Bears Notes: No. 2 QB Battle Looms, Conte Behind, Injury Updates

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  1. BSBEARS

    BSBEARS Pro-Bowler

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    Bears Notes: No. 2 QB Battle Looms, Conte Behind, Injury Updates

    July 23, 2014 5:00 PM
    [​IMG]
    Bears coach Marc Trestman. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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    Bears, David Fales, Jay Cutler, Jordan Mills, Jordan Palmer, Marc Trestman, Phil Emery
    [​IMG]Chris Emma
    Chris Emma covers the college sports scene for CBSChicago.com,...



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    By Chris Emma-
    BOURBONNAIS (CBS) — Bears second-year coach Marc Trestman was in the process of detailing position battles and depth chart projections with the media on Wednesday afternoon. It was the usual, run-of-the-mill training camp stuff.
    “We’re in the process of building a football team that will be the 2014 Bears,” Trestman explained, less than 48 hours from the Bears’ first practice. “We have a lot of work to do.”
    But then, general manager Phil Emery interjected with a piece of proof that serves as common theme for camp.
    “Who among ourselves and who among our fans thought that Jordan Mills would emerge as a 16-game starter?” Emery asked.
    “That came from an openness and willingness to look through the players and find out, ‘Who’s the best fit[​IMG] for the Chicago Bears?’”
    So now begins that process, three weeks at Olivet Nazarene University, 60 miles south of Chicago. A team in continued transition must take each rep in training camp as a chance to evaluate, an opportunity to improve. For a scouting mind like Emery who puts as much thought into the 53rd man on the roster as he does the starting quarterback[​IMG], each evaluation is critical.
    The man Emery pointed to, Mills, was a seventh-rounder in the 2013 draft who turned into a season-long starter. It all came to fruition in Bourbonnais one year ago. Who will be the next success story?
    Emery has loaded his Bears team with depth, securing a stronger overall roster after injuries depleted Chicago’s playoff hopes in 2013. There will be position battles aplenty when the Bears take the field for the first time Friday.
    “All this competitiveness in terms of positions will make our team stronger and bring us closer to winning championships,” Emery said.
    The Bears have openings in several key starting spots, namely on the defense, and a slew of vacancies in backup roles. Forty-three new players have been added to the roster in hopes of pushing the team further than last year, when a late-season swoon dashed any postseason dreams.
    “We have high expectations,” Trestman said. “Our players expect it. Our players feel it.”
    However, the team also features many of the same faces from last year’s first phase of the Trestman transition. More importantly, it’s year two of a new regime — a vastly different feel from year one — making it a more comfortable feel on campus in Bourbonnais.
    “It should be fun,” Bears quarterback Jay Cutler said. “We have a lot of guys back, a lot of consistency and rollover from last year. It’s going to make things easier. The adjustments should take less time getting into camp.”
    With training camp kicking off an hour south of Chicago, there’s a feeling of confidence in the air. The Bears are a much better team on paper than before.
    Yet, much of the team’s collective mindset is driven by last year’s failures.
    The fine-tuning of a revamped roster is about to begin in Bourbonnais, where the Bears hope a remarkable run is about to start.
    “We want to be the best in all three phases,” Trestman said. “We want to be the best team we can be. That starts tomorrow.”
    Battle looms at backup quarterback
    Jay Cutler arrived on Olivet Nazarene’s campus with a different look from last year. He pulled in with a family-fitting large conversion van[​IMG] rather than his Escalade.
    “It’s not a minivan,” Cutler clarified.
    The other difference for the Bears’ 31-year-old starting quarterback is security, as he’s set with a seven-year contract that was signed in January. Cutler will be under center in Chicago for years to come, something that was in doubt last year. But as the past proves, there’s no certainty at the quarterback position[​IMG].
    Should Cutler go down with another injury, who would assume the role? The arms race is about to begin.
    Right now, Jordan Palmer has the first shot at being the No. 2,” Trestman said. “It’s a competition for the No. 2 job.”
    The breakout performer of 2013, former backup Josh McCown, has moved on from the Bears, joining Lovie Smith’s new-look Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Chicago must move on, too.
