NFC North: Doug Padilla

Jon Bostic to play under Briggs' wing

October, 17, 2013
10/17/13
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- When leading somebody down a dark tunnel, trust is the key, and so it will be Sunday when veteran linebacker Lance Briggs stands alongside rookie linebacker Jon Bostic, who will be seeing his first significant NFL action.

With linebacker D.J. Williams lost for the season because of a torn pectoral muscle, Bostic will finally get his chance to shine after a solid preseason. Briggs remembers when he was in Bostic’s shoes.

“Jon is further along than I was as a rookie and he understands things,” Briggs said. “He understands all our concepts. For him, it’s just about getting game experience. There are things that he is still learning to trust. It’s just like me when I was young and Brian [Urlacher] would give me a tip off. I might be a step late because I didn’t really trust what he was saying.”

[+] EnlargeJonathan Bostic
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesWith D.J. Williams lost for the season, rookie Jon Bostic has been thrust into the lineup.
Anything Briggs says Sunday will likely be followed with the words “trust me.”

“For him he just has to know that hey, if it’s going to be there, if it’s a tip off, they’re probably going to run it,” Briggs said.

Bostic has played primarily on special teams this season, but the second-round pick out of Florida has been taking notes when it comes to the defense and often asks Briggs why things sometimes look different on the field than they did in practice.

“I’ll tell him that depending on the down and distance there are certain checks and adjustments you want to do differently than first and second down or against certain formations,” Briggs said. “For him it’s just allowing himself to be as sharp as he can be on Sunday.”

Coach Marc Trestman is less concerned about the transition from the veteran Williams to the rookie Bostic, primarily because of Briggs’ presence.

“I do know enough to watch (Briggs) work every day, his ability to communicate, his understanding of the defense and the standards that he has and wants to get to with our defense,” Trestman said. “I think that Jonathan is in very good hands.”

Bostic’s speed could come in extremely handy as the Bears go up against Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III and running back Alfred Morris.

“For Jon, you don’t want to think too much when you’re on the field,” Briggs said. “That’s what practice is for, getting that kind of stuff down, getting your keys down and your reaction to be as sharp as it can so that once you get in the game you read and react. You allow your athletic ability take over.”

Briggs’ ability to communicate figures to be put to the test as he guides a young teammate.

“There are always certain tip-offs before a play, but once game time comes, you have to get 11 of us aligned, making some of those adjustments, throwing out some of the tips and keys to him,” Briggs said. “I know [veteran linebacker] James [Anderson] will help too. Major [Wright] and [Chris] Conte, Peanut [Tillman] and Tim Jennings, we have a good group back there that does understand how teams will attack us.”

Bears have full practice participation

October, 17, 2013
10/17/13
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears had full participation in practice Thursday as they prepare for Sunday’s Week 7 game at Washington.

Cornerback Charles Tillman, tight end Martellus Bennett and defensive end Julius Peppers, who were held out of activities Wednesday, all participated in the practice inside the Walter Payton Center on a rainy afternoon.

Tillman has rarely practiced over the past month because of a knee injury and did not play in last Thursday’s victory over the New York Giants. He had played in 55 consecutive games before sitting out.

“(Tillman) is doing everything he can on and off the field to try and get himself ready and get himself right,” coach Marc Trestman said. “He probably played one of his best games the last game that he did play, but I think if he would have had the full week he would have recovered fully enough to play (last week). He’s not getting any worse, he’s only getting better.”

Bennett is also working his way through a knee injury, but has not missed a game this season. Peppers was held out of Wednesday’s practice because of a coach’s decision. Trestman elaborated on his reasoning.

“We knew we would have four practices this week so I thought it would be good to just have him work three of them,” Trestman said. “As we move through the season, not just him but some of our other older players, just give him an opportunity to take some breaks along the way. It’s not something that goes on exclusively here, it goes on throughout the league.”

