Chicago Bears: 2011 training camp

Bears grant special wish to 10-year-old boy

September, 1, 2011
The Chicago Bears had a guest of honor break practice on Wednesday, and it was an honor the young man isn't likely to forget.

Collin Wehr, 10, of Northbrook, was at practice as part of the Make-A-Wish-Foundation's effort to let him become an NFL Network Bears beat reporter for a day. Wehr was joined by his favorite NFL Network personality, Tom Waddle.

"We interviewed Lovie Smith, who could not have been more gracious and sincere in making sure Collin had a great experience," said Waddle, a former Bears receiver and ESPN 1000 co-host of "The Waddle & Silvy Show." "He interviewed Julius Peppers, Robbie Gould stopped by, and Charles Tillman was there.

"But probably one of the most exciting parts of the day for Collin came with 30 minutes to go in practice. We were watching with NFL Network people, the Wehr family, and some Bears people, and Lovie Smith comes over and talks to Collin. They had a nice conversation, and Lovie says, 'We have a few more plays to run, in about 20 minutes, I'm going to have to Brian and some of the guys come out and wheel you out to the middle of the field and you're going to break practice.'"

Waddle can't remember that happening before.

"So Brian Urlacher and Julius Peppers and Jay Cutler come over and wheel Collin out to the middle of the field, where the whole team surrounds him, and he gets to break practice."

Waddle said Wehr was able to do intros and wraps to his report as well as talk to an NFL Network anchor.

"The Bears could not have been better," Waddle said. "Lovie Smith, sometimes you just don't know who Lovie really is, because you never get to look behind the curtain.

"I've been in Chicago since 1989, and Mike Ditka has done a lot of great things. I've been around a lot of players who have done a lot of great things. I've never been around a guy who was more willing to participate and make sure this was a special day for a kid than Lovie was yesterday. Lovie was engaging. He was completely involved with it. He was very humble and humorous in the interview, and he had a great sense of humor with Collin. It was just a great experience."

The piece is expected to run next week on The NFL Network.

Don't expect Bears' stars to face Browns

August, 31, 2011
Jay CutlerAP Photo/Joe HowellJay Cutler likely saw his last preseason action against the Titans.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith declined to divulge the players the team plans to hold out for Thursday's preseason finale at Soldier Field against the Cleveland Browns.

Still, it appears the Bears' choices will be obvious, given the injury situation, in addition to the importance of some of the key vets, and the fact the club already knows full well what they can do.

"We're going to hold a few players out," Smith said after Wednesday's practice. "But we'll have a good group we'll put on the football field. We have an idea of what the 53-man roster will look like. But [this is] one last look for the players."

Quarterback Jay Cutler and running back Matt Forte will likely be held out of action against the Browns. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz didn't provide a clear answer about Cutler's possible participation, but indicated he spoke to Smith about keeping the quarterback on the sidelines for the finale.

"You know, we thought about that," Martz said. "[Cutler is] probably not [playing]. He's right now playing very, very well. His last two games were exceptional, so I'm pleased with where he is. The line has really made terrific progress. So we're happy. If we felt like we needed the work, certainly we would do that. But at this point, I don't see the need, and I've talked to Lovie about that."

Practice absences from Wednesday likely provide another picture of who the club plans to hold out against the Browns. Defensive tackle Anthony Adams (calf), defensive end Corey Wootton (knee), tight ends Desmond Clark (knee) and Kellen Davis (back), running back Marion Barber (calf) and linebacker Lance Briggs (knee) sat out of Wednesday's session, while Sam Hurd (ankle) appears to have participated in somewhat of a limited capacity.
Hurd has been seen catching passes from a JUGS machine after the last two practice sessions.

Playing time for the starting offensive line, meanwhile, hasn't yet been determined. Although the unit played well in its last two outings, it could probably use some work before the Sept. 11 regular-season opener against Atlanta.

On the defense, expect stalwarts such as linebacker Brian Urlacher and Julius Peppers to play very few snaps if any.

"We don't know yet," defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said when asked specifically about Urlacher and Peppers. "We'll talk to Lovie tonight. But if they do [play], it will be very, very little."

Michael C. Wright covers the Bears for and ESPN 1000.

Browns says he's talked to Bears

August, 31, 2011
Defensive end Alex Brown said Wednesday that he's heard from three teams since being released from the New Orleans Saints on Tuesday, and he said he has talked to the Chicago Bears.

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Harrison knows time could be running out

August, 30, 2011
[+] EnlargeHarrison
Scott Boehm/Getty ImagesFormer third-round pick Marcus Harrison got off to a rough start when he reported to training camp overweight.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Marcus Harrison understands his time in Chicago could be coming to an end. As final cuts loom at the end of the week, the Bears' 2008 third-round draft pick might get caught up in the numbers game at defensive tackle, a position the club recently addressed in free agency and in the draft.

