Chicago Bears: Chris Conte

Allen practices, Marshall sits

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Chicago Bears defensive end Jared Allen (lower back) practiced without restrictions on Friday, but wide receiver Brandon Marshall (ankle) remained sidelined for a second consecutive day.

 Marshall and Allen are both expected to play Monday night versus the New York Jets.

Besides Marshall, six other Bears were held out of Friday’s practice: defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff
(concussion), linebacker Shea McClellin (hand), defensive end Trevor Scott (foot), cornerback Sherrick McManis (quad), center Roberto Garza (ankle) and left guard Matt Slauson (ankle).

McClellin’s situation took a turn for the worse. The linebacker had limited in participation in practice on Thursday, but he sat out the entire workout on Friday.

According to head coach Marc Trestman, McClellin suffered the hand injury in practice this week, not during the 28-20 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Week 2.

In other health news, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) and safety Chris Conte (shoulder) were both limited for the second straight practice, while receiver Josh Morgan (groin) had full participation. Morgan should be available to face the Jets.

Seven players sit out Thursday practice

September, 18, 2014
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears held seven players out of Thursday’s practice in advance of Monday’s night road game versus the New York Jets: center Roberto Garza (ankle), left guard Matt Slauson (ankle), cornerback Sherrick McManis (quad), defensive end Trevor Scott (foot), defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (concussion), wide receiver Brandon Marshall (ankle) and defensive end Jared Allen (back).

 The Bears still have two more days of practice before the team departs for the New York/New Jersey area on Sunday afternoon.

In more encouraging news, safety Chris Conte practiced on a limited basis on Thursday after being forced to leave the 49ers game early because of a shoulder injury. Conte is tied for the team lead with two interceptions over the first two weeks of the regular season.

The Bears also listed wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) as having limited participation. Jeffery was a game-time decision in Week 2 but still managed to have three catches for 47 yards. The Bears admitted afterwards that Jeffery played at less than full strength.

Linebacker Shea McClellin (limited) is dealing with a hand injury.

Wide receiver Josh Morgan practiced without restrictions on Thursday after a groin injury sidelined him for the 49ers game.

Five things we learned vs. 49ers

September, 15, 2014
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Here are five things we learned in the Chicago Bears' 28-20 victory against the San Francisco 49ers:

1. NFL is a wild league: Never envisioned the Bears defeating the 49ers in brand new Levi’s Stadium. Especially not after the Bears lost at home in Week 1 to the Buffalo Bills, while San Francisco went on the road and dismantled Dallas. But the NFL is fluid. Calling it a week-to-week league isn’t simply a cliché. It’s the truth. You just never really know what is going to happen on any given Sunday. That is what makes it fun. Would I pick the 49ers again if the two teams re-match in the playoffs? Absolutely. In a heartbeat. But even though I still firmly believe San Francisco is the more talented team, the Bears won on Sunday night. The NFL is unpredictable. Embrace it. I mean, the Bills are 2-0. What is this football world coming to?

[+] EnlargeJon Bostic
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezJon Bostic and the defense kept the Bears in the game until the offense found a spark.
2. Proud effort on defense: It took the offense until the end of the first half to have a pulse, but the defense came to play from the opening whistle. The 49ers seemed poised to blow the game wide open, but the defense held San Francisco to only 17 first-half points. That is a major accomplishment when you consider the offense and special teams put the defense in bad spots with penalties and poor play. Mel Tucker’s defense produced four turnovers, limited the 49ers to 129 yards rushing, and sacked Colin Kaepernick four times. Not even key injuries to Charles Tillman (triceps), Chris Conte (shoulder) and Jeremiah Ratliff (concussion) slowed the group down.

3. Kyle Fuller belongs: Fuller is fast approaching Kyle Long status: a first-round draft choice talented and smart enough to make an immediate impact. Fuller looks to be a keeper. His two fourth-quarter interceptions were critical plays. If Fuller fails to get a turnover on either occasion, who knows if the outcome of the game would have changed. It is entirely possible the Bears lose without Fuller’s heroics. The plan always called for Fuller to contribute as a rookie. But Tillman’s injury opens the door for Fuller to get a jump on permanently lining up at cornerback in the base defense, not just in the nickel sub-package. Fuller seems to have adapted to life in the NFL. Not every game will be great. A cornerback will have his share of bad moments versus the plethora of great receivers in the league. But Fuller appears to be confident and mature enough to handle it.