Officially, the only person that missed practice Thursday was linebacker D.J. Williams, but he is out for the season because of a torn pectoral muscle. He has not yet been put on the injured reserve list.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. – The Chicago Bears are looking at a number of game-time decisions when it comes to player availability for Thursday night’s matchup against the New York Giants.

While sounding positive, coach Marc Trestman said that tight end Martellus Bennett (knee), linebacker Lance Briggs (foot/hip), defensive tackle Stephen Paea (toe) and cornerback Charles Tillman (knee) all will have their status decided a few hours before kickoff Thursday.

“All would have been limited today, but we’re optimistic in the next 24 hours they will be ready to go,” Trestman said.

With a short week for preparation, the Bears have been doing walk-throughs all week instead of regular practices. Listed as “out” on Wednesday were defensive tackle Nate Collins (knee) and safety Anthony Walters (hamstring).

The “probables” after Wednesday’s practice were wide receiver Joe Anderson (knee), tackles Eben Britton (foot) and Jermon Bushrod (calf), and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (ankle).

“We’ll know more tomorrow,” Trestman said. “We’re optimistic they will all be there but we don’t know for sure.”

Rookie defensive tackle Zach Minter said he had some practice time with the first-team defense Wednesday and was expecting to play Thursday. Minter was on the active roster for the first time for Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints, but did not see any action.

Peppers quiet in more ways than one

October, 9, 2013
10/09/13
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The play this season of Chicago Bears defensive end Julius Peppers has been similar to his interview sessions: Lacking in substance.

Peppers has struggled in his 13th NFL season, with his slow start highlighted by the fact that the defensive line has been hit hard by injuries. He has failed to record any defensive statistics in two of his starts this year, the most recent coming last week against the New Orleans Saints.

For anybody looking for some insight as to what has happened or how things can get better, Peppers has preferred to keep it to himself.

[+] EnlargeJulius Peppers
AP Photo/Greg TrottJulius Peppers is off to a slow start with just one sack through five games.
The eight-time Pro Bowler was asked Wednesday if the line might have to change its approach in the wake of its struggles that are evident in the group’s eight total sacks and their opponents’ 69.0 completion percentage, both third worst in the league.

“We’re going to stick with the game plan,” Peppers said.

How about the opportunity Thursday night to go against a struggling New York Giants offensive line and an anemic running game?

“We’re going to go into the game and execute the game plan and we’ll see how it goes,” he said after a long pause.

Can blitzes and new schemes help cover for past struggles?

“We’re going to see about the game plan,” Peppers said, making it perfectly clear that he’ll talk, he just won’t say much. “I don’t know. If you want to know about the game plan specifically you have to ask [defensive coordinator] Mel [Tucker] about that. As far as blitzing and all that, we’re just going to play what’s called and we’re going to get the job done.”

With the Giants’ big-play tendencies behind quarterback Eli Manning, more blitzes could be on the agenda.

“We just have to eliminate the big play,” Tucker said. “These guys take more shots down the field than almost anybody in the NFL. They are in the tops in the league in air yards and shots down the field so that’s big. But [Manning] is a fierce competitor. There isn’t a whole lot that you can throw at him that he hasn’t seen.”

With the Giants struggling, the Bears are making sure they don’t get lulled to sleep. Manning’s career success is being mentioned prominently this week and the consensus is that the Giants won’t lose every game so make sure this isn’t the first one they win.

The defensive line could be in prime position for a breakout game, but Peppers won’t take anything for granted.

“We’re not concerned about having a breakout game necessarily for ourselves, we want to do it for the team because if we do it will more than likely improve our chances of winning,” he said.

If there is one thing the Bears’ defense does well, it’s taking the ball away and creating turnovers, so it is being stressed against a Giants team that struggles in that department. The Bears’ 12 forced fumbles lead the NFL. The Giants lead the league with 20 turnovers.

“We have to be opportunistic on defense,” Tucker said. “Our job is to get stops and take the ball away, score ourselves or set up the offense.”

If there was anything Peppers was willing to be specific about, it was the turnover game.

“Every game, well most of them, come down to turnovers and the turnover battle,” Peppers said. “We’ve been pretty good at it. We didn’t do as well last week so we have to try to win the turnover battle this week.”
Jay Cutler and Brandon MarshallAP Photo/Nam Y. HuhJay Cutler calls Brandon Marshall an "ultra-competitor" who yearns to have an impact in every game.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall will admit to a selfish nature, but only when it comes to wanting what is best for teammate and fellow wide receiver Alshon Jeffery.

After being targeted on 40 percent of pass plays last season, and then getting the double and even triple teams that went along with that kind of attention, Marshall has always felt that a productive Jeffery would make life, not to mention catches and yards, a whole lot easier.

Perhaps Marshall is staring in the face of a productive game against the winless New York Giants on Thursday night, especially after Jeffery went off for 10 catches, 218 yards and a touchdown Sunday in a 26-18 loss to the New Orleans Saints.

“In a selfish way -- if you want to talk about selfish and 'I' -- that’s the reason I wanted him down in Florida last year (working out) with me,” Marshall said. “Last year, you look at some of the things teams were able to do with us, and you look at the statistics where 40 percent of our passing game came through me. Alshon was banged up and Earl (Bennett) was banged up with a hand a little bit. We really didn’t have a stable guy on the other side or the tight end position to really help.”

With Martellus Bennett already making his mark from the tight-end position and Jeffery seemingly in sync, Marshall figures to do better than the season lows of four catches and 30 yards that he delivered Sunday. Marshall expressed his frustration over his lack of production after Sunday’s game.

The disappointment has caused something of a chicken-or-the egg conundrum for Marshall. Some view his desire for more production as self-serving. Others, like quarterback Jay Cutler, don’t so much see a me-first approach, but rather a confident player who knows he can help a team to win.

“I think everyone is frustrated when you lose two games in a row like that,” the quarterback said on ESPN-1000’s weekly “Jay Cutler Show.”

“That being said, I've known him for a long time and know what kind of ultra-competitor that he is, and when you lose a game, any competitor will think, 'Hey, what if I'd done more and what if I had more touches? Could I have impacted the game more than I already did?' I just think he's kind of feeling that.”

Marshall knows the negative perception that is out there, but on Tuesday he continued to reiterate that his attitude has the team’s best interest in mind.

“You pay a receiver $10 million for them to be OK with him not being productive? Get out of here,” Marshall said. “When I’m a coach, or if I’m an owner of a team one day and I’m paying a receiver that much money and he’s happy, if he’s not complaining, or not communicating with me about wanting more (production), he got to go.”

"

Delany I don't think there is any wide receiver – well, there might be a few guys out there who really don't care – who would be happy playing in the NFL without catching balls. I want to catch footballs. I want to score touchdowns.

" -- Bears WR Brandon Marshall
But wanting to be productive is one thing. Sometimes it’s counterproductive to try and get a star receiver his catches when situations like double teams say it’s best to throw the ball elsewhere. Marshall still seems to have a tough time balancing the desire to produce with the logic of why things might not always go his way.

“There was one play when I was at the 3-yard line running down the middle if the field and three in the red zone and guys were on me,” Marshall said. “I was like, 'This is pretty cool.' That’s respect. At the same time, the NFL, and this is where the truth thing comes in, it’s a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business. It’s about production. I’m not saying it’s about me, it’s about our offense.”

Perhaps a triple team shouldn’t be about respect. It should be about loving the fact that somebody like Jeffery or Earl Bennett or Martellus Bennett could be working their way to an open spot on the field.

“Yeah, that’s obvious, but there is so much more that comes into it, like schemes or different things we can do,” Marshall said. “Of course that makes sense. You can’t throw the ball into double coverage. It makes sense.”