    Palmer, added in 2013 after Cutler’s groin injury, has a fight for the backup spot. The Bears made an unexpected move by drafting David Fales out of San Jose State in the sixth round. To top that surprise, Emery signed former Notre Dame star Jimmy Clausen in June.
    It’s Palmer’s job to lose, but Clausen may have what it takes to steal it.
    “I really like how he came in here,” Emery said of Clausen. “He has a little chip on his shoulder to prove himself. He squared his jaw and got to work.”
    During training camp, Cutler will receive the majority of snaps at quarterback, meaning the three candidates for the second-team will be under the microscope in preseason games.
    The rookie Fales remains a longshot to beat out Palmer and Clausen, though he’s unlikely to be cut during camp after the Bears invested a pick in him; a scout team spot could be a potential landing spot.
    The Bears’ backup battle looks to be between the two veterans looking to land security on an NFL roster.
    “They’re both very hungry, have worked extremely hard this offseason,” Cutler said.
    Every little bit will be needed to win this closely contested fight. The Bears know how important a reliable backup quarterback can be.
    Conte starting in a hole
    The hard truth is Chris Conte was already behind in the race to retain his spot as the Bears’ starting safety. A tumultuous end to 2013 led the way to new offseason acquisitions in the secondary. But now, it’s gotten harder for Conte.
    Conte opted for shoulder surgery in the offseason, and his recovery is taking longer than expected. He won’t be ready for action until at least after the second preseason game. For now, he was placed on the active physically-unable-to-perform list.
    “He’s not all the way back,” Emery said of Conte. “We anticipate he’ll be back during the course of the preseason.”
    Essentially, Conte will have just a few weeks to prove himself against three new safeties added to the mix. The Bears added free-agent signees Ryan Mundy and M.D. Jennings, plus traded up to draft Minnesota’s Brock Vereen in the fourth round.
    Trestman clarified the two safety positions are interchangeable, meaning the Bears will choose the two best players. The competition will begin in training camp and move steadily through the preseason.
    “A wide-open battle,” Emery said. “A number of players have been here, a number of players have been brought in. There are no declared winners.”
    Conte will have to make a distinguished impression to become one of the Bears’ starters at safety.
    Extra points
    – The Bears will be without one of their key cogs on offense to start training camp. Starting guard Kyle Long was hit with a viral infection this past weekend and will be sidelined through the opening weekend in Bourbonnais. It’s not a serious illness; Long is “getting better” and isn’t contagious, Emery said. Long will join the team on Thursday. “Were it up to Kyle, he’d be out there,” Emery said.
    – In Trestman’s opening statements to the assembled media, he touched on the lofty expectations put on his Bears. “We recognize, as a football team, the excitement around our team,” he said.
    “For us here in Bourbonnais, we have to stay focused on the process. We have to keep our feet on the ground.”
    – Walking off the rookie bus, defensive tackle Will Sutton appeared to be in great physical shape. His conditioning was cited as a concern when the Bears picked him in the third round. The true test will come in the team’s conditioning drills Thursday.
    – Bears guard Matt Slauson (shoulder) and tackle Jordan Mills (foot) have been cleared to play after injuries that kept them out of minicamp. Safety Craig Steltz is ready, too, after offseason groin surgery.
    – The Bears take the field for the first time on Friday at 9 a.m.., beginning training camp for year two under Trestman.
  2. BSBEARS

    BSBEARS Pro-Bowler

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    Pretty much old news, couple of takeaways though






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  3. riczaj01

    riczaj01 DaBears Ditka DBS Writer

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    I heard some of the presser, and either Trestman or Emery stated that Clausen had the most impressive workout of any qb they had brought in over the last several years. I think Palmer has his work cut out for him. B/c unless Fales just utterly sucks balls I don't see the team looking at trying to get him on the PS.
  4. MPbears68

    MPbears68 Pro-Bowler

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    Yeah, well prepare yourself for the distinct possibility of Fales "utterly sucking balls".

