BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Some thoughts and observations on the Chicago Bears' practice Saturday night:
More than 12,000 fans showed up to watch the Bears' full-pads practice, surrounding a field outfitted with portable lights. I classified that attendance as yet another example of the buzz surrounding this team. It was a perfect night from a weather perspective, but keep in mind this practice was not even held in a stadium setting. As the team jogged onto the field, some fans were chanting, "Super Bowl! Super Bowl!"
By far, the star of the evening was receiver Brandon Marshall, who rebounded from an injury scare early in practice to educate the Bears and their fans on what it's like to have a true No. 1 receiver. He made spectacular catches all over the field in 1-on-1, 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills. The one that caught my eye was what appeared to be an ad-lib play between him and quarterback Jay Cutler, who moved in the pocket toward the right sideline before firing about across the field toward Marshall, who was running toward the left sideline about 40 yards away. Marshall leaped and caught the ball over close coverage from cornerback Charles Tillman and appeared to keep both feet in bounds on the far sideline. "He's a scholarship player," coach Lovie Smith said. "I think we can all agree on that."
Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune was among those impressed. Pompei: "Marshall easily is the most talented offensive skill position player I've seen on Bears since No. 34," referring to Walter Payton.
Marshall's injury scare came early in the practice when he fell in a non-contact drill and flexed his legs for several minutes. Fans were hushed for a moment before Marshall finally got up and walked to the sideline. He re-entered drills about five minutes later after the initial fall. Cutler was among those who came to check on him during those tense moments.
I spent a good portion of my time watching the offensive and defensive lines, particularly to see what first-round draft pick Shea McClellin looked like in pads. McClellin definitely displayed a good first step and agility, but in 1-on-1 drills he was frequently run around the quarterback by his opponent. I wouldn't read too much into that, however. His best play of the night came when he knocked down a pass by Jason Campbell after penetrating the pocket in 11-on-11 drills.
If anyone unexpected stood out in pass-rush drills, it was defensive end Corey Wootton, whose standing on the team is jeopardized by McClellin's arrival and two previous years of minimal production. Wootton looked quick and confident on the edge.
I counted two fumbles by tailback Michael Bush, one in 9-on-7 drills and one in 11-on-11.