Perhaps if there is confusion as to what truly motivates Marshall, he might only have himself, and his mixed messages to blame.

“It’s not a greedy instinct,” Marshall said. “The quarterback touches the ball every single play, he controls the game. The offensive linemen don’t care about anything outside of their box. The running backs, they’ll have like 20 opportunities. Wide receivers, it’s on everybody, the coaching, the offensive line, the guy on the other side, the running game. It’s one of those things where you only get a few opportunities, so guys want to be productive and make plays.

“It can come off as selfish, but there are so many other variables that go into a wide receiver being successful. I don’t think there is any wide receiver -- well, there might be a few guys out there who really don’t care -- who would be happy playing in the NFL without catching balls. I want to catch footballs. I want to score touchdowns.”

When Marshall complained about not being targeted early in the season, coach Marc Trestman called him a “palms-up guy” for coming off the field and using body language as if to say, “Why am I not getting the ball?” Trestman, though, said Tuesday that Marshall’s heart is in the right spot.

“He’s been as important to leading this team as anybody,” Trestman said. “He’s been doing it all winter. He brought players in here. Alshon Jeffery, he is playing the way he’s playing because he spent time this offseason with Brandon learning how to treat his body, get himself in shape, how to eat properly. He helped recruit D.J. (Williams), he helped recruit Martellus. I’ve seen nothing but a guy, who when he has been on the field, has worked and has been locked in to try and help this football team. That’s what I’ve seen.”
LAKE FOREST, Ill. – While Henry Melton might be lost for the season with a knee injury and understandably demoralized, he still has figured out a way to offer the Chicago Bears a little bit more.

Melton reached out to the guy who will absorb much of his playing time moving forward, and Nate Collins was appreciative of the gesture.

“Me and Henry are really tight,” Collins said after practice Wednesday. “He said, you know this is something that happens to guys, and you just have to be ready and take advantage of it. I wish Henry the best. I know Henry’s going through a lot right now. Hopefully it will be a fast, healthy recovery.”

[+] EnlargeNate Collins
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesThe injury to Henry Melton has opened up a spot on the Bears' defensive line for Nate Collins.
While Collins is itching for his chance, he knows it’s inevitable that his play on the line will be compared to Melton’s. The 6-foot-2, 296-pounder, who has spent much of his four seasons in the NFL at nose tackle, hopes he can be appreciated for his own unique skill set.

“I feel like I’m aggressive,” said Collins, who ran extra wind sprints after practice because he doesn't want conditioning to be a reason he might struggle. “I feel like I might be a little undersized, but in some situations playing inside that phone booth at nose tackle, it’s an advantage if I keep my pads down and use my leverage to my advantage.”

Stephen Paea still is expected to remain at nose tackle for the Bears this week, but alongside Collins at defensive tackle, the Bears could present something of a double-nose-tackle look at Detroit on Sunday.

“I feel like we’re both guys that can penetrate and push the pocket and we’re both small guys in there,” Collins said of lining up alongside Paea. “We try to use our leverage to our advantage, and when we go against bigger guys we have to stick with our technique and let our technique work everything out.”

First and foremost for Collins will be recognizing his gap and staying in it. He doesn’t have to come out and be the hero.

“The coach says every day, the star of the defense is the defense,” Collins said. “If we stay in our gap, then we’ll have an opportunity to make plays, and when the plays come your way you have to make them. That’s what I think I’ve been doing. There’s always room for improvement. Out here it’s not really about me, I’m just trying to get better.”

If anybody knows what Collins is capable of doing it’s defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. They were together with Jacksonville as recently as 2011.

“He’s a high-effort guy, a high-energy guy,” Tucker said. “He’s stout with a relentless mentality. He plays with a good pad level. He has a chip on his shoulder and I really like him.”

