After the lockout prohibited any organized team programs this time a year ago, the Bears and the rest of the NFL are starting up the hidden season this week.Hidden because these are the times that arent open to the public but are part of what goes on the field in earnest starting in early September.The collective bargaining agreement that was worked out included a shortening of the amount of time that teams can hold practice sessions for players, voluntary or otherwise. What once was a maximum of 14 weeks was trimmed to nine and breaks into clearly defined sections.The first, beginning at Halas Hall on Monday, is limited to strength and conditioning. This usually began in mid-March in years past and can be only with the fitness staff, no coaches. No helmets. Footballs allowed but only for light QB-receiver exchanges. No defense.From there the Bears will move into coaches being on the field working with position groups but no offense vs. defense for a stretch of up to three weeks.The formal OTAs commence in a third phase beginning in late May. Mandatory minicamps will be May 11-13 for rookies and June 12-14 for the entire team.
The Bears try to get a third win in 2016 when they host the 49ers, and CSN has you covered.
Check out a schedule of Sunday's events:
— Meijer Bears Pregame Live with Lance Briggs, Alex Brown, Jim Miller and Chris Boden airs at 11 a.m. on CSN.
— State Farm Bears Postgame Live airing immediately after the game on CSN.
Important Twitter follows:
— John "Moon" Mullin (@CSNMoonMullin), CSNChicago
— Bears Talk (@CSNBears), CSNChicago
— Kip Lewis (@CSNKipLewis), CSNChicago
— Chris Boden (@CSNBoden), CSNChicago
Insert title of this "Bowl" game here...
Two teams. Three wins combined. December. So much for holiday cheer. The snow may provide a certain Christmas element on the lakefront Sunday. But something different has to happen for the Bears defensively. In their spirit of giving, the 49ers have allowed a league-high 76 points off their turnovers. Problem is, the Bears have just eight of them in eleven games. If that San Francisco generosity doesn't change – either by Vic Fangio's defense finally making plays despite the core of their defense missing, or by the visitors finding a way to protect the ball in those conditions after practicing in Orlando all week – it's a golden chance for the Bears to gain a smidge of momentum before becoming a factor in the division race (because they face all three other NFC North contenders in their final four games).
1. Read zone read
Colin Kaepernick has grown much more comfortable with time in Chip Kelly's offense. He had the Dolphins hanging on for dear life until the clock struck zero last week. He became just the sixth quarterback in league history to pass for three touchdowns in a game while rushing for over 100 (no, Bobby Douglass isn't one). The challenge becomes greater minus the talented inside linebacker tandem of Danny Trevathan (injury) and Jerrell Freeman (suspension). It becomes even greater if Leonard Floyd's quickness and speed is taken away as a shadowing option as he recovers from being carried off the field on a flat board two weeks ago. He's listed as questionable. So that makes it imperative for inside replacements John Timu and Nick Kwiatkowski to find a way to be instinctive while remaining disciplined enough to contain the league's best rushing quarterback by yards per attempt (8.1).
2. Don't stray from the run
Give this Niners defense without NoVorro Bowman and Eric Reid enough opportunities to be gashed, and they'll let you. Too many times the pregame formula has been for Jordan Howard to get the ball, only to find reasons not to – whether it's looking at the clock while trailing by double digits, too much traffic at the line of scrimmage or panic after injuries up front (to name a few). The 172 rushing yards per game allowed by San Francisco is the worst in eight years (Detroit). Howard's 5.14 average gain per attempt is fifth in the NFL. Enough said.
3. Catch the ball!!!
Okay, Marquess, Josh and Deonte. Okay, Cam, Jordan and Jeremy. Okay Daniel (and/or Eddie?). We know conditions might be a little slick if it's snowing/sleeting/raining. You're supposed to be among the best in the world at what you do, even if you're down the original depth chart. Can you get your mitts on the football and hang on to it this week? Help your guy Matt out a little bit? After all, if you cut last week's nightmare in half, and maybe you're shooting for (oooh!) a fourth win Sunday, not a third.
Get set for Sunday's noon kickoff at 11 a.m. on CSN as ex-Bears Jim Miller, Lance Briggs and Alex Brown join Chris on "Bears Preagme Live." Then as soon as the second quarter ends, come back here to CSNChicago.com, where Jim and Chris break down the first 30 minutes and go over second half adjustments. And finally, when the game goes final on Fox, switch immediately back to CSN as Chris and the three former Bears give you 90 minutes of reaction, analysis, live press conferences and locker room interviews on "Bears Postgame Live."