Truth, Trubisky and (what should be) the Bears Way

Truth, Trubisky and (what should be) the Bears Way

Bears general manager Ryan Pace tried to do the rebuild-on-the-fly. But injuries, and some misses among his hits in drafting and free agency, proved during last season this was going to take a little longer. And based on health, cohesiveness, and their first half schedule, who knows if 2017 will look much better, won-loss-wise, when all is said and done?

Even though the collective bargaining agreement requires players to stay away from team-supervised workouts, Bears rookies have been working with the organization to remain visible through the first two weeks of this break before training camp. While veterans scatter to vacations and their off-season homes, the rookies are trying to settle into their new professional homes while they can. They’ve been seen out in the community, led by Mitch Trubisky, visiting hospitals and speaking at youth camps. And let’s face it, most optimism about the franchise’s future must come from the hoped-for cornerstones of this rebuild, with those ingredients needing to come together and show progress this season. Not the only factors, but key ones in resuscitating the organization. And the more we see and hear them, the better, provided they’re willing participants.

While there are Leonard Floyds and Eddie Goldmans and Cody Whitehairs and Cam Merediths that should be part of that foundation, three potential keys who, ideally, could be main offensive stars when this team gets good again, led a 7-on-7 camp Friday in Wheaton. Trubisky was joined by “veterans” Jordan Howard and Kevin White. Two of those three have yet to prove much, if anything, in NFL game action. But unless you’ve already made your minds up negatively on Trubisky and White, feel-good interaction with kids, and fans in general, goes a long way in rooting for them.

Trubisky has embraced his activity. The second overall pick is probably aware of the doubters, and hopefully understands the knuckeheads who booed him when he was introduced at a Bulls game were more likely booing the overall drought and frustration. But he’s said all the right things, has bought into what the investment in him means, and understands his short-term role behind Mike Glennon without planning on giving a competitive inch. So when he answered a question about whether the Bears would make the playoffs during Friday’s Q-and-A with the campers, he said he thought they would. But White, who knows a thing or two about how things may be interpreted, got in the quarterback’s ear to make sure they understood it was a feeling, not a public guarantee.

“Great message,” White said with a smile as reporters laughed, knowing where he was going. “He’s just gotta be clear on some things. People can take it the wrong way and run with it and make it seem like he’s being cocky. We all think that, of course. But we’ve gotta put some pieces together and do what we have to do to get there. I think Mitch cleared it up that he wasn’t saying 'for sure we’re going to the playoffs,' but just said that’s what we think. And that’s what we all think.”

White also shared some other knowledge about the trials and tribulations of Bears’ fans expectations with a top 10 draft pick.

“Just with the experience and the pressure, the things people expect, try to teach him how to handle that a little bit.”

Howard, who was on stage at Soldier Field Saturday night as part of the Warriors Games opening ceremony, has noticed Trubisky’s commitment.

“You can tell he wants to be great” the team’s all-time rookie rushing leader said Friday. “He puts the time in, and the effort to be a great quarterback in this league, because in order to be great, you’ve go to put the time in and have a good work ethic.”

That, of course, is no guarantee for greatness, just as Trubisky’s words were a feeling, not a guarantee. His personality could change down the road as success and failures come. But Pace said that’s not likely, based on his background homework and personal interaction. At this very early stage, Trubisky is embracing all he can to represent his employer, and maybe even plant some seeds of hope along the way in the community.

“I guess that comes with the position, part of playing quarterback, part of being drafted second overall,” Trubisky said between answering questions from campers, then getting out on the field with them.

“I realize that my voice holds some weight now. I just gotta be careful with what I say, but also realize I want to be a positive influence in the community for these kids out here and the Bears organization. The things I do, I want them to reflect on my own beliefs and how I want to make a positive impact on the people around me.”

Bears training camp preview: Three burning questions for the offensive line

Bears training camp preview: Three burning questions for the offensive line

With training camp starting next week, CSN Chicago’s Chris Boden and JJ Stankevitz are looking at three burning questions for each of the Bears’ position groups heading into Bourbonnais. Friday's unit: the offensive line. 

1. Will Kyle Long and Josh Sitton flip spots, and will it be effective?

One of the more intriguing storylines to come out of the Bears’ offseason program was the possibility of a Kyle Long-Josh Sitton guard swap, with Long moving from right to left and Sitton to left to right. The prevailing wisdom is that Long’s athleticism would be better suited for the pulls needed at left guard, while Sitton has made Pro Bowls at both positions. But is it prudent for the Bears to make this switch with Long still recovering from November ankle surgery and some nasty complications that came after it? He’s shown he’s skilled enough to already make one position switch on the offensive line (from right tackle to right guard), so there’s no reason to doubt he couldn’t handle another so long as he’s healthy. We’ll see where he is next week. 