Now that Collins becomes a starter on defense, the question becomes how the Bears organize their rotation on the defensive line. Julius Peppers or Corey Wootton could move inside at times from their defensive-end positions, ramping up the playing time for defensive end Shea McClellin. Or the Bears could test their depth even further by calling on defensive tackle Zach Minter.

The 6-1, 297-pound Minter is an undrafted free agent out of Montana State who has not been active for any of the first three games of the season.

“The biggest adjustment is learning the margin for error,” Minter said. “There is little room to slip up. You always want to be on your game. Just the pace of the game, too. It’s why I lean on these guys, to learn from them and learn from the coaches and trust in the defense and trust in the older guys.”

Minter said he isn’t worried about the speed of the NFL game if and when he gets his first opportunity. He said the Bears go at full speed during much of practice. But now that he is on the cusp of some playing time, he has taken a minute to look at the big picture.

“I think you have to,” he said. “This is the National Football League. Not everybody gets a chance to play here, so when you do you kind of take a step back and figure out where you’re at while figuring out what you have to do to get better.”

While playing time will be a big opportunity for Minter, Collins is trying to downplay things. He was asked if this is the moment he’s been waiting for.

“I mean, you know, I guess you could say that,” Collins said. “But at the same time, just being on the team and having an opportunity to play on defense and being out there, that’s the opportunity. I’ve been on the field, and this is really no different for me. I just have to go out there and make the plays I need to make, and continue to just play well like I’ve been doing.”

Tillman (groin) held out of practice

September, 25, 2013
9/25/13
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman was held out of practice Wednesday as he deals with a groin issue that cropped up late in Sunday night's victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Tillman
In addition, cornerback Sherrick McManis was also held out of practice with a quadriceps injury.

Bears coach Marc Trestman categorized both players as "day to day" after practice Wednesday.

The 32-year-old Tillman has already dealt with a number of issues during the first three weeks of the season. During the first two weeks he was playing with a knee injury, while also missing time during the Sept. 8 season opener because of dehydration.

Trestman deduced that the groin issue was probably the result of overcompensating for the knee problem.

Tillman did not play late in Sunday's game as a precaution, and the injury is not deemed to be serious and he could play Sunday at Detroit.

"We moved some people around today," Trestman said about his defense. "C.J. [Wilson] got some work today, obviously. And Zach [Minter] will continue to work over there [on the defensive line] as well."

Cutler's run also a big hit with Bears

September, 23, 2013
9/23/13
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Jay Cutler lowered the boom Sunday night at Pittsburgh, and the hit was still echoing around Halas Hall on Monday.

A day after the Chicago Bears put together a convincing 40-23 victory over the Steelers, Cutler's fourth-quarter shoulder ram into Steelers safety Robert Golden was being mentioned prominently.

[+] EnlargeCutler
AP Photo/Don WrightJay Cutler braces for impact before leveling Steelers safety Robert Golden in the fourth quarter on Sunday.
The moment came with 9:15 remaining in Sunday's game. On a third-and-10 play, Cutler scanned the field from the pocket before taking off on foot. He already had enough yardage for the first down, but still lowered his shoulder to send Golden backward.

"He's our leader; everybody looks to him," said wide receiver Earl Bennett, who benefited the most from Cutler's run when he finished the drive with a 17-yard touchdown catch. "He's just going out and playing hard. As you can see from that play when he needed a couple of more inches, he lowered his shoulder pad and got a couple more yards. He's one of those guys that is going to do whatever is needed for this team to win."

As coach Marc Trestman broke down all phases of Sunday's victory, Cutler's run was mentioned as prominently as all the touchdowns scored and turnovers created by the defense.

"I thought Jay played very unselfishly," Trestman said at the start of his critique of the quarterback position. "You want to come out, you want to throw the ball down the field, you want to do some things, and I think that in retrospect, as much as we wanted to do some of those things and we tried, we kept him safe and allowed him to live for another play. And certainly his effort in the fourth quarter on that run was exceptional."

