Bears

Sick bay: Bears get starters Bushrod, Jeffery part of the way back

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Sick bay: Bears get starters Bushrod, Jeffery part of the way back

Game day is still some time off and the vagaries of health at the NFL levels so positives regarding injuries on Wednesday guarantee precious little by the time inactives are announced 90 minutes before game times on Sundays. But the Bears got two key offensive starters back at least in a meaningful limited way on Wednesday, more than they’ve had for the past handful of games.

Left tackle Jermon Bushrod was cleared under the NFL’s concussion protocol and returned to practice after missing both the Oakland and Kansas City games. Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, one of the more enigmatic injury siturations for the Bears this season, also was able to practice on a limited basis.

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On the downside were linebacker Shea McClellin (knee) and safety Antrel Rolle (ankle) who were unable to practice. Receiver Eddie Royal (ankle) remained sidelined after missing the Kansas City game.

Christian Jones did a commendable job filling in calling signals after McClellin as forced to leave the Kansas City game. But “it's an adjustment,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “When Shea went out the other day, our operation struggled during the game, and there were some plays that not everybody was on the same page and it was because of that,

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“That's one of the things that Shea has brought to us and that's good quarterbacking of the defense, and when he went out, we struggled with that. In defense of Christian, he hadn't had to do that many time before and then we had to bring in LaRoy [Reynolds], who's never played for us, never in camp, never in the off-season and he was put in a tough situation, much like Harold [Jones-Quartey, safety] the week before. After a week of practice hopefully those guys wil play better and do their jobs better.”

Roquan Smith helps shear a sheep at Bears community event

Roquan Smith helps shear a sheep at Bears community event

Roquan Smith has more sheared sheep than tackles on his stat sheet as a pro football player.

Smith and several other Bears rookies participated in a hands-on community event at Lambs Farm in Libertyville, Illinois on Monday where he assisted farm staff with the sheep's grooming. Smith said it was a first for him despite growing up around animals. 

"It's like on the norm for me though, playing linebacker you're in the trenches," Smith said of the experience.

"Shaving a sheep, I never really envisioned myself doing something like that," Smith said via ChicagoBears.com. "I was around animals [growing up], but it was more so cows and goats here and there and dogs and cats. I've petted a sheep before, but never actually flipped one and shaved one."

Bears rookies got up close and personal with more than just sheep.

Smith was selected with the eighth overall pick in April's draft and will assume a starting role opposite Danny Trevathan at inside linebacker this season. Here's to hoping he can wrangle opposing ball-carriers like a sheep waiting to be sheared.

The Bears' defense is ahead of its offense, but Matt Nagy doesn't see that as a problem

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USA Today Sports Images

The Bears' defense is ahead of its offense, but Matt Nagy doesn't see that as a problem

Asking players about how the defense is “ahead” of the offense is a yearly right of passage during OTAs, sort of like how every baseball team has about half its players saying they’re in the best shape of their life during spring training. So that Vic Fangio’s defense is ahead of Matt Nagy’s offense right now isn’t surprising, and it's certainly not concerning. 

But Nagy is also working to install his offense right now during OTAs to build a foundation for training camp. So does the defense — the core of which is returning with plenty of experience in Fangio’s system — being ahead of the offense hurt those efforts?

“It’s actually good for us because we’re getting an experienced defense,” Nagy said. “My message to the team on the offensive side is just be patient and don’t get frustrated. They understand that they’re going to play a little bit faster than us right now. We’ll have some growing pains, but we’ll get back to square one in training camp.”

We’ll have a chance to hear from the Bears’ offensive players following Wednesday’s practice, but for now, the guys on Fangio’s defense have come away impressed with that Nagy’s offense can be. 

“The offense is a lot … just very tough,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “They’re moving well. They’re faster. They’re throwing a lot of different looks at us and that’s just Nagy’s offense. If I was a receiver I would love to play in this offense, just because you get to do so many different things and you get so many different plays. It just looks fun over there.”

“They’re moving together, and I like to see that,” linebacker Danny Trevathan said. “We’re not a bad defense. They’re practicing against us, so they’re getting better every day, and vice versa. It’s a daily grind. It’s going to be tough, but those guys, they got the right pieces. I like what I see out there. When somebody makes a play, they’re gone. Everybody can run over there. It’s the right fit for Mitch, it’s the right fit for the receivers, the running backs.”

Still, for all the praise above, the defense is “winning” more, at least as much as it can without the pads on. But the offense is still having some flashes, even as it collectively learns the terminology, concepts and formations used by Nagy. 

And that leads to a competitive atmosphere at Halas Hall, led by the Bears’ new head coach. 

“He’s an offensive coach and last year coach (John) Fox, I couldn’t really talk stuff to (him) because he’s a defensive coach and it’s like Nagy’s offense so if I get a pick or something, I mean, I like to talk stuff to him,” Amukamara said. “He’ll say something like ‘we’re coming at you 2-0.’ Stuff like that. That just brings out the competition and you always want that in your head coach.”