4. Credit to Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery: The Pro Bowl wide receiver tandem played at less than full-strength in Week 2. But Marshall (ankle) and Jeffery (hamstring) pushed past their respective injuries. Marshall, in particular, had a memorable performance with three touchdown catches, including a spectacular one-handed grab on a 17 yard score in the closing seconds of the first half. Jeffery managed to haul in just three passes for 47 yards, but his mere on-field presence aided the Bears’ offense. The extra day before the Week 3 Monday night game against the New York Jets should help the wideouts further heal.

5. What’s worse, special teams or officiating? Pat O'Donnell's 47.6 yard per punt average (32.3 net) saved the Bears from complete embarrassment on special teams. But that phase of the team needs to get its act together. Penalties, blocked punts, lackluster returns ... we’ve seen it all in 2014. Another team that has been suspect is the officiating. The game took forever on Sunday, partly because the officials tossed 26 flags that were accepted. Many more were declined or waived off. Too many. The flow of the game is being stunted by all the yellow flags. I’ve also noticed it is taking certain crews much longer to come to a consensus on calls or explain why a decision is made. Come on everybody, the preseason is over. Act like it.

FB Fiammetta (hamstring) questionable

September, 5, 2014
Sep 5
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears fullback Tony Fiammetta (hamstring) was limited in practice on Friday and listed as questionable for the regular-season opener versus the Buffalo Bills, the team announced.

 A five-year NFL veteran, Fiammetta appeared in 16 games (seven starts) for the Bears last season, catching four balls out of the backfield for 57 yards. The 6-foot, 250 pound fullback helped block for Pro Bowl tailback Matt Forte, who rushed for a career-high 1,339 yards in 2013.

Safety Chris Conte (concussion) and offensive lineman Brian de la Puente (knee) are probable to face the Bills, after both practiced without restrictions on Friday.

Conte is expected to play significant snaps at safety in Week 1, despite sitting out the entire offseason program and the bulk of training camp.

No. 3 quarterback David Fales remains out with a shoulder injury he sustained in the preseason finale in Cleveland.

Chris Conte cleared for season opener

September, 4, 2014
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Safety Chris Conte received medical clearance to return from a concussion he suffered on Aug. 22, and is expected to play Sunday when the Chicago Bears kick off the regular season against the Buffalo Bills at Soldier Field.

Conte practiced without restrictions on Thursday.

On Wednesday, Bears head coach Marc Trestman revealed the team planned to use a rotation at the safety position in Week 1 between Conte, Ryan Mundy and Danny McCray. Mundy and McCray will be asked to additionally contribute on special teams, where both players have excelled at during their respective NFL careers. Trestman did not announce the starting safeties for the Bills game. That decision may come on Friday.

“I’m excited,” Conte said. “It was a good little warm-up in [the third preseason game in] Seattle and now it’s the real deal. I know I’m excited and the rest of my teammates are excited too.

“I’ve heard that there is going to be a rotation going, so however that works and whenever I get an opportunity, I need to make the most out of it.”

Conte is looking to recover from a rocky 2013 campaign, which was exasperated by a porous defensive line that finished dead last in rushing yards allowed per game. (161.4). The line has since been revamped.

“I don’t plan on having a lot of support [from the fans]. That’s for sure,” Conte said. “But I’m going to go out there and play football. That’s what my job is, and that’s what I’m going to do.”

One area to monitor on Sunday is Conte’s conditioning. The safety missed the entire offseason program and the first couple of weeks of training camp because of offseason surgery. Conte did return to face the Seahawks, but the concussion he sustained at Century Link Field forced him back off the practice field the following week. Conte was officially listed as having limited practice participation on Monday and Wednesday.

Conte’s lack of preseason reps is one reason Trestman wants all three safeties prepared to play.

“We’ll see where Conte is as the game moves along,” Trestman said. “We feel good about the fact we have guys we can move in there. That’s kind of the approach we are going to take. It would be that way with anybody who is coming off this type of situation; who hadn’t had a lot of training camp.”

In other injury news, fullback Tony Fiammetta (hamstring) had limited participation on Thursday, but offensive lineman Brian de la Puente (knee) had full participation, according to the Bears’ official injury report. Quarterback David Fales has been ruled out with a sore shoulder.