Trestman seemed to reveal, though, that while it isn't ideal for his quarterback to deliver a shoulder-first hit, especially with the shoulder that is connected to his throwing arm, he is OK with his quarterback being physical if the situation warrants.

"We've always talked about it," Trestman said. "You look at the tape and he had probably crossed the first down by about a couple of yards. He wasn't sure. I think he would have probably slid if he was sure, but in talking to him, he wasn't sure and that's why he decided to let himself go and do what he did."

It didn't seem to be a coincidence that after Cutler's play, the Bears scored two more touchdowns in just over five minutes on the clock.

"It was an exceptional run and another part of Jay that we're seeing," Trestman said. "It was a very important play in a very important time of the game."

Bennett said the Cutler run fired up the team.

"Yeah, but I kind of winced a little bit too," Bennett said. "'Hey man, slide!' But he's a hard player, and I know that each and every week he will give his all."
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- All week long Chicago Bears players have pointed toward their game on Sunday night, and the national television audience that goes along with it, as one reason for inspiration.

More important, obviously, is the chance to go 3-0 and being prepared for a winless Pittsburgh Steelers team, whose defense still gets respect around the NFL despite its struggles. As for letting the country see what the Bears are all about, though, new coach Marc Trestman could not care less.

"That's the last thing [being considered]," Trestman said after practice Friday. "Honestly, my focus has been consistent, and I truly believe in it. It's just to create the environment daily for our guys to succeed, and I'm not going there."

Trestman continues to show that he doesn't have an ego about anything he is doing in his first NFL head-coaching job. Away in the Canadian Football League for the previous five seasons, nobody would have blamed Trestman if he considered this a statement game to show he's back.

"I know the questions are going to be asked, but I am giving you a straight answer that there is no consideration of any of that going in," he said. "It's just to do whatever we can to be at our best and have our team be at our best."

If there is anything he is considering, outside of things that will help the Bears win Sunday, it is the chance to take his team into a storied NFL town.

"It is Pittsburgh, one of the traditional teams, very similar to the team we're fortunate enough to be with here," Trestman said. "When people come into this city, or go to Pittsburgh, they know great games have been played there with great players and there is great tradition. I think that is all part of it."

Ultimately, though, Trestman has respect for every NFL city and every NFL venue.

"Every place you have the opportunity to coach in the National Football League is a special place because it is something not everybody gets to do," he said. "So I don't know that any one place is more special than the next. I think they're all terribly special."
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The old quarterback showed off his arm after practice Thursday as Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman played catch with tight end Martellus Bennett.

Bennett
Actually, it isn’t uncommon for Trestman, the former signal caller at the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State-Moorhead, to pick up the ball on occasion and fling it around, even at the age of 57.

“We play catch every day after practice and talk a little bit; a little father-son time,” Bennett said. “It’s always good to get to talk to him while we play catch. He’ll ask me what I thought about practice or different things like that, and I will tell him different things I do to get better and how I think I can help the team in the game plan this week, the plays I like. It’s just like our quiet time with one another at the end of the day.”

Quiet time and Bennett don’t always go hand in hand, although the 26-year old begged to differ, saying he only turns on the charm once the television cameras start rolling.

Told about Bennett’s father-son comment, Trestman bowed his head and laughed.

“It’s not the first time I’ve played catch with another player on the team,” Trestman said. “And I’ve met Martellus’ father. I appreciate the kind words, but he’s a father who is a heck of a man as the father of two great kids. I’ve spent time with them and he doesn’t need me to spend time as a father (figure), but I appreciate the compliment.”

As it turns out, the games of catch started out as more of necessity than an attempt to have a bonding moment.

“Early on, we didn’t have a Juggs machine and I said ‘I’ll be your Juggs machine after practice,’” Trestman said of the device that uses two spinning wheels to thrust footballs forward. “‘I’ll make sure you get the 23 to 30 balls you need to finish your day.’ I’ve done that with other guys and I enjoy doing that. You get to go outside and play catch with the football. Who doesn’t want to do that?”