“You want flexibility,” coach John Fox said. “You don’t want as much flexibility as we had to use a year ago because we had to play so many guys due to injury. But we’re messing around with (Sitton) and Kyle both playing opposite sides, whether one’s on the left, one’s on the right. We’ll get those looks in camp, we got plenty of time.”

2. Can Charles Leno Jr. capitalize on a contract year?

Leno has been a pleasant surprise given the low expectations usually set for seventh-round picks. He started every game in 2016, checking off an important box for John Fox — reliability. Whether Leno can be more than a reliable player at left tackle, though, remains to be seen (if the Bears thought he were, wouldn’t they have signed him to an extension by now?). He has one more training camp and 16 games to prove he’s worthy of a deal to be the Bears (or someone else’s) left tackle of the future. Otherwise, the Bears may look to a 2018 draft class rich in tackles led by Texas’ Connor Williams and Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey. 

“I know if I take care of my business out here, everything else will take care of itself,” Leno said. 

3. Will Hroniss Grasu survive the roster crunch?

A year ago, Grasu was coming off a promising rookie season and was in line to be the Bears’ starting center. But the Oregon product tore his ACL in August, and Cody Whitehair thrived after a last-minute move from guard to center. If the Bears keep eight offensive lineman this year, Grasu could be squeezed out: Leno, Long, Whitehair, Sitton and Bobby Massie are the likely starters, with Eric Kush and Tom Compton filling reserve roles. That leaves one spot, either for fifth-round guard Jordan Morgan or Grasu. The Bears could try to stash Morgan, who played his college ball at Division-II Kutztown, on the practice squad and keep Grasu. But Grasu doesn’t have flexibility to play another position besides center, which could hurt his case. 

Bears training camp preview: 3 burning questions for tight ends

Bears training camp preview: 3 burning questions for tight ends

With training camp starting next week, CSN Chicago’s Chris Boden and JJ Stankevitz are looking at three burning questions for each of the Bears’ position groups heading into Bourbonnais. Thursday's unit: the tight ends.

1. Will Zach Miller make the 53-man roster?

Miller didn’t play a single down from 2012-14, and has missed seven games in two seasons with the Bears, but he’s been productive when on the field: 110 targets, 81 receptions, 925 yards and nine touchdowns. But the Bears signed Dion Sims to an $18 million contract and then drafted Adam Shaheen in the second round of the draft, moves that seemingly put Miller in a precarious position heading into Bourbonnais. Not helping Miller’s case is the Lisfranc fracture he suffered last November, which kept him sidelined through OTAs and veteran minicamp in May and June. He’d be a valuable player for the Bears to keep around, but at the same time, training camp could be a perfect storm for Miller to be among the cuts.

“They’re going to cutting it close for training camp,” coach John Fox said of Miller (and Danny Trevathan) in June. “But right now they’re right on target and that’s kind of what we expected all offseason.”

2. What can we expect from Adam Shaheen?

Shaheen was among the bright spots during May and June, hardly looking like someone who played his college ball at Division II Ashland while going against NFL defenders. But those were just shorts-and-helmets practices without any contact, so it’d be premature to project anything about Shaheen off of them. The real test for Shaheen will be when he puts the pads on in Bourbonnais and gets his first experience with the physicality of the NFL after a few years of being head and shoulders — literally — above his competition in college. It’s unlikely Shaheen will live up to his “Baby Gronk” hype in Year 1, but if he handles training camp well, he could be a valuable red zone asset for Mike Glennon as a rookie. 

“You don’t know until you put the pads on,” Shaheen said. “That’s what I’m excited for.”

3. How productive can this unit be?

Between Sims — who had a career high four touchdowns last year with the Miami Dolphins — and Shaheen, the Bears have two new, big targets for an offense that tied for 24th in the NFL with 19 passing touchdowns a year ago. If Miller sticks around, this group would have enviable depth. But even if he doesn’t, the Bears liked what they saw from Brown last year (16 receptions, 124 yards, 1 TD in six games). There are fewer questions about the tight ends heading into training camp than the receivers, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Glennon leans on this unit, especially early in the season.