Every minute counts
New coach Marc Trestman isn't wasting any time as he readies his Bears
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- If the pejorative "Camp Lovie" was aimed at former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith's summertime coddling of his veterans, then what do you call new coach Marc Trestman's no-hit, fast-paced, meeting-heavy training camp?
Trestman Tech? The Marc Trestman School of Football Efficiency?
One thing you can't call training camp at Olivet Nazarene University is easy. No Gentleman's A's here.
The new first-day conditioning test set the tone physically and it looks like the next couple of weeks will test the players mentally.
"It's challenging because the new stuff continues to go in, stuff we didn't even do in minicamps and OTAs," receiver Earl Bennett said. "Coach Trestman continues to challenge us mentally and we're up to the challenge."
But don't come to camp expecting to see big hits, unless you see a guy face-plant into a playbook.
The Bears put pads on Sunday, which traditionally marks the start of hittin' season. But in Trestman's first padded practice, the hardest thumps came on Jay Cutler passes hitting his receivers' gloves.
Well, not including rookie guard Kyle Long going all Anderson Silva on a couple of pass-rushers doing line drills.
Other than incidental contact at the line, don't expect to see big hits in Bourbonnais. What we saw Sunday is what you'll get until the first preseason game.
"That's what I would expect the rest of the way," Trestman said.
For the rest of the summer, consider these guys Monsters of the Meeting Room.
Despite the meatball desire to see guys knock around, this is a good thing. With so much to learn before the end of training camp, the Bears need to work fast, work efficient and stay healthy.
That's why Trestman's camp is so fast-paced as the team rushes from individual drills to group work back to drills. That's why practice is in the morning.
At 8:01 a.m., Trestman was bicycling through the parking lot. In the old days, that's when veterans were ambling to their dorm rooms.
"I love the morning schedule, I'm a morning person," Bennett said.
Working fast or working slow, waking up early or late in August might not seem like it's going to directly lead to postseason success, but Bennett said the players like the "chaos."
One minute you see Cutler firing passes amid a snowfall of white jersey-wearing defensive linemen, the next guys are racing to exercise balls, fielding medicine balls and leaping onto tumbling mats blocking punts.
It was B-roll heaven for local cameras as the Bears unveiled these "wacky" new drills. But in Trestman's world, everything has a purpose. This camp is all about developing muscle memory, including the one between the ears.
But the relative lack of hitting, aside from linemen collisions, was still an eyebrow-raiser. Everyone has plans until they get smacked in the mouth.
Of course, for guys like Long, corralling your basest instincts takes time. During a pass-rush drill early in practice, Long planted defensive linemen Nate Collins and Kyle Moore using some of those MMA skills he practiced this past offseason.
"Absolutely, I get too aggressive," Long said. "Coach [Aaron] Kromer said slow down, take it easy and things will slow down for you in terms of recognition. A lot of guys have been saying that to me as well. At Oregon, I just wanted to go fast all the time. Here, we go fast but in terms if play recognition, you have to slow down and relax a little bit."
How about that, an offensive lineman with violent tendencies on the field. Somewhere Olin Kreutz is head-butting a wall in appreciation.
As a first-round pick, Long was one of the most-watched Bears on Sunday, especially because he had to miss the OTAs and minicamp.
While he's still working on his technique, the prevailing thought is his athleticism and mentality could have him starting by Week 1, if he can pick up the intricacies of the blocking scheme. That won't be easy.
"This is not an easy offensive line [system to learn]," left tackle Jermon Bushrod said. "It took me a year or two. Just knowing where your help is, how to be in the right position. He's learning all that."
Bushrod, who played for offensive line coach Kromer in New Orleans, explained that the system calls for a lot of teamwork. He sounded a lot like Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau explaining team defense.
"This offense relies on us all being on the same page at the same time, especially pass protection-wise," Bushrod said. "We have a lot of plays, we have a lot of schemes, we have a lot of different assignments for us up front to know. Sometimes we have to know who the tight ends are blocking, who the running backs have, who are our hot people. We have to be on the same page. The quicker we're on the same page, then our quarterback feels that more comfortable."
The offensive line looked, well, vintage in team drills. Often, Cutler only got time to throw because the defensive linemen couldn't sack him.
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"We're learning," Bushrod said. "Yeah, we did have a couple guys running through today, but it's all about shaking off those jitters, slowing ourselves down, getting ourselves in the right position. When I first started, those first five plays I felt good, I felt quick, but I didn't feel like I was technically sound."
The failures of the offensive line have been a prevailing storyline the past four years, as Cutler has struggled to fulfill his potential and the team's expectations. Now in a contract year, every game will be a referendum on his future.
I can't wait. I might tweet every throw this season. It's made-for-pageview drama.
How did Cutler do Sunday? Well, he didn't throw an interception on his first pass, breaking a two-day streak, so that was good.
He also threw plenty of smooth short passes to running backs and receivers that should be readily available in this Bill Walsh-style offense. And he threw the ball away plenty.
"I was pleased with the quarterbacks, they took care of the football," Trestman said. "Jay was on in terms of finishing his progressions and getting to second and third receivers. We spread the ball around a lot and that's happened for three straight days. That's a good sign."
Considering Cutler went steady in his throwmance with Marshall last season, this newfound charity is certainly an early sign that the much-criticized quarterback is ready to learn from past mistakes.
And learning is the word in Bourbonnais. It's cram season. No time to waste.