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Friday, July 30, 2010
Bears camp Day 1: You go, Desmond Clark

By Kevin Seifert

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- The first practice of the Chicago Bears' training camp was about a new offense and a revamped defense. It was about new beginnings and last chances. Most of all, however, it was about Desmond Clark.

That's right. The veteran tight end was the standout player of the two-hour affair, beginning with a spectacular one-handed catch during individual drills and extending into 11-on-11 drills in which he caught everything thrown his way. I was busy tracking another portion of practice -- more on that in a bit -- but conservatively speaking, I would say Clark caught at least eight downfield passes from quarterbacks Jay Cutler and Caleb Hanie.

Clark said afterwards that he couldn't remember a practice in his 12-year-career that included so many downfield receptions. Not only did it come in an offense that has historically ignored tight ends, but it came for a player whose position on the team appears far from secure.

If I were a conspiracy theorist, I would wonder if new coordinator Mike Martz intentionally orchestrated the practice to send a public message after months of discussion of tight end's role in his offense -- past, present and future. But I'm not. So I won't. I'm sure he didn't. No way.

"Hopefully we just keep it going," Clark said. "Not only me, but hopefully all the tight ends can make plays down the field. Hopefully it can build the confidence of our offense that we can make those plays down the field all season."

During most of practice, the Bears used two tight ends with their first-team group: Greg Olsen and newcomer Brandon Manumaleuna. Clark remains a strong locker room presence, however, and after Friday's showing, I think it's pretty clear he can still get it done on the field as well.

Some other observations from Day 1 at Olivet Nazarene University: