infection is concerning. A bad viral infection can keep a player out for an extended period of time. We don’t know the severity of Long’s illness, other than he’s scheduled to be re-evaluated next week. Hopefully, Long returns to the field in short order. He needs the reps. And the last thing the Bears need is to once again be forced to move bodies around on the offensive line. We all know how that usually ends up. Right tackle Jordan Mills (foot) and left guard Matt Slauson (shoulder) receiving full medical clearance to practice on Friday is encouraging news, but forgive me for holding my breath until Long gets over the illness and is back on the field.
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- The chances of Charles Tillman returning to Chicago for a 12th season seemed remote at the onset of free agency in March.

Tillman, an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his illustrious career, appeared destined to reunite with former Bears head coach Lovie Smith in Tampa Bay. But after making a free agent visit to the Buccaneers, Tillman went home without a deal, and ultimately re-signed with the Chicago Bears for one year at $3.25 million. Tillman earned just over $8 million in 2013.

[+] EnlargeCharles Tillman
Grant Halverson/Getty ImagesCharles Tillman wasn't expecting to spend a 12th season in Chicago, but he's back with the Bears as training camp gets set to open.
On the eve of his 12th training camp with the Bears, Tillman admitted to still being somewhat surprised he remains with the Bears when reached during a promotional appearance Wednesday morning.

“At the end of the day this is a business,” Tillman said. “Despite all that I’ve done for Chicago, none of that matters, that doesn’t mean a thing. I’m just a [salary] cap number. I realize that. They realize that. It’s the game. It’s the world we live in. I’m very well aware of that. At the end of the day it was business. At the end of the day it’s always business. If I get hurt, if I go down, the show goes on. I’m replaced. When I retire, it’ll be somebody else and I’ll be long gone and forgotten. That’s just how this business and this league operates.

"So it was just all business at the end of the day. I didn’t take it personally. They didn’t take it personally. They were just trying to get the best guy at the cheapest amount. That’s just kind of how this business rolls.”

Tillman was one of the many casualties on defense last season. The two-time Pro Bowl selection started just eight games (52.5 tackles, three interceptions and three forced fumbles) before suffering a season-ending triceps injury. Tillman watched as the Bears’ defense hit historic lows, ranking dead last in the league against the run.

But the offense thrived under first-year head coach Marc Trestman, finishing No. 2 in points scored and No. 5 in passing yards.

That resurgence on offense, coupled with key offseason defensive signings such as Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston, has Tillman convinced this could be his best shot to reach a Super Bowl since the 2006 team.

“Our offense did a really good job for us last year keeping us in games because what we were doing on defense wasn’t cutting it,” Tillman said. “The hard part about our offense is can they do it again? We claimed that title last year of being a very good offense. That was last year. This is this year now. Can you do it again? Nobody cares about last year. You can’t hang your hat on being one of the best offenses of 2013. If you do, it’s going to be a long season for us.

"Defensively, we can’t hang our heads on being the worst defense in the NFL last year. Right now we have to focus on and prepare to be one of the best defenses in the NFL in 2014. It’s a title you have to reclaim every year. From both a team standpoint and individual perspective. It’s all reset. The Seattle Seahawks were Super Bowl champions last year. Well, there’ll be a new one this year. Everybody is equal and everybody is even.

"I think Lamarr and Jared are going to help us out a lot. But how much better are we? I think we are better, but that’s just a thought. I think we have the best team on paper in the NFL right now; the hard part is going out there and proving that we are the best team. Right now, we are stacked. We have a lot of talent of defense. I think the Bears did a very good job in helping us out in areas that we were weak in last year. We just need to go out and execute like we are supposed to, and then we can call ourselves a better team.”

Tillman, a native of Texas, has spent the days leading up to training camp working in conjunction with the Gatorade Beat the Heat program to educate younger football players and athletes on heat safety and the importance of hydration when participating in sports during the warm summer months.

A timely initiative considering football training camps are opening up across the country on a variety of levels. Tillman and the rest of his Bears' teammates took part in a mandatory conditioning drill on Thursday morning, and while the temperature registered in the low 70s in Bourbonnais, other regions are not so fortunate.

"I went to Copperas Cove High School in Texas so I know all about growing up and playing in the heat," Tillman said. "The key is to hydrate yourself before you hit the field. The more you drink and hydrate yourself ahead of time, the better off you will be in the long run."

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