"If it happens, it happens," Harrison said Tuesday. "We have a lot of good guys here, so I can't do nothing but practice hard every day and make it tough on the coaches. If they decide to go with me, they do. If they don't, they don't. I just can't do anything but practice hard every day, and that's what I'm doing."

Complicating Harrison's situation is the fact he reported to training camp overweight, which kept him off the practice field the first week of camp. The defensive tackle only dressed for five games in 2010, after starting a career-high nine games in 2009. Harrison recorded a career-high two sacks and two tackles for a loss in his rookie campaign.

Harrison's final chance to make an impression of the coaching staff likely is Thursday night in the Bears' preseason finale against the Cleveland Browns.

"For me, I just feel like I need to be consistent," Harrison said. "I think that's what [defensive coordinator] Rod [Marinelli] wants to see out of me, as far as small things like technique and foot work. Just going out there trying to be dominant and making plays. I'm just pretty much trying to go out there and put it on film because that's what tells the truth here."

Jim Basquil and Michael C. Wright talk at Bears camp about Chester Taylor's roster spot, the latest injury updates, the competition at wide receiver and Lance Briggs' salary increase request.

Another blunder by bumbling Bears

August, 29, 2011
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- It is certainly possible that Chester Taylor misunderstood Lovie Smith.

Taylor has never been cut from a team before, and thus it is conceivable Smith’s direct and honest comments to the running back Monday morning could have been interpreted incorrectly.

But when these things happen to the Chicago Bears -- mostly because these things always seem to happen to the Bears and not to other teams -- it is taken as one more piece of evidence in Exhibit A: Organization is a dysfunctional embarrassment.

Read the entire column.

Barber among 8 Bears to sit out practice

August, 29, 2011
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears running back Marion Barber was among a lengthy list of players who sat out practice Monday in advance of the team's preseason finale against the Cleveland Browns on Thursday.

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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears running back Chester Taylor was on his way back to Halas Hall on Monday afternoon, hours after coaches told him he was no longer in the team's plans.

Taylor's agent Ken Sarnoff tweeted: "Here's a first for me - the Bears just called me and said they have NOT released Chester. He did talk with Lovie though... misunderstanding?"

Read the entire story.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith voiced displeasure about the lack of takeaways and sacks this preseason, but ultimately, shoddy basic execution prevents such extras from entering the picture.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Jacobs
Al Bello/Getty ImagesBrandon Jacobs was part of a 218-yard rushing night by the Giants.
That’s the message hammered home to the players throughout the week leading into Saturday’s preseason game against the Tennessee Titans, and one of the main reasons for the club’s horrid defensive performance Monday night in the their loss to the New York Giants.

“We’re not ready to play the first game yet,” Bears linebacker Nick Roach said. “In the game last week, nothing was really good enough to win. Clearly, [the coaches] were disappointed. We were disappointed in how it went, but realize it’s not the end of the world, and we still have a long way to go before it counts.”

Time’s ticking away, though, with the preseason opener at home against the Atlanta Falcons rapidly approaching.

“[The emphasis this week at practice] was more technique, fundamentals. We just wanted to hustle more. The tackling, the physicality will come,” Tim Jennings said. “It wasn’t just tackling [that caused a subpar performance against the Giants]. It was more execution, technique and mental errors. We feel like if we had guys in position where they were supposed to be, there wouldn’t have been so many missed tackles."

Plagued by execution errors and mental busts, the Bears allowed the Giants to rack up 380 yards, and 16 first downs, in addition to an embarrassing 97-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter by Da’Rel Scott.

Scott’s run put the finishing touches on a rough outing for the Bears in which they surrendered 218 yards. Not acceptable for a defense that ranked ninth overall in 2010 and No. 2 against the run. Two quarters prior to Scott’s burst, Brandon Jacobs shook second-year safety Major Wright on the way to an 18-yard score that put the Giants ahead 10-3 just six seconds into the second quarter.

“We didn’t tackle well. Some of the things are angles,” defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. “We kind of overshot the ball a little bit. Really, they’re a good cutback team. The backs aren’t overly fast, but they are cutback guys. So that was a big part of it. We just didn’t quite get that done.”

Chicago’s starters also struggled on third-down defense in allowing the Giants, in the first half, to convert 3 of 9 in those situations. In 2010, the Bears forced 57 three-and-out drives (29.1 percent), which ranked just second in the NFL to the New York Jets.

And over the past eight years the Bears rank No. 1 in the NFL (26.56 percent) in snuffing out opponents on third down, a source of pride for Smith and the rest of the defense.

So far this preseason, though, Chicago’s opponents are converting 39.3 percent on third down, which ranks the Bears at No. 14 in that category.

The Bears sit at No. 26 in sacks with just two -- both by Amobi Okoye -- and are one of 14 teams this preseason with one interception or fewer.