Conte, de la Puente, Fiammetta limited

September, 3, 2014
Sep 3
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears safety Chris Conte (concussion), center Brian de la Puente (knee) and fullback Tony Fiammetta (hamstring) all practiced on a limited basis Wednesday as the team started to install its game plan for the regular-season opener this weekend against the Buffalo Bills.

The Bears ruled out No. 3 quarterback David Fales due to a shoulder injury he suffered last week in the preseason finale in Cleveland.

Conte is expected to receive medical clearance to face the Bills later in the week.

Safety Ryan Mundy practiced with a large bandage on his forehead after having 15 stitches removed Monday. Mundy sustained a deep laceration to his forehead in the third week of the preseason and for some time was unable to wear a helmet.

"My head is good enough for me to practice," Mundy said. "I got my stitches out Monday morning. Fifteen [stitches]. It's a minor setback, but I feel good out there, and I'm preparing to play on Sunday.

"I've just got to make sure [the wound] is covered up. I'm really trying to have as little contact as I possibly can right now to give it time to heal. But the doctors said it looks good."

Mundy said he switched to a Riddell brand of helmets in the wake of the injury.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman drew laughs Monday attempting to repeat the word “trepidation” in response to whether he feels any regarding the defense, as the club prepares to open the regular season against Buffalo.

While the defense performed average to below average most of the preseason, Trestman remains unconcerned about the unit’s ability to get the job done once the season kicks off.

[+] EnlargeMarc Trestman
Patrick McDermott/Getty ImagesCoach Marc Trestman is hoping that the Bears' defense can build cohesion in the coming weeks.
“I don’t feel that word trepi, trepi … what was it again?” Trestman asked, smiling. “Trepidation? If it’s more than three syllables, I’m out of business. I don’t feel that trepidation. The whole defense wasn’t together at one time during [the preseason]. We’re going to have to come together. It’s going to be a process working together, getting to know each other, how each other works. But the talent level’s there.”

The Bears revamped the defensive line by adding Jared Allen, Willie Young and Lamarr Houston in free agency, in addition to drafting defensive tackles Will Sutton and Ego Ferguson. The club also signed several players to compete for two open spots at safety, and used its first-round pick to select rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller.

But throughout the preseason, the entire group hasn’t performed together. Allen played in only the club’s second preseason outing against the Jaguars after missing the opener due to family reasons and exhibition contest No. 3 due to a bruised shoulder. Safety Chris Conte didn’t make his preseason debut until Aug. 22.

The Bears held out all the starters on defense for the preseason finale at Cleveland.

“There's always concern, but I think we're going to have our guys hyped up, ready to go,” cornerback Tim Jennings said. “It's a full game. We're not going to just play a quarter here, two quarters here. We're going to play a whole 60 minutes of football. So this first one is a good test to see where we're at. It's still hard to tell [how good we can be] because we were missing Jared Allen some games. We finally are going to get everybody back together and play a whole game. We played one quarter, two quarters here, and Seattle was a tough test for us. It lets us know that we still have some work to do and we've got to get it together and work hard this week and see what we have for Buffalo.”

Trestman declined to name the starters at safety, saying, “We’ll talk more about that on Wednesday,” while Conte hasn’t yet been cleared to play after suffering a concussion on Aug. 22. Meanwhile, veteran linebacker Lance Briggs missed Monday’s workout with Trestman saying his absence was excused.

“We think the talent level is in a place right now where we’ve got a chance to go out each and every week, get better and improve,” Trestman said. “That’s what we’re going to try and do as we work through this week of practice and the start of the season.”

Briggs excused, Conte limited in practice

September, 1, 2014
Sep 1
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Chicago Bears veteran linebacker Lance Briggs was excused from the first regular season practice by coach Marc Trestman, who said Briggs cleared the absence with him.

Trestman declined to elaborate on Briggs’ whereabouts, but the linebacker is scheduled to open up a new restaurant Monday in his hometown of Elk Grove, California.

Briggs
“I had communication with him three weeks ago about it,” Trestman said. “We talked about it. And I excused him for personal reasons. So this is not something that happened yesterday or the day before. He contacted me a couple weeks ago and I said, ‘Yeah, you can go.’ That was it.

“I’m not going to speak for him with what he’s doing today. I can tell you that I excused him and that this is something that now took place a long time ago. Where he’s gone is between him and the reasons that he had to go. But it was good by me.”

