Bears pumped about first fully padded practice Tuesday
The first-week practices of modern NFL training camps serve a purpose, but they are a bit odd for anyone who has been around the league for a long time.
Gone are two-a-day sessions that feature bone-crunching hits all over the field.
In their place are 90-minute sessions that feature plenty of high-speed drills but absolutely zero tackling since players only have helmets and shoulder pads on for protection.
That will all change Tuesday at Halas Hall when the Bears go through their first fully padded practice.
"That's what you dream about as a football player -- (it's like) first day of school," said offensive lineman Sam Mustipher. "I'm not one of those guys who lays out my cleats and stuff like that. But the first day of pads, that's when you really find out who loves the game of football."
It's also where we'll see who can take everything they've learned and put it into practice. Coach Matt Eberflus calls it "functional intelligence."
"Can you draw it up on paper? That's really good," Eberflus said. "Can you function in the walk-through? That's good. But then when everything moves, can you have that functional intelligence to play the game?
"And that's a very important piece to this. Some guys can excel at that. Some guys are quick-minded and they want to have more and they love that part of it. That's what we're looking for."
For sure, it's a big day. And there figures to be plenty of mistakes.
After all, this is a new coaching staff attempting to implement a new offense, new defense and a completely new set of expectations.
Of everyone, it will be interesting to see what Justin Fields' level of "functional intelligence" is.
Fields has made some nice plays during the first five practices, but he's also thrown some ugly interceptions and has telegraphed where his throws are going at times.
"I just think he's working through the offense," Eberflus said. "We're putting in new plays every day. ... He's learning his footwork within that play. When he has his footwork right, (the) ball's good (and) looks great."
To be fair, we haven't seen the wide receivers or tight ends get open very often on plays designed for 10 yards or more. (Tight end Ryan Griffin and fullback Khari Blasingame did haul in long passes Monday, but these connections are few and far between).
Fields doesn't have a stable of household names to throw to, which puts more pressure on offensive coordinator Luke Getsy. How often will Getsy utilize rollouts? What about a QB draw now and then? And will Getsy make it clear to Fields that it's OK to run when nobody is open?
There's nothing worse than forcing balls into coverage, something Fields has done occasionally at camp.
As for becoming a true leader, Fields seems to be on his way.
"What do they say, 90 percent of communication is nonverbal? He just gives off all the right signals that you want out of a leader," the veteran Griffin said. "He's leading by example, and then he's leading in the huddle by getting the call right, making sure guys are on the same page. I'm excited to get out there Week 1 with him, for sure.
"I'm excited to see what he's like in game time. The real time."
Of course, that's still almost six weeks away. On Tuesday we'll see how the offense fares against a defense that's still missing linebacker Roquan Smith and may also be without Robert Quinn.
"This is where we get to see what we are made of as a team, as a offense really," Griffin said. "I know coach 'Flus' is going to have the defense ready to go. I take personal responsibility in setting the tone offensively. ...
"It's a heated day. It's testy but it's fun. Hopefully, it's going to be nice and hot and we will see what we are made of."