Last Wednesday as the backups prepared to play the Cleveland Browns in the final preseason game, the No. 1 offense was scheduled for a moderate practice. Jay Cutler had another idea.
The Bears quarterback convened the offense and directed it through two intense sets of 25 plays, one after another with a break in between.
“It was something,” said rookie right tackle Jordan Mills, shaking his head. “He was really being a leader, taking charge of everything.”
As the left the locker room on Monday, Cutler and Kyle Long happened to be heading out the door at the same time. The rookie guard threw an arm around the quarterback’s shoulder, made a wisecrack and the two went out laughing.
“Strangers” coming together
Professional athletes don’t necessarily have to like each other to be successful as teammates. But it can make going to work a little more fun and help smooth over some scratchy times.
Chemistry has too often been lacking in recent seasons on the offensive side of the ball, for whatever reasons. The result has been a case where the whole is less, not more, than the sum of the parts.
While attention has focused on the settling in process for players in the offense of Marc Trestman, a secondary but potentially no less important settling in process has been going on among teammates who are new not only to Trestman’s schemes but also to each other.
More than half of the starting offense -- four offensive linemen, the tight end and the fullback – were not on the Chicago roster a year ago. Long and Mills were going into final college seasons this time 12 months ago.
Cutler’s leadership and what some teammates described as a new level camaraderie has been part of what represents a chemistry and fun component both on and off the field.
Even in the huddle, “there’s not a lot of leftover words whenever Martellus [Bennett] is around,” Cutler said. “He’s going to let it known that he’s around. It’s a good mix. ‘B’ [Marshall] doesn’t say much out there.
“Kyle Long doesn’t be quiet or shut up. Between Kyle and Martellus, it’s hard even to call the play. Those guys are talking a mile-a-minute. But it’s a good mix of old guys, young guys, outgoing guys, some guys who don’t say anything, just do their jobs.”
Earl Bennett managed to stay a part of that chemistry even while dealing with the concussion that sidelined him for a month.
“I wasn’t supposed to look at my iPad, but, you know, I just stayed abreast of what they were installing each and every day so that when I came back it wouldn’t be that hard,” Bennett said.
“It all comes with chemistry and continue to stay focused on the task at hand.”
Within the parameters of practice, concerns over whether there will be enough footballs to go around with Martellus Bennett, Earl Bennett, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Matt Forte are difficult to find.
“It’s pretty fun, anytime Earl makes a play, me and Alshon look at each other like, we can’t let him one-up us,” Martellus Bennett said. “So everyone’s out there fighting to get… we all want to be open, we all want to get the ball, but it’s one of those things where we’re happy when another guy makes a play, but we also feel challenged.
“So if Brandon makes a great play, I have to make one, it’s my turn, come on coach call something for me, I want to make a play, and Alshon’s the same way. So you got guys out there that’s not only competing against the defense, we try to out-do each other.”