Minus Briggs, wide receiver Marquess Wilson and quarterback David Fales (shoulder), the Bears had a full roster on the practice field Monday, including safety Chris Conte who participated on a limited basis.

However, Conte has yet to be fully cleared to return from the concussion he suffered in the third preseason game on Aug. 22. That leaves the starting safety combination still somewhat of a mystery heading into Sunday’s Week 1 game versus the Buffalo Bills, although Ryan Mundy and Danny McCray spent the bulk of the summer working together on the first-team.

“I think we’re going to still wait and see [on safety],” Trestman said. “We’re rotating the guys around. And we’ll talk more about that on Wednesday. And we’ll get them started in the right direction. I’d just rather wait another day-and-a-half. But we’ve got four guys that we moved around. Chris got work today, so we have to see where he is as well going into Wednesday’s practice.”

The Bears are off on Tuesday. The first official injury report of the regular season is due on Wednesday.

Bears rest starters in preseason finale

August, 28, 2014
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CLEVELAND -- The Chicago Bears are taking a conservative approach to the preseason finale.

With the regular season opener 10 days away, the Bears appear to be resting all of their starters and several key reserves in the fourth preseason games against the Cleveland Browns.

The Bears made no official announcement except that rookie David Fales will start at quarterback in place of Jay Cutler, but nearly every member of the first-team offense and defense participated in pregame warm-ups without pads or helmets.

That list of players included: linebackers Jon Bostic and Shea McClellin, and right tackle Jordan Mills, who missed the first three preseason games with a foot injury.

Even certain backups seem to be getting the night off.

Wide receiver Josh Morgan, running back Ka'Deem Carey, wide receiver Micheal Spurlock, defensive end Trevor Scott and defensive tackle Ego Ferguson wore baseball caps instead of helmets while teammates went through pregame drills.

Safety Chris Conte (concussion) made the trip to Cleveland, but is not expected to play.

However, veteran guard Eben Britton is scheduled to make his preseason debut.

The Bears must reduce their roster from 75 to 53 by Saturday afternoon.

Mills, Britton to make preseason debuts?

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears held five players out of their final full practice before Thursday’s preseason finale in Cleveland: safety Ryan Mundy, offensive lineman Brian de la Puente, wide receiver Marquess Wilson, fullback Tony Fiammetta and safety Chris Conte.

Cornerback Isaiah Frey also missed the workout due to a sore hamstring, but Frey and guard James Brown were later waived to trim the Bears’ active roster down to 75 active players before the 3 p.m. CT deadline.

Generally speaking, the first-team plays very little, if at all, in the fourth preseason game.

However, an argument can be made that certain veterans would benefit from some playing time versus the Browns. Among that group is Jordan Mills. A foot injury forced the starting right tackle to miss the first three preseason games. Mills did return to practice on a full-go basis on Monday and probably would relish the opportunity to knock off some of the rust before the regular-season opener against Buffalo.

“That’s a good question,” Bears head coach Marc Trestman said regarding Mills’ availability. “He did practice today. I haven’t talked to the trainers about that situation. We really haven’t made any decisions on those types of situations. We’re still working on who is going to play and who is not. But Jordan did practice today, which was a good thing.”

Veteran offensive lineman Eben Britton also practiced on Tuesday and should make his preseason debut in Cleveland, although his roster spot is far from assured. Britton's hamstring injury early in camp opened the door for Michael Ola and Dennis Roland to impress the coaching staff and potentially earn a spot on the final 53-man roster.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears safety Chris Conte missed practice Monday as he goes through the NFL's return-to-play concussion protocol, while Jared Allen (shoulder), Eben Britton (hamstring), Kyle Fuller (ankle) and Isaiah Frey (hamstring) returned to workouts inside the Walter Payton Center as the team preps for the exhibition finale at Cleveland.

Conrath
Conte
Conte suffered a concussion during the second half of the club's loss Friday at Seattle. It was his first live action since missing the entire offseason and much of training camp after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery.

Bears coach Marc Trestman declined to give a timeframe for Conte's return, citing the fluidity of the NFL's concussion protocol.

Asked about the severity of Conte's concussion, Trestman said, "I can't answer that. I can't. It's a day-to-day thing. He's going through the protocol. I saw him after the game, and he was in a good place. But obviously he's going through the protocol right now, so I don't have an answer to that question."

