BOURBONNAIS, Ill. — The Bears’ first training camp under coach John Fox began in earnest on Thursday, with a few new wrinkles and some familiar faces in familiar places as well.
The first day ended with receivers and backs, including at least one orange jersey (quarterback), running wind sprints after practice, something not commonly seen around Bears camp under Marc Trestman or Lovie Smith, the latter in part because of having a team anchored by veterans.
“I think a tough, physical camp,” Fox has laid out as his ideal, “and we’ll try to create that as much as we can with the new CBA rules.”
The rules don’t allow as many practices in pads and the Bears won’t be in theirs until Saturday. But that did not prevent members of the offense from getting in considerable work:
Jay Cutler was near perfect in one seven-on-seven session, delivering precise completions in succession to Eddie Royal on an aggressive slant, Matt Forte, Martellus Bennett and Royal again. Jimmy Clausen had a solid practice but was consistently high on throws early before settling in, delivering one sideline throw to wideout Josh Bellamy, who laid out for a ball perfectly thrown where only Bellamy or no one was making the catch. Cutler worked with Alshon Jeffery to use Jeffery’s height and strength advantages against even good coverages.
Matt Forte continued with his hallmark diversity of play, with solid routes to give Cutler avenues for throws underneath and twice broke free for long runs against a defense that was forcing up front. It was perhaps a preview of a balanced role for Forte, something he has been throughout his career: “I knew that the first day when I met [offensive coordinator Adam] Gase and we talked about that type of stuff when he first got hired. So same as I always been utilized in the running game and the passing game."
Ka’Deem Carey, in a roster and position battle particularly with rookie Jeremy Langford, made a superb leap and nearly turned a Clausen overthrow into a 20-yard completion. Carey also turned in a first-down gain from a pitch from Clausen and added a long gain with a later Clausen throw. Langford, the Bears’ fourth-round pick this year out of Michigan State, showed a burst in inside-run and strong north-south running.
Kevin White was confined to just watching practice as his unspecified shin injury has him on the PUP list. Eddie Royal may be ticketed for slot duty but made a statement with strong work in White’s stead outside. “I’m trying to prove myself,” said Royal, who made repeated clean catches of Cutler passes off a variety of routes. “Every guy here is really trying to prove themselves and kind of make their own role."
Marquess Wilson, in a battle with Royal and for playing time in general, clicked with Cutler, with one highlight catch between defensive backs Kyle Fuller and Antrel Rolle.
Martellus Bennett may have spent some offseason energy in quest of a contract but delivered strong blocks against edge defenders in run work and was effective on connections with Cutler.
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As expected, four of the five starters from 2013’s unit were in place, including Kyle Long back at right guard alongside Jordan Mills, getting first chance to hold onto the right tackle slot after a difficult 2014 with a nagging foot injury. The mood on and off the field is perceptibly better than injury-plagued 2014.
“When you have Matt Slauson in a room,” Long said, “he's a guy that does everything right, and he's just a total badass about everything. If you guys know Matt Slauson, he's a true character and also a true pro and a veteran. It's great to have him in that room and Jermon Bushrod as well, guys who are willing to show up every day and put their bodies on the line for the team.