    And since Conte is daily taking himself out of starting competition by being unavailable, I really hope Wilson and Mundy can win the week 1 SS/FS jobs respectively. I like Vereen for the future but I really hope he isn't our week 1 starter.
  5. JustAnotherBearsFan99

    JustAnotherBearsFan99 Coordinator SuperFan DBS Writer

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    I really can't remember when we've had this much quality competition at training camp. This is really exciting to watch this 2014 team being built. When the dust settles and this year's roster is set, I've gotta believe this is going to be the best quality depth we've seen in ages. I feel like we're in much better shape depth-wise.
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2014
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  6. JJ-30

    JJ-30 Veteran

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    I think if you are looking for true competition, you would have to go back to before Lovie got here. Lovie idea of competition was who ever he liked better won the job.
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  7. Bearsinhouston

    Bearsinhouston Position Coach

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    He had to Lov(ie) you for you to play. If he didn't, you were soon gone. Level of play seemed to be a secondary requirement.
  8. soulman

    soulman Pro-Bowler SuperFan DBS Writer

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    Seems like that doesn't it JJ? It's just so much more satisfying to look across that roster and see so many top flight players in starting spots and also recognize that the second and third tiers are being massaged upward as well. Like I've said we're gonna be releasing guys who would have started for us in the past two seasons. No more free lunches in Bourbonnais.
  9. soulman

    soulman Pro-Bowler SuperFan DBS Writer

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    So far I don't think Conte is really behind where they thought he'd be. I recall a while ago that Emery or Trestman was saying that he wouldn't be available until sometime in early August. I think the issue for him is that he needs to be 100% healthy and ready to cover and tackle so any attempt to make it back before then hurts him just as badly or worse. No matter what he's a better player than M.D. Jennings.

    I don't know if Fales is gonna "suck balls" but I've never been convinced he's a good prospect for a #2 yet. He has some skills and there's really no need to rush him. I think in another year he may actually be a very good prospect for a #2 QB. I don't see them having drafted him unless they were pretty sure of that. He wasn't just a shot in the dark like a couple of others we took around that same round.
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  10. JustAnotherBearsFan99

    JustAnotherBearsFan99 Coordinator SuperFan DBS Writer

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    This ^^^^^ is how I see it too.
    I think Conte made the decision to finally have the surgery so he can play at 100% rather than play hurt. You see this all the time in the NFL where players continue to play (sometimes for seasons) rather than take the time to get an injury 100% fixed and healed. The result is poorer play. I want to see what a 100% healthy Conte's play looks like. If that takes a few more weeks then that's fine. It's going to be a long training camp and pre-season. Conte is an experienced vet at this point he should be able to step right in soon and show what he can do when healthy. We may (may) be surprised. Worst case we may have a very capable backup & I'm fine with that.

    Regarding Fales, I agree with you Soul. I don't think they see him as a #2, but he may very well be a #2 by next season. That has to be their hope. I really believe he'll make it to our PS and he will get some excellent experience there this year, and then next year the Bears can see if they think he's our long-term solution as a backup to Cutler. I'm 100% fine with that.
  11. little bear

    little bear Assistant Head Coach

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    Conte is always behind.

    [​IMG]

    Sorry, that one was too easy.
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  12. Bearsinhouston

    Bearsinhouston Position Coach

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    You think that's easy... How about the irony of them putting him on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform)?

    Some would say that Trestman is a genius and has finally found the roster spot that fits his abilities best.
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  13. riczaj01

    riczaj01 DaBears Ditka DBS Writer

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    It all depends on how he performs in PS games, even if he made it there, there's a shot he gets grabbed by another team. Unless he plays really awful in the PS games, it's a huge risk trying to get him there. Teams don't just need starters at qb, they need backups too. Where Palmer will always be sitting at home waiting for a call, Fales could well get picked off b/c of his upside.

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