By Laurence Holmes –
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. (CBS) — These first few practices of this training camp are going to be a weird. Because of the lockout, the new “League Year” doesn’t start until August 4th. That means that signed Restricted Free Agents, signed Unrestricted Free Agents and guys on the Reserve List are not going to be allowed to practice until the 4th. It’s a strange loophole in the CBA agreement and means that you can see some strange combinations. Evidenced on Saturday by the way the Bears had their Offensive Line was aligned.
The 1st team unit looked like this: LT Frank Omiyale, LG Chris Williams, C Roberto Garza, RG Lance Louis, RT J’Marcus Webb. That has a lot to do with Olin Kreutz not being signed. According to offensive line coach, Mike Tice, the original plan was to play Edwin Williams at center and keep everyone in the spots they were in last year, but Edwin Williams is one of those players that can’t work until the 4th. So, Garza and Chris Williams both had an opportunity to get work in at center. There were some botched snaps, which is not unusual considering it’s the first practice and because these are new centers for Jay Cutler. Chris Williams is a lefty and that takes some getting used to as well.
After one of the botched snaps and fan yelled: “Hold on to the ball!” Cutler just smiled and laughed and went to the next play.
Tice explained that not having players available made him move things around.
“Once we found out we couldn’t go with Ed because he’s restricted, we had to come up with another plan.” Tice said. “That plan was not to put two free agent Centers in with Six (Cutler), move Roberto (Garza) in and allow Lance (Louis) to go into the Right Guard spot.”
Tice also offered up that had there been OTAs and Minicamps, the Bears were going to try Chris Williams at the center and see if he could play that position for them somewhere down the line.
As for the Bears 1st round pick…Gabe Carimi played at the LT spot with the 2nd team. Tice would like to gauge his athleticism before he makes a decision on whether to develop Carimi on the left or right side.
It’s hard for me to believe that a lot can get accomplished between now and August 4th. There are so many people that can’t participate in these practices that you wonder how beneficial they are to the players. For example, when the Bears lined up for punt coverage, they did so without the two guys who will play the “gunner” positions for them: Sam Hurd who signed yesterday and can’t practice & Corey Graham who signed today and can’t practice. That goes for Adam Podlesh, the new punter too. It was a bit bizarre.
Other notes from practice:
-Lance Briggs was very vocal during practice. I think he was trying to keep himself entertained. He joked around with fans and taunted the offense a bit.
-There was a minor dust-up between Charles Tillman and Johnny Knox after Knox accused Tillman of being a bit too physical. No harm. No foul.
-Roy Williams watched most of practice with his teammate from Dallas, Sam Hurd. Williams also spent a lot of time looking over the shoulder of WR Coach, Darryl Drake. Drake coached Williams at Texas. After practice, Williams said that familiarity with Drake and Mike Martz are a big part why he wanted to sign with the Bears. Williams was tempted to get on a cart and drive away, but fans coaxed him to sign some autographs.
-It’s always funny to me that fans cheer the offense when they make a play, but don’t cheer the defense, when they stop one.
-Mike Tice reiterated that he’d like to have Olin Kreutz back, but that he has to prepare as if he isn’t. Of Kreutz he said, “I can’t coach someone who’s not here, but I can certainly coach the guys that are here and try to put together the best five quickly, much more quickly than last year.”
-Marcus Harrison was not allowed to practice because he did not pass his physical. Lovie Smith didn’t try and protect in the press conference when he explained it either. Harrison apparently doesn’t watch his diet as closely as he should when he’s away from the team. He has a tremendous amount of talent, but he should be concerned about eating himself out of the league.
-After the NFC Title game, Julius Peppers gave me a great quote. “If losing doesn’t hurt, then how important is winning?” That’s stuck with me this entire off-season. So I asked Peppers how does the team get over the loss to Green Bay. “It’s sticking with us.” Peppers said. “We definitely wanna go out and compete for it again. So, we’re gonna be back. We’re a good football team and we’ll be around at the end again.”