By Chris Emma-

CHICAGO (CBS) — When the Bears last walked off the turf at Soldier Field, a sour taste was in their mouths. It was the final Sunday of December, and Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers had just hit Randall Cobb for a miraculous game-winning touchdown pass on fourth down. Playoff hopes in Chicago were crushed.

On Saturday night, a renewed sense of optimism filled the stadium as the Bears hosted family night, with thousands filling the seats. The Bears responded well in practice with the home crowd cheering them on.

“It just changes the energy level, coming out here to Soldier Field,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said afterward.

Each Bears player was introduced to the fans filling the stadium, with each receiving a loud ovation. Practice took to form of any ordinary workout in Bourbonnais, a productive, fast-paced showing. Trestman remained constantly on the move between drills, offering high-fives and encouragement after each play.

There’s no time to waste in the limited time of training camp, something Trestman has emphasized throughout. The players remained zoned in to their duties on the practice field, even in a game-like atmosphere.

“We did a really good job of focusing on what tonight is — another training camp practice,” Allen said.

Before long, Soldier Field will be filled to capacity, and a new season will have arrived. Then, the Bears can truly begin the process of eliminated that sour taste left from last December.

Long returns to action

The wait for Kyle Long’s return to the practice field was anything but brief. The second-year guard was anxious to suit up for training camp, that following a week on the sidelines while recovering from a bout with a viral infection.

While Long was thrilled to rejoin his Bears teammates Saturday evening, there was someone even more excited that him.

“(Long) just wants to hit someone, and I’m tired of him hitting me,” Bears guard Matt Slauson joked.

“That guy was built to hit.”

Long participated in individual drills but was held out of team scrimmaging. Bears personnel even went as far as removing his helmet, taking away any temptation to push a gradual process.

The first days of camp saw Long recovering from the illness — acquired a week before arrival in Bourbonnais — then the first full week at Olivet Nazarene brought continued conditioning workouts. Saturday was the first Long had strapped on a helmet, even in just a limited capacity. Still, some football was better than no football for Long.

“It’s really nice to be out there with the guys,” Long said. “They’ve worked so hard during training camp. I still have a lot of reps to get back. We’ll keep the ball rolling.”

Progress will come in time, but getting back on the field was an important step in Long’s return. He’s happy to be back in action, and his teammates are too.

Lynch soaks up Soldier Field

For any Chicagoan, the sight of Soldier Field is unavoidable. The columns lining the stadium along the city’s lakefront are unmistakable. It’s something Jordan Lynch knows too well.

Saturday brought a milestone for the local product. Lynch suited up in Bears blue and orange in the city’s famous stadium. It’s something he’ll cherish forever.

“To be a Chicago Bear, I’m living a dream,” Lynch said with a big grin.

Lynch provided tickets for dozens of family members and friends, allowing them to take in his opportunity with the Bears. The former Northern Illinois standout is working toward earning a roster spot, even as an undrafted free agent.

A former quarterback in DeKalb, Lynch is aiming to succeed now as a running back. His improvements are evident in practice, something he credits to the assistance of veteran teammate Matt Forte.

“Night and day difference,” Lynch said.

The affection Lynch has toward this opportunity was shown a half hour after practice, when most Bears had cleared the stadium, showered and began their drive home. Lynch was still on the field in full uniform and signing autographs. He was the last player off the field, enjoying every moment.

“I know Chicago has my back, and Chicago is rooting for me,” he said. “I have to put in the work and do my part.”

Follow Chris on Twitter @CEmma670.