LAKE FOREST, Ill. New Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice wants to see his team playing faster and with more explosiveness. He will have to wait a bit to see all the weapons at his disposal.
Tice and coach Lovie Smith got only an abbreviated look Friday at wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, one of their top draft picks. Jeffery, whose conditioning last season had been an issue at South Carolina, left his first practice on the first day of a rookie minicamp with leg cramps.
"You know, guys do a lot of working out on their own," Smith said after practice. "But it's not like when you come here and work out. I really like what Alshon did earlier in practice -- most of the practice, really. I didn't see him drop a ball. He's got big hands, a great target. I really like the way he came in. He's going to be a good football player for us."
Tice, who replaces Mike Martz, was no less complimentary of Jeffery. The Bears are hoping the rookie can team with Brandon Marshall to give the team and quarterback Jay Cutler two taller threats at wide receiver.
"I saw him make a few plays over there in the one-on-one (drills) and back in the old days we called that picking peanuts," said Tice, referring to catching passes over the top of defenders. "He was picking peanuts off some guys heads, it looked like to me. So I think he's going to have the ability for us to make plays."
While 55 rookie camp invitees will go through the revamped offense over the weekend, veterans have already run through Tice's entire offense twice, and will do so again at upcoming organized team activities and June camp. Installing an offense is new for Tice since he had been the head coach with the Minnesota Vikings or an offensive assistant at Jacksonville.
"I mean you're talking about managing people and putting people in position to do their jobs as best they can," he said. "I've been blessed to be a head coach in the league before, so I've had to manage people."
Tice called the new offense an attempt to let players show their skills better than last year, when the team finished 24th overall (314 yards per game) and 17th in scoring (22.1 points per game).
"We have some great athletes on offense," Tice said. "We want to be explosive, we want to be able to get the ball down the field, we want to be able to run the ball explosively, and we're going to do those things."
One area where few changes were made on offense is the line, but Tice said he's comfortable with virtually the same cast back that had a part in allowing Bears quarterbacks to be sacked 105 times the last two seasons.
The only new player is free agent guard Chilo Rachal. No offensive linemen were drafted. At the rookie minicamp, there are eight offensive linemen, but only two - undrafted James Brown of Troy and A.J. Greene of Auburn are under contract. The rest are here on a tryout basis.
"I think with the change in scheme, the change in personality if you will, and an offseason, and with getting some guys healthy, I think we'll make a big jump in the offensive line," Tice said.
Tice said he's counting on guard-tackle Chris Williams to be back for offseason practices after suffering a dislocated wrist midway through last season. He also expects tackle Gabe Carimi to practice at some point during organized team activities or mini-camp after knee surgery.
The camp, which features all six draft picks, 11 undrafted free agents, 34 tryout players, and four veterans, continues through Sunday.