Bears fans’ immediate future: Six weeks of hand-wringing
BY RICK TELANDER email@example.com June 14, 2012 10:30PM
Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) and Jason Campbell (2) watch teammates during an NFL football practice in Lake Forest, Ill., Thursday, June 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Updated: July 16, 2012 6:40AM
The big white bus sat idling in front of Halas Hall, ready to transport players to anywhere and everywhere.
Or at least give them a lift to their launching pads. (Of course, we’re only talking about the players who didn’t have their personal Escalades or chromed-out, farm-quality pickup trucks in the parking lot.)
Minicamp ended for the Bears on Thursday afternoon, and we will not see the majority of the 2012 team again until it reassembles in Bourbonnais for preseason drills in six weeks.
Repeat: six weeks.
What can go wrong in that time?
Just about anything from split toenails to, um, jail terms.
Not that anything bad will happen to our boys as they head out into the vast world without yard markers and sideline stripes. No, sir.
But this being such a strong Bears team and Chicago being a place where things have gone wrong upon occasion — think Derrick Rose’s knee, Jay Cutler’s broken thumb, the Cubs — how can we not worry?
Wasn’t it during the summer of 2007 that linebacker Lance Briggs turned his new Lamborghini into junk metal on the Edens Expressway?
Yes, it was.
And wasn’t it earlier this spring that Blackhawks star Patrick Kane went a-partying in Madison, Wis., and ended up with a bunch of Internet photos that yet might get him traded out of town?
“My glass is always half-full,’’ coach Lovie Smith said after practice, and he was talking about the potential of this suddenly potent team — one that added wide receiver Brandon Marshall and quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates during the offseason to make quarterback Cutler’s life fun and full. One that Smith said is “in great shape.’’
But Lovie also was talking, in a sense, about how he trusts his players not to do the stupidest of things. Not now, anyway. Not with this much going for the Bears.
“We’ve had good teams around here. I think last year’s team was pretty good — we were 7-3 before the injuries set in — but I feel like we have added some really good football players to that core.’’
He talked about getting linebacker Brian Urlacher on the field and getting running back Matt Forte back into the fold. He talked about having great cornerbacks, an improved running game and a passing game that might be something to behold.
And he added a tidbit that might have not gotten much attention but is extremely important in a sport in which the star passer can go down at any time: reserve quarterbacks.
“Our quarterback position, we’ve improved it also,’’ he said. “Sometimes the backup quarterbacks go unnoticed. Jason Campbell is a good addition to our group. And Josh McCown is also back there as the third quarterback.’’
McCown did a decent job coming off the streets to fill in at the end for the injured Cutler. And Campbell, well, the Bears didn’t have anybody like him when Caleb Hanie was staggering about in the backfield.
So it’s all good.
But this downtime is a concern. Call me a worrywart. Call me the glass-half-empty guy.
Didn’t that 2005 Minnesota Vikings “Love Boat’’ fiasco happen in the summer, with all those hookers flown in from Atlanta and Florida to entertain half the team on Lake Minnetonka?
Oh, that was October. A warm day in the North Woods, though. So you can see my concern.
This is a period when players can scamper off to South America or Paris or (ominous music here) Las Vegas.
That bus in front of Halas Hall might have been largely a symbol of the sudden freedom bequeathed to a lot of wealthy, testosterone-laden young men who are most comfortable having whistles blown to tell them when they are out of bounds.
But so it must go.
‘‘We worry about [the time off], but you have to count on them being real men,’’ Lovie said before he stepped into the coaches’ building. ‘‘Knowing what’s at stake, knowing who they’re representing. They’ve been in this situation before. You hit them hard, and I just tell them, you know, ‘It’s time to enjoy yourself a little, but never forget.’ ’’
The clock is on.