Conte's latest setback brings about another question as to whether he's done enough to earn a spot on the team's 53-man roster given his limited exposure in the evaluation process. The Bears opened up training camp with an open competition for both starting safety spots, and Conte -- given his experience -- seemed to be one of the favorites to win a job.

Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker liked what he saw from Conte against the Seahawks.

"I thought Chris played fast. He was aggressive. He made a nice play in the end zone. He was excited to be out there," Tucker said. "There was no hesitation with Chris in his reads and his progressions, and I thought that was positive. With the amount of evaluation time available, we felt like that was enough time to make a clean evaluation on him, and we don't feel differently."

Against the Seahawks, Conte was credited with one assisted tackle and a pass breakup when he laid a vicious hit on Luke Willson in the end zone to prevent what would have been a touchdown.

Although Britton, Fuller, and Frey returned to practice Monday along with receiver Chris Williams, Trestman was unsure of their availability for the exhibition finale, and called Fuller and Frey day-to-day. Right tackle Jordan Mills (foot) also took part in Monday's practice, but hasn't yet played in a preseason outing. Brian de la Puente (knee) was also held out of Monday's workout.

Conte, meanwhile, started training camp on the physically unable to perform list, and didn't take part in his first practice until Aug. 10.

Conte finished third in tackles last season (95), and tied for second with three interceptions. Conte struggled tremendously through the 2013 season, highlighted by him playing the wrong coverage on a late fourth quarter Randall Cobb touchdown in the team's Week 17 loss to the Green Bay Packers which knocked the Bears out of the playoffs.

Conte said the 2013 season led to "a lot of soul searching" in the offseason.

"It was a good time for me to get better in a lot of different areas," Conte said during training camp. "Hopefully I'm a better person and a better football player. I learned to keep people close to me that I care about and to always know the people that support me are the only people that really matter. I'm not even thinking about last season. I'm thinking about this year. I don't even know what happened last season."

Chris Conte ready for preseason debut

August, 20, 2014
Aug 20
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Nearly five months since undergoing shoulder surgery, Chicago Bears free safety Chris Conte will make his preseason debut Friday night against the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.

“I feel good. I’m excited to go out there and play,” Conte said Wednesday. “I can’t wait to get back out there on the field and play football.”

Conrath
Conte
Conte, along with fellow safety Craig Steltz, were activated off the physically unable to perform list on Aug. 10, but both sat out against Jacksonville. Safety remains unsettled, although Ryan Mundy and Danny McCray have started in each of the two previous preseason games. Veteran Adrian Wilson is another candidate in the mix, but no final decision can be reached at safety until the Bears determine if Conte can bounce back from a difficult 2013.

Conte has been a mainstay in the Bears’ secondary the last three seasons, recording 230 tackles, six interceptions and one forced fumble in 40 career starts.

“Chris had a good week of practice,” Bears head coach Marc Trestman said. “He's running around. He's involved in terms of what we're doing. So we'll see. He's going to play. It looks certainly that he's going to play. And we haven't decided how much yet. But he'll be out there and he'll be competing and he's back in it to try to show us what he can do and we're excited to have him back.”

Barring a setback, Steltz is also expected to play on Friday, along with wide receiver/kick returner Chris Williams, who seems to be recovered from a hamstring injury that he suffered in the preseason opener.

The Bears held five players out of Wednesday’s practice: cornerback Kyle Fuller (ankle), guard Eben Britton (hamstring), center/guard Brian de la Puente (knee), cornerback Isaiah Frey (hamstring) and Mundy (excused).

Bears hopeful for Conte return in Seattle

August, 16, 2014
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman praised the preseason work of veteran Ryan Mundy on Friday, but refused to anoint any starters at safety in the aftermath of the team’s 20-19 victory over Jacksonville.

That’s likely because former starting free safety Chris Conte has yet to participate in live action since being elevated off the PUP list, although that could change next Friday when the Bears travel to Seattle to play in the all-important third preseason game versus the defending Super Bowl champions.

“We want to get him in there and we certainly want to give him a chance to compete,” Trestman said. “We’ll see where he is coming into this next week. If the trainers give him the go-ahead to start working with the focus of playing on Friday night [he will]. We’ll see this week.”

Fellow safety Craig Steltz is also targeting the Seattle game to make his preseason debut, unless he experiences a setback of some sort at practice next week. Steltz and Conte practiced for the final three days in Bourbonnais before the team broke camp for the summer.

