Bourbonnais Bound: Bears Open Training Camp
By Benjy Lipsman in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 31, 2009 2:20PM
Even with both baseball teams still in the playoff hunt, we're still excited by the first Bears practice, because that means that football season returns soon. Kicking off Training Camp in Bourbonnais today, the players will take the field at Olivet Nazarene University for the first time at 3pm.
As usual, the Training Camp activities are open and free to the public, so fans who make the 60 mile trek south can see their favorite players in action and get their first glimpse of the new players. The grounds open one hour before the team takes the field. The family-friendly atmosphere also includes a Kids Zone, Junior Training Camps, autograph sessions, giveaways, games and much more. The Bears will also host a number of themed days, including Hispanic Day, Armed Forces Day and a Youth Football Day.
On the field, the biggest story is the arrival of quarterback Jay Cutler. The Bears made a huge splash this off-season by trading for the former Denver Pro Bowl QB. Disgruntled by the new Broncos regime, Cutler demanded a trade and the Bears offered a package of draft picks and Kyle Orton in return. Cutler now has to show he's not the whiner some portrayed and prove he's the Bears' franchise QB for years to come. The little soap opera this week involving Brian Urlacher certainly isn't helping things any.
Of course a QB needs receivers, and the Bears have a big question mark at the position. Devin Hester, with one year as primarily a wideout under his belt, is the guy with experience. The next three guys on the depth chart have never caught a ball in the NFL. To say that the receivers are on the spot is an understatement. Management, too, is on the spot because they've taken lots of heat for their lack of upgrades at the position -- especially in light of the big investment in a passer.
On the other side of the ball, the Bears have questions in their secondary -- especially after learning that Charles Tillman had back surgery this week. While he claimed he'll be fit to suit up come Week One, he'll miss all of training camp and preseason so he won't be playing at his usual level. As a result, Lovie Smith has had to juggle his depth chart heading into camp. While the cornerbacks shuffle, the safeties will remain where they left last season -- but that's a change from off-season workouts. After working as the nickel back during OTA's, Smith decided to move Manning back to starting free safety this week.
One things the Bears and their fans don't have to worry about this year, however, is getting rookies into camp. Bears' lead negotiator Cliff Stein signed the last of the Bears' draft picks on June 10, so all nine rookies are ready to take the field with the rest of the squad this afternoon. The Bears were the first team to get all first year players under contract -- the third time in four years they've done so.