■ Bears turn up the pressure before more than 8,000 fans at first open practice.
Camp’s 1st open practice has Bears’ fans buzzing
BOURBONNAIS — The first big roar of Bears training camp came a little after 8:15 a.m. Saturday when the sound system on the Olivet Nazarene University practice fields began blaring “Return of the Mack” as the team began its first open practice. Right there on the field, All-Pro edge rusher Khalil Mack was readying for work.
The first groan of camp? That came after a very minor error when rookie running back David Montgomery bobbled then dropped a pass over the middle during individual drills.
One of the first heated debates among fans? That came behind the north end zone after a Mitch Trubisky deep ball to Taylor Gabriel fell incomplete. That particular pass might have been underthrown a bit. It could have been considered a drop. It might have even been defensed well by rookie Duke Shelley.
Whatever the case, the verdict among that particular cluster of fans was deadlocked, and the deliberations were loud and full of passion.
The Bears buzz is definitely back and at full throttle, Chicago.
With less than six weeks left until the NFL’s season opener — Bears versus Packers on Sept. 5 at Soldier Field — a crowd officially announced at 8,385 turned out to get a glimpse of a team that has legitimate Super Bowl hopes in 2019.
It has been a long time since this kind of energy has been percolating from the crowds in Bourbonnais.
As Matt Nagy rode toward practice on a golf cart, he felt an instant adrenaline rush as he surveyed the morning scene.
“Coming out to that sea of fans and everybody out there, I don’t even know how to put it into words how much that means to us on just who our fans are, what our city is all about,” Nagy said. “It literally gives you goose bumps. … You see everybody down the sidewalk with all their jerseys on. They’re just so excited to get this thing going again.”
The gates to practice didn’t open until 7:30 a.m.. But according to one Bears representative, the line to get in had started forming a little after 3 a.m. The Bears were 45 minutes into their practice Saturday and a line of cars was still snaking from several directions around the perimeter of the fields toward the nearby parking lots.
Fans went crazy for an Anthony Miller touchdown catch from Chase Daniel. They watched with hope when kicker Elliott Fry made nine consecutive field-goal attempts, including a bomb from 60 yards. They weren’t certain
how to root when Nagy called for a pair of one-on-one, offenseversus-defense competitions with elevated stakes.
Allen Robinson beat Kyle Fuller in the first battle, hauling in a deep ball from Trubisky. Immediately the defensive players were left with a set of up-downs. A little while later, Prince Amukamara successfully defended Gabriel, forced an incompletion and then watched as the offensive guys did pushups.
“It’s one of those pressure-filled situations,” Amukamara said. “And it’s so that when the game is on the line and we’re on the 3-yard line and the opposing offense is going in and I’m on Julio (Jones) and I know, ‘OK, it’s zero coverage. They’re coming at me here.’ Now I’ve already kind of been in that situation. I’ve felt my heart beat. I’ve felt my blood pump and I just have to make a play for my team.”
Added Nagy: “We’re talking about craving pressure with this
team. Let’s crave it so that when it happens in the game it’s natural. We want to practice it as much as we can.”
That will continue Sunday when the Bears put full pads on for the first time. It will continue for the remaining eight practices that follow before camp breaks Aug. 11. Nagy wants his players craving pressure and he wants them to feel what it’s like to both succeed and fail in those moments.
The Bears also are eager to continue feeling the juice from fans, who have the highest of hopes for the season.
Injury update: Receiver Riley Ridley didn’t practice Saturday, out with a right hamstring injury that Nagy insisted wasn’t severe but could keep the rookie out for longer than a week or so. Fellow receiver Emmanuel Hall and defensive back Jonathon Mincy also missed practice with groin issues.