Mundy and Danny McCray opened up at safety for the Bears versus the Jaguars before subbing out in favor of Adrian Wilson and Brock Vereen. McCray finished second of the team with four tackles.
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Lovie Smith finished 10-6 in his final season with the Chicago Bears before being fired. Marc Trestman comes in and leads the Bears to an 8-8 record in 2013. Yet expectations soar here on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University, where crowds for training camp practices routinely swell to 10,000.

It’s easy to see why. For a fan base accustomed to hard-nosed defense and shaky-at-best offense, Trestman flipped the script in 2013, taking Chicago’s attack to new heights with a major assist from general manager Phil Emery’s shrewd personnel moves.

The Bears broke record after record on offense last season, and the defense stumbled to historic lows.

If Trestman and Emery could basically work a miracle on offense in just one season, why can’t they do it on the other side of the ball in 2014?

“[I] feel very good about the competitive depth and the fights for positions that we're going to have,” Emery said. “Out of the three camps, I would say this camp has the best competitive level among the roster from 1 to 90.”

Emery achieved that by loading up on defenders: acquiring a mix of players poised to hit the sweet spot of their careers in Lamarr Houston and Willie YoungJared Allen, and drafting potential stars such as first-round pick Kyle Fuller. The Bears bolstered those moves with an overhaul of the scheme and additions to the defensive coaching staff.

“We started [with], ‘What could we do to get this team better?’” Trestman said. “I sat down with Phil [Emery], and we began to lay out a road map together on how we were going to rebuild this football team, and here we are at a stage where I don’t think there’s a player in our meeting room who doesn’t feel like there’s hope and high expectations. Now, it’s time to go to work.”

[+] EnlargeJay Cutler
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastJay Cutler is more comfortable in coach Marc Trestman's system, and all of his offensive weapons are healthy and ready to go.
THREE REASONS FOR OPTIMISM

1. Jay Cutler’s grasp of the offense is firmer in Year 2 of Trestman’s system, and his performance this year at camp is significantly different from in 2013. Offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said Cutler is his own problem solver and is making on-field adjustments so instinctively that he doesn’t need guidance from the staff. In his first camp under Trestman, Cutler misfired routinely, and there were concerns about whether he’d be effective in the regular season. After one particularly bad session in 2013, Trestman gathered Cutler and the other quarterbacks in the middle of the field in what could be described as a turning point. That’s not happening this year at camp as Cutler has become a bona fide field general.

2. Brandon Marshall is Brandon Marshall. He wasn’t at camp in 2013. He was coming off hip surgery that hindered his season preparation. Fully healthy now with an offseason to condition, Marshall is ready to go -- and with full comprehension of the offensive system. Throw in Alshon Jeffery’s ascension and you have the makings of something lethal on offense. The duo has certainly looked that way at camp as both routinely make so many eye-popping plays that Cutler could almost throw it up blindly and one of them would come down with the ball.

3. There’s a nastiness on defense and intense focus reminiscent of the units put on the field in Smith’s heyday. Practicing against one of the best offenses in the league, the defense should be losing more than it does at training camp. But this group routinely bests the offense, with dominating play by the front seven as a hallmark. Chalk it up to a combination of personnel additions and a culture shift brought about by an overhaul of the scheme and the acquisition of no-nonsense, get-in-your-face coaches such as Paul Pasqualoni, Reggie Herring and Clint Hurtt.

[+] EnlargeRyan Mundy
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastThe Bears brought Ryan Mundy in to compete at safety, but the position, at least in camp, continues to look shaky.
THREE REASONS FOR PESSIMISM

1. The defensive line makes plays at training camp. The corners and linebackers make plays. But you rarely see the safeties making an impact. That could be a result of a lack of chemistry because, with both spots up for grabs, the Bears are using several combinations at the position involving players such as Ryan Mundy, rookie Brock Vereen, Danny McCray, Adrian Wilson and M.D. Jennings. Horrid play at this position in 2013 contributed significantly to the defense’s demise, and we haven’t seen many indications at camp that the Bears will turn that around in 2014.

2. Protecting Cutler could become an issue if some of the injuries suffered by the team's offensive linemen linger. Guard Kyle Long (ankle) and tackle Jordan Mills (foot) missed the preseason opener, and the latter was seen wearing a walking boot when the club returned to training camp after that game. Reserve center Brian de la Puente is expected to miss time to a knee injury, and reserve guard/tackle Eben Britton still hasn’t returned from a strained hamstring suffered earlier at camp.