So how is Trestman’s arm after all these years?

“It’s pretty good,” Bennett said.

Focus on returns paying off for Hester

September, 18, 2013
9/18/13
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Devin Hester Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesDevin Hester had a career day against the Vikings on Sunday.

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Those personal-best 249 return yards Devin Hester racked up for the Chicago Bears on Sunday appear to have been born from a conversation early in the summer.

New coach Marc Trestman revealed Monday that it was Hester who suggested that a reduction in responsibilities could help him to once again be the kind of return man who used to pile up weekly honors while heading off to Pro Bowls.

“The conversation, to my recollection, was, ‘It sounds to me like you just want to be a returner, and that’s OK with me. I would like you to be the returner and focus solely on that,’” Trestman said.

The revelation debunks a common belief that Hester was demoted to a return-only role after years of mostly choppy results as a wide receiver.

“I don’t ever remember me telling him that that was the way it’s going to be,” Trestman said. “I remember our conversation being more like, ‘I know that’s what you want to do, and I’m all-in.’ That’s sort of the way I remember it.

“Now, this was six and a half months ago. It was literally the second week I was here, I think. And it just stopped right there. [Special-teams coach] Joe [DeCamillis] started meeting with him, and we started developing a dialogue when we saw each other. It wasn’t complicated at all. It just seemed to happen that way.”

(Read full post)

CHICAGO -- A fresh start and a renewed focus, combined with lessons learned, have created a perfect storm that has allowed new Chicago Bears tight end Martellus Bennett to thrive in the early going.

Bennett, who signed a four-year deal with the Bears this past offseason, already has 10 catches for 125 yards and three touchdowns in two games, including the game-winning score in Sunday’s 31-30 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

[+] EnlargeMartellus Bennett
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastBears tight end Martellus Bennett has 10 catches for 125 yards and three touchdowns this season.
After playing four seasons in Dallas and last season with the New York Giants, the Texas A&M product said Monday that only now does he have all the tools needed to have true, sustained success at the NFL level.

“Being behind [tight end Jason] Witten [in Dallas], I learned a whole lot of stuff I didn’t even realize I was learning because I watched and took notes on every single thing he was doing but really didn’t have a chance to use it,” said Bennett, who was a guest Monday on ESPN 1000’s “The Jay Cutler Show.”

“Going to New York, I had a chance to take three-year deals in different places, but I decided to bet on myself and take the one-year deal because I felt like I was worth more than they were offering me.”

With the Giants, he hooked up with tight end coach Michael Pope and delivered his best season, with 55 receptions for 626 yards and 5 touchdowns. Calling himself “a sponge” over the past couple of seasons because of all the learning he was doing, he is now unleashing that knowledge.

“I’m really starting to understand what goes in to playing football,” Bennett said. “A lot of times, I used to put the cart before the horse, so to speak. I’m involved in a lot of things, and when things don’t go your way on the field, you can easily put more into those other things you’re interested in.”

He now says he has understanding of how to prioritize outside interests to go along with football, while also learning the benefits of eating right.

“Today’s my day when I can have a Shirley Temple and I can eat chicken tenders and french fries,” Bennett said. “Tuesday is back to healthy. I can have a piece of cake right now, but then it goes back to my regular routine. So I develop a routine with my study habits and listening. I think my listening skills have improved. My wife would probably agree. My listening skills are off the radar right now, so I’ve become a great listener and not a talker.”

Bennett has always been known for his gift of gab, but it’s all about his play on the field now. His friendship with wide receiver Brandon Marshall hasn’t hurt things.

“Yeah, it’s fun,” Cutler said. “They kind of push each other out there. We all can’t be on every single day, so it’s between us two and [Marshall, Matt Forte], Alshon [Jeffery], Earl [Bennett]. All of us are in this thing together. We have to have all those guys going.

