LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The breakneck pace of practice emerged Tuesday as the most pronounced difference in the Chicago Bears so far under the direction of new coach Marc Trestman, but the change was welcomed, according to several players.
During team drills, the offense broke the huddle, ran the play, repeated and repeated. The defense did the same during what seemed like a highly rushed, yet strangely crisp practice at the Walter Payton Center on Day 1 of the club's three-day voluntary minicamp.
"It was faster," quarterback Jay Cutler said. "We were in and out of the huddle. I think we wanted to create (as much of a) game-line atmosphere as possible; a lot of plays in and out. We want to put pressure on guys. We want to put pressure on the quarterbacks mentally and the defenses getting after them."
During meetings prior to the start of practice Trestman wrote on a board that the No. 1 goal for the workout was "to practice fast." The idea, the coach added is "to try to develop how we want to practice, a tempo of practice where we could keep our players safe, keep them off the ground and make sure we can get them to the next play safely get competition between the (starters on offense against the starters on defense."
"It's very clear we have a fast football team," Trestman said. "Practicing fast will help us with the muscle memory to play fast all the time. (Tuesday) was a good start for that."
Strangely, the players liked it.
"It's high paced, and we're getting a lot of things done in a short period of time," defensive tackle Henry Melton said. "It's got a different feel to it. I liked it."
Defensive end Corey Wootton became accustomed to a similar practice pace at Northwestern, but admitted Trestman's workout sped along even quicker. Wootton referenced the team's overtime loss to Seattle last season when explaining the importance of how the Bears now prepare.
Up 14-10 with 3:40 left to play in the fourth quarter and the ball at the Seattle 3, the Bears allowed the Seahawks to march the length of the field and score to take a 17-14 lead with 24 seconds left to play. Robbie Gould tied the game as time expired to send it to overtime. But Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson marched his team 80 yards in 12 plays on the opening drive of overtime to win the game on a 13-yard touchdown pass.
"Sometimes in the game it gets kind of chaotic," Wootton said. "A lot of teams nowadays are going no-huddle offense like we saw last year in Seattle and Washington, and a bunch of other teams. So it's nice to right away get used to a tempo like that, so when we do play those types of teams it feels like nothing."
Trestman made sure to point out "it's not over." On offense the plan is to install "another 100 plays, and another 20 runs, and come out here and do the same thing" on Wednesday. Trestman walked away from the first day of voluntary minicamp impressed by Cutler's ability to absorb information quickly and apply it on the field.
Like the pace at practice, even the offense seems more frenetic, and features more passes designed to get the ball out of Cutler's hands as quickly as possible.
"We're going to protect the quarterback and get rid of the ball as fast as we can. We want to get the ball to the playmakers. That's where we're gonna make our money, getting them the ball fast and letting them make plays for us," Cutler said. "We don't want to hold the ball. We don't want to sit in the pocket for long periods of time. Obviously they're going to be plays where we're going to have to sit in there and deliver it. But for the most part, we want it gone."
What will stay, however, is the continuous influx of new information on offense and the expectation it's transferred on the field at blindingly fast speeds. Despite expressing optimism on Day 1, Trestman tempered expectations because the team is now doing things that Cutler hasn't done before.
"Those are the things we'll focus on (Wednesday) to try to get him better in individual (drills) and those types of things," Trestman said. "But overall, just to get the language out, just to break the huddle today was all we really wanted to do. Everything else was just a bonus. I mean that (tongue in cheek), but the language is completely different to them. To be able to do as much as we did in a short amount of time was impressive."