3. Cutler hasn’t played an entire 16-game season since 2009. So naturally, you’d think at some point in 2014 the Bears will have to turn to the backup quarterback. The problem is the candidates vying for the No. 2 job -- Jordan Palmer and Jimmy Clausen -- have done little to inspire confidence the way Josh McCown did last year at training camp. For the most part, Palmer and Clausen have been merely average at camp, misfiring on occasion and making mistakes typical of players acclimating themselves to a scheme. The duo needs to pick it up or the Bears could wind up looking outside the current roster for a suitable No. 2.

OBSERVATION DECK

  • Chris Conte says he’s the best athlete in Chicago’s secondary. He needs to prove it, which he'll finally have a chance to do now that he's off the physically unable to perform list. Conte certainly possesses the athleticism to be a playmaker on the back end, provided he regains his confidence. But time is running out for Conte to make a real push for one of the two open jobs at safety. What Conte has going for him right now is that none of the safeties vying for the starting jobs is making plays at camp.
  • The Bears hired martial arts expert Joe Kim to teach the defensive linemen hand fighting techniques as part of the scheme overhaul that requires the front four players to be technicians with their hands. It’ll be interesting to see how the results manifest themselves on the field. Every day after practice at camp, several defensive linemen -- and even some defensive backs -- work intricate hand fighting moves with Kim for several minutes. The players say the moves become almost natural once routinely put into practice on the field. We’ll see whether Kim’s assistance plays a role in the front four anchoring a run defense that finished last in 2013.
  • Zach Miller and Matthew Mulligan are pushing Dante Rosario hard for the No. 2 job at tight end. Miller is more of a move tight end, and Mulligan is a classic in-line blocker who shows some impressive skills as a receiver. The two have received extra reps because of Martellus Bennett's suspension.

Bears Camp Report: Day 13

August, 11, 2014
Aug 11
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BOURBONAIS, Ill. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Chicago Bears training camp:
  • Morning showers soaked the practice fields at Olivet Nazarene University on Tuesday. So the Bears moved their session across the street to Ward Field, where the club could practice on FieldTurf. “The players handled the transition today and the weather. We moved some things around, went indoors for our walk-through, came out here for the first time in full pads, got a lot of work done, moved some guys around and we made it through the day,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “We wanted to make sure we got this one in. We had Plan B and Plan C. Plan A worked pretty good and we got a lot of work done.” According to a school official, the same company that installed the surface inside the Walter Payton Center laid the FieldTurf at ONU, with the work being completed approximately three weeks ago. The school’s soccer teams used the field for the first time on Monday, and the Bears were the first football team to put the surface to use.
  • Zach Miller continues to state a strong case to win the job as the club’s No. 2 tight end. Miller put together another solid outing, catching every ball thrown his way during the various team periods.
  • Backup quarterback Jordan Palmer struggled during Tuesday’s workout, throwing a pair of interceptions to safety Chris Conte and defensive end Willie Young. The INT thrown to Young hit the defensive end squarely in the chest. Conte secured his pick in the end zone during a red-zone drill on a pass intended for Micheal Spurlock. Trestman declined to say whether Jimmy Clausen had overtaken Palmer on the depth chart. “I don’t think we’ve had any movement there at all,” Trestman said. “We’ll move people around. We’ll see how they play in different environments and we’ll make a decision when we have to.”
  • Trestman said “it’s too soon to talk about” whether Conte will play Thursday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Conte came off the physically unable to perform list on Monday and has practiced just two days.
  • Ryan Mundy and Danny McCray continued to take snaps at safety with the starters. The club did work in Conte and Adrian Wilson with the starters as well.
  • Brandon Marshall spent time catching punts during special-teams periods, but don’t expect the club to use him in that capacity during games. “Brandon Marshall likes to get into some drills that maybe he shouldn’t be in,” special-teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis said.
  • Non-participants for Tuesday’s session included Chris Williams (hamstring), Eben Britton (hamstring), Jordan Mills (foot), Brian De La Puente (knee), Marquess Wilson (collarbone), Isaiah Frey (hamstring) and Lance Briggs. Briggs isn’t injured. He was given a day off, which Trestman routinely does for veterans.
  • Keep an eye out for linebacker Jerry Franklin, who is taking snaps with the starters on some of the coverage and return units on special teams. He’s also been taking reps with the second team on defense.

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