The Bears chose to pull up stakes at Olivet Nazarene College in Bourbonnais after the 2019 season. They had no idea that a pandemic would get between their efforts to set up shop at Halas Hall. The players, staff, and media certainly enjoy the change of venue. Perhaps the fans from the southern part of Chicagoland weren’t in favor of the new location. But the Bears have a first class setup in Lake Forest. There was no reason not to take advantage of everything the facilities have to offer. The team simply had to make some tweaks to allow the fans to participate.
The team was able to accommodate the fans by repurposing some new parking lots on the west end of their complex. The fan parking problem was solved by busing in spectators from a nearby shopping mall. The number of fans has probably decreased, but not the enthusiasm. Every practice touchdown pass from rookie quarterback Justin Fields drew cheers from the crowd.
Now, the team is getting ready for their first round draft pick’s debut against the Miami Dolphins. The Fins bused in from their hotel for two days of combined practice at Halas ahead of that first preseason game. Chicago offensive units were matched up against Miami defenses and vice versa at training camp.
“We need to get as many reps with [Justin]. We’re going to play our guys,” said Matt Nagy. Some players will shuttle in and out because Nagy implied there is still competition for the first team offensive line. “The one thing you see is there a team that stresses offensive linemen and quarterbacks. It gives us some good things to work off of. It’s really good for us. I’m sure it’s the same for them. I thought yesterday was a good game for those quarterbacks (Dalton and Justin.)”
“I think it’s about just getting back into the flow,” noted Andy Dalton. “Obviously I feel very comfortable with everything we got there. It’s fun to get these opportunities to go against a different team. It comes at a good time. We’ve been going against the same guys over and over again. Now we get some different looks.”
Allen studies the game, and he know so much football. He cares and he wants to be really good. That’s all you can ask.-Andy Dalton on Allen Robinson
Eddie Jackson talked about returning to practice after being out with an injury. “Not being able to join them. Just itching to join them.” He spent time on the sidelines continuing to stay active. “Keeping that mental part up. Just being on top of the plays. It’s hard for some guys to adjust. Seeing the right adjustments. So me just having a [play] card on the side knowing what plays we are in, knowing what keys and tendencies, staying fresh in my brain.”
Running back David Montgomery has reflected on the start of his third season. “I think my lateral quickness has definitely picked up a bit. I just try to take advantage of every opportunity. What you learn getting older in this league. You don’t realize how fast it I’ll go until it’s gone. So I want to be sure, whatever opportunity I get I can show that I belong out there.”
Nine year veteran cornerback Desmond Trufant is a newcomer to the Bears squad. He’s also competing for a starting job in the defensive backfield. “Everyday we’re all trying to get better,” he says. “You have to show up, compete. Be consistent, make plays. It’s fun. We’re just working out there. Thankfully I’m still able to compete, and do what I’m supposed to do. It’s a great energy. We got a lot of work to do, but I like what I see.”
You got to get that game day experience and that only comes with playing a game. I know he’s going to do his part, do his thing, and he’s going to step up to the challenge.-Trufant on Justin Fields
One rookie who will have his hands full is fifth round pick Dazz Newsome from North Carolina. His progress was hindered by an shoulder injury in rookie training camp, but he is back out on the field now. “I’m just trying to get all my alignments. It was a minor setback. I just got to believe in what the trainers tell me. I’m going to follow the rules. The biggest challenge is knowing where to be at every position.” Tarik Cohen gave him good advice on how to deal with the early setback.
Nagy gets the last word: “The only way you can evaluate is to to run stuff that you want to run. Our coaches can scheme things up [for Justin] and give him a chance. I want all those guys [Justin, Nick Foles, Andy] to go out and lead that offense, and don’t worry about making mistakes. That’s going to happen. Just play football. Be the leader of the team and score touchdowns, and we’ll all be happy.”
All photos by SRN Broadcasting, except where noted.