Heading into summer, it's good vibrations for John Fox and the Bears bunch

Heading into summer, it's good vibrations for John Fox and the Bears bunch

It might’ve been more relevant if the Bears entered their six-week summer break in a collectively sour mood, but for a team coming off a 3-13 season, some semblance of positivity is encouraging. 

John Fox’s decision, for the second consecutive year, to cancel the final practice of veteran minicamp on Thursday fueled some of the good vibes going around Halas Hall over the last few weeks. But there’s a sort of cautious optimism running through the Bears with an eye on reuniting in Bourbonnais at the end of July. 

“(The players) feel it,” Fox said. “I know as a staff, the personnel department, the building here at Halas, we feel it. We’ve got way more competition, guys that were ‘starters’ before. It’s going to be challenging and that’s what you want to build and create. I think we’re the furthest along that we’ve been, at least in our tenure here.”

OTAs and veteran minicamp were the Bears’ first opportunity to see how their offseason additions — of which there were plenty — would compete, even if it was in a non-padded setting. 

The wide receiver group was the most competitive, with three free agent additions (Victor Cruz, Kendall Wright, Markus Wheaton) and a former first-round pick returning from an injury (Kevin White). But every other position — including quarterback, excluding Mike Glennon — had some level of competition in it, too. 

“We have a deep group at tight ends, deep group at running backs and then mixing the receivers in,” Glennon said. “We can give a lot of different looks. I think we can create some matchup problems with some of the guys we have.”

This era of good feelings may or may not mean anything for training camp and the 2017 season — getting, and staying, healthy will probably mean the most for this team. But the Bears could use some positivity after last year, and seem to have found it during May and June. 

“I’m working with the quote-unquote second and third stringers,” linebacker Jerrell Freeman said. “It doesn’t matter. We’re in there with everybody just making sure that we’re able to communicate. That everybody sees everything the same. So I mean it’s that working together. We’re getting better everyday.”

Bears announce training camp schedule

Bears announce training camp schedule

The Bears released their official training camp schedule Thursday morning. After reporting to Olivet Nazarene on Wednesday, July 26, the first of ten practices open to the public will take place the following day. The Bears will be based out of Bourbonnais for the 16th straight season. Training camp will go through Sunday, Aug. 13 before the Bears break camp and finish the preseason in Lake Forest. 

All practices are tentatively scheduled to start at various times during the 11 a.m. hour with the exception of Saturday, Aug. 13, which starts at 12:05 p.m. Those times are subject to change based on weather, and a varying set of schedules that John Fox and his coaching staff have set up, as they adjust to player and training staff preferences in hopes of reducing injuries. 

Also, new this season, fans wanting to attend practices must order free tickets in advance through the Bears website. Fans will not be allowed in without a ticket, and the first 1,000 fans each day will be given various souvenirs. The practice campus will be open to the public with tickets from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Here is the full training camp schedule:

After historically low turnover total in 2016, what can Bears do to get more takeaways?

After historically low turnover total in 2016, what can Bears do to get more takeaways?

Quintin Demps set a career high in interceptions last year by not doing anything different. And that’s the message he’s sending a defense that generated only 11 takeaways in 2016, tied for the lowest single-season total in NFL history. 

Demps went from picking off four passes in both 2013 with the Kansas City Chiefs and 2014 with the New York Giants to notching just one interception with the Houston Texans in 2015. In 2016, though, Demps intercepted six passes, broke up nine more and totaled 38 tackles. 

“Turnovers are like, it’s not something that you go get, it’s something you let come to you by doing your job first and then helping out,” Demps said. “And then you’d be surprised how they come to you by doing your job and being aware of when you can help somebody out. A lot of times when you get help is when you get picks and turnovers.”

The danger for a defense coming off a historically bad takeaway is sort of a whiplash effect, where there’s an over-emphasis on creating turnovers and not enough attention paid to, as Demps said, “doing your job.” There’s a fine line between being opportunistic and undisciplined.

“I tell my safeties all the time, we gotta tackle first,” Demps said. “Tackle first, don’t miss any tackles and then the picks are going to come. I promise you that.”

The Bears felt positively after signs of being more opportunistic as a defense during shorts-and-helmets practices in May and June, though if that was because of any real improvements or because the defense is usually ahead of the offense is hard to tell at this stage of the year. 

The offseason program was valuable for the Bears’ secondary in growing trust within a group that had — no pun intended — plenty of turnover after the 2016 season. The hope is that the offseason additions of Demps, Prince Amukamara, Marcus Cooper and Eddie Jackson will solidify the secondary and lead to something better than last year’s historically-low turnover total. 

“We’re still trying to build something, but the actual, real building happens in training camp because I think then you start to see the group start to get formed and yo know who’s going to go with the one’s, who’s going to go with the two’s, stuff like that,” Amukamara said. “So I think that starts to get formed. But I think with a lot of guys now, I think what that creates is competition and guys trying their hardest to make the team.”