“Defensively, we haven’t taken the ball away. There’s been one takeaway in the preseason. That’s just not us,” Smith. “Those are areas that we need to improve. So this is a big game for us. We’re playing against a good opponent on the road. In an ideal situation, you want to play that third game on the road in a hostile environment.”

Marinelli stressed that the Bears can’t force a turnover such as a stripped ball “without an attempt,” adding that the defense needs to return to its “stamp, that we can count on a certain effort, a certain level of tackling; all the things that we do.”

But for that to transpire, the Bears need to strip everything back down to the bare essentials of consistent defense. Like most weeks in which the Bears produce a subpar performance on defense, that’s what the unit did in prepping for Saturday’s game against the Titans.

“The first [thing] I’ve always believed is you go right back to your fundamentals, right back to your base,” Marinelli said. “See what you have to correct -- show it to them -- and make sure you explain it to them correctly. They’re men. You show it to them. Then you make sure drills are done right, make sure the tempo and pace [are] correct. Then you get better.”

The players continue to stress they’ve made easily-correctable errors over the first two games, but acknowledge the need to tighten up in several areas with the regular-season opener against the Falcons on the horizon.

“We always want to keep improving,” defensive end Julius Peppers said. “We’re not where we want to be. We’ve got a couple of weeks to get it right, and hopefully we have everything corrected when Atlanta comes to town.”

The team plans to take the first step in that progression by installing a game plan for the Titans. So spectators should count on seeing a much different version of the defense at LP Field; rife with blitzes and more variations of coverages.

“The starters are gonna play most of the game, from what I know. So we definitely want to put together a [good] performance, let the coaches know where we’re at,” Jennings said. “We’re gonna run a good scheme, a good game plan. So we’ve got to make sure we go out there and execute well. We had a great week of practice, and I think we’re well prepared.”

Tice: No changes on OL for Titans

August, 24, 2011
[+] EnlargeJ'Marcus Webb
Scott Boehm/Getty ImagesCan the Bears count on J'Marcus Webb to consistently protect the blind side of QB Jay Cutler?
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears are standing pat on the offensive line heading into Saturday's preseason matchup in Tennessee, according to offensive line coach Mike Tice.

Tice challenged the unit following the preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills when the Bears surrendered nine sacks, although only three were credited to the line. However, the pass protection held up nicely in New York as the Giants managed only one sack throughout the entire game. This was a stark contrast to last year, when New York knocked Bears quarterback Jay Cutler out of the game with a concussion.

"We had some guys get better across the board," Tice said Wednesday. "I think each one of the guys got better at some thing, some guys got better at multiple things. Mental errors were at a minimum and they played hard. We played with good technique, for the most part, so it was a good stepping stone for us. But we've got a long way to go still."

While Tice was measured in his evaluation, Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz heaped praise on the line for the progress made in little over a week.

"I’m going to be very cautious with this," Martz said. "It was a remarkable improvement. It’s like I told them, it’s good news and bad news. The good news is you improved remarkably. The bad news is we expect that now, and no less than that, every time you play.

"They’re making real good progress. They really are. It takes some time for those five guys with all the different calls that go on, and the blitz pickups and whatnot, but they’re really coming together pretty good. That first game, we did not play the way we had practiced, though, either, so I was a little disappointed in that. But we’re getting to move forward a little bit."

In particular, second-year left tackle J'Marcus Webb and right guard Lance Louis found themselves in the spotlight after an especially shaky preseason debut. Webb magnified the problem by telling reporters after the Bills game he failed to match the intensity of Buffalo's Shawne Merriman. Tice publicly took exception to Webb's remarks, but felt the left tackle responded and turned in a solid effort against the Giants.

"The coach can challenge a player all he wants, but the player has to challenge himself," Tice said. "If he can't do that, then they don't make any strides. He did challenge himself and came ready to play and looked extremely athletic like we knew he was. It was a good outing for him."

Tice, however, stopped short of guaranteeing the Bears would use this exact starting lineup when the regular season rolls around on Sept. 11.

"I have a plan," Tice said. "I try to always have a plan, and I'll have a plan if the original plan doesn't work out. But I don't think I have to announce it to the world, right?"

Slimmer Cutler ahead of game

August, 24, 2011
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Jay Cutler says that shedding a few pounds likely beefed up his game.

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Adams, Briggs may sit last 2 games

August, 24, 2011
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears defensive tackle Anthony Adams, linebacker Lance Briggs, receiver Sam Hurd, defensive end Corey Wootton and cornerback Mike Holmes missed practice Wednesday as the team returned to Halas Hall in advance of the third preseason game in Tennessee on Saturday night.

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ESPNNewYork's Ohm Youngmisuk and ESPNChicago's Jeff Dickerson preview Monday Night's matchup between the Bears and Giants.