LAKE FOREST – The Bears wrapped up mandatory minicamp Thursday at Halas Hall by having each player wear No. 41 to honor Brian Piccolo, who passed away 52 years ago. The Bears planned to honor Piccolo on the 50th anniversary of his passing, but the COVID-19 pandemic pushed that back.
Head coach Matt Eberflus had the Bears run through low red zone and high red zone drills before doing one more "move the ball" drill before ending practice early.
Quarterback Justin Fields followed up his sharp outing Wednesday with another solid practice Thursday. Fields found the end zone twice during the red-zone period, connecting with Cole Kmet and Darnell Mooney for scores.
The defense won the day in the final "move the ball" period, though.
Fields opened the drill by hitting David Montgomery on a swing pass for a solid gain. But Fields' next pass fell incomplete in the vicinity of Mooney, and his third-down attempt was batted at the line.
The first-team offense went three-and-out again on the final "move the ball" drill of minicamp. Fields' pass on first down sailed over the outstretched hands of Mooney. Montgomery picked up a short gain on a second-down run, but Fields' pass on third down was tipped at the line and picked off by Thomas Graham Jr., sending the Bears into the summer.
"Overall, I thought it was good execution today, as it was yesterday," Eberflus said after practice. "That was one of our better practices yesterday of the offseason, and we capped it off today with also another good practice. "
Eberflus gave the Bears a directive before dismissing them for the summer: come back ready to work.
"The summer for these guys is going to be important, and the message I said after practice to them is come back lean, fit and strong," Eberflus said. "Obviously, I left them with, 'Get your track shoes on,' like I started my first press conference because we're going to be running once we get to training camp. Training camp is not to get in shape. You should already be in shape. You should be ready to go for training camp because we are blowing and going from Day 1. That was my main message to them."
More notes from Day 3 of mandatory minicamp:
-- Robert Quinn was once again absent. In addition, Kyler Gordon and Al-Quadin Muhammad didn't participate in practice.
-- Eberflus said his staff hasn't decided if they will play the starters during the preseason.
"Yeah, that's obviously been discussed several times, and we have not come to that conclusion yet," Eberflus said. "We want to see the development of the players, and it might be on an individual basis to start that off. So, we'll see and I'll visit with the other head coaches to see what they're doing and go from there to see if we can pair it up the right way. So, we'll talk about that."
-- Dakota Dozier once again did not practice after suffering an injury on Day 1 of minicamp.
-- Rookie Braxton Jones once again took reps as the first-team left tackle. The fifth-round pick called running with the ones a "learning experience."
"It's been a good process kind of rolling in with the ones," Jones said Thursday. "It's a lot of learning. Got to play a lot faster, think a lot faster, and that's all coming as I go. I think the biggest thing for me is creating a process, a pre-snap process going up to the line; what's the cadence? We have multiple different cadences. I've struggled a little bit with that. But just having a pre-snap process, just something that will benefit me being able to move faster.
"But the overall jump in with the ones has been really great. The vets are great, just helping me out, making sure I'm on the same page, making sure I'm getting certain calls that they might have that they've been using and stuff like that, so they've been great, and it's been a great process."
-- Rookies will return to the facility on July 23 and the veterans will be back on the 26th.