“I can’t run around without those guys. I need them at full speed on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. They’re all pushing each other trying to get better and better. It’s a really good group. I think any quarterback in the league would like to have the horses I have on the outside.”


LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Add offensive line play to the reasons the Chicago Bears might be willing to open up the playbook even further this week.

The somewhat conservative game plan Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals was not just because the Bears are still learning a new playbook under new coach Marc Trestman. With four new offensive linemen, two of them rookies, it was no time to get fancy.

[+] EnlargeKyle Long
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhThe Bears' rookie right side of Kyle Long and Jordan Mills graded out well in their NFL debuts.
The fact that the line was relatively in sync and didn't give up a sack against a formidable defensive front from the Bengals eased a major Week 1 concern.

"I think at the end of the day we want to make sure we protect and we're able to get rid of the ball," quarterback Jay Cutler said. "We don't want to take sacks. We want to keep the front five confident, keep myself confident and believing in those guys, but at the same time we have to play football. We have to take advantage of things defenses are giving us. If that requires us taking a shot or getting five out, that's what we have to do."

Of course looming on the other side of the ball this week will be Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, not to mention defensive tackle Kevin Williams. The responsibility for keeping Allen in check Sunday will fall to Bears left tackle Jermon Bushrod.

"I thought we did well (last week)," Bushrod said. "I thought we had a lot of ups and we had some downs, but as a line, as a unit, we corrected them for the most part. We tried to minimize our individual mistakes and our playmakers made plays. That's what it's all about."

Of course, none of those positives happen if rookies Kyle Long and Jordan Mills don't step up and play like experienced linemen. Long graded out slightly lower than Mills, but was effective nonetheless.

(Read full post)

Bears want better pass rush vs. Vikings

September, 11, 2013
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears are facing a curious conflict at Halas Hall this week as they intend to improve the pass rush just as the NFL's best running back comes marching into town.

[+] EnlargeAdrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings
Bruce Kluckhohn/USA TODAY SportsAdrian Peterson has 1,085 career rushing yards with 14 touchdowns in 10 career games against the Bears.
There is no doubt the Minnesota Vikings' Adrian Peterson will have the Bears' full attention on the lakefront Sunday, but getting off the ball and disrupting the pass is a topic that's still being emphasized after Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton looked all too comfortable in the season opener.

"It's going to be a challenge, there's no doubt about it, because we're going to have to find a way to fit in the run and we're going to have to find a way to defend the play-action passes and things like that when we are in single safety coverages," coach Marc Trestman said after practice Wednesday.

So will the Bears truly emphasize what appeared to be a weakness against the Bengals, or do they put that aside for Peterson and the Vikings?

(Read full post)

Trestman: Peyton upped QB standards

September, 6, 2013
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman did not see all of Peyton Manning's seven-touchdown performance for the Denver Broncos on Thursday night, but he knows enough about it to understand the effect it will have.

"Everybody's standards got much higher after last night," Trestman said. "I'm sure all the quarterbacks throughout the league were watching."

Trestman's own standards won't be changing any time soon, though. The quarterback-savvy coach won't be leaning on Jay Cutler any more than he planned to when he started developing the game plan for Sunday's opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.

"We're going to really go out there and do what we said we were going to do," Trestman said. "We're going to try to be efficient at the position, move the football, try to have some balance, spread the ball around, help the guys up front protection-wise to get their feet under them and see how it goes from the first quarter on. I think our guys are excited and confident that they will go out and play well."

Trestman might be offense-oriented but he wasn't about to let a quarterback performance for the ages distract him Thursday.

"I didn't see it," said Trestman, who is days away from his first game as an NFL head coach. "I saw a glimpse of it but I really didn't see it. I was still working so I didn't see much of it. I heard a lot about it. I saw a couple of series and he threw touchdowns in both series. I imagine it was quite a game for him and certainly a new standard for quarterbacks throughout the league to try and meet."

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