Last Thursday marked the end of the Bears' offseason workouts as they finished their mandatory veteran minicamp and now get a few weeks of downtime before the start of training camp.
Training camp will begin for the Bears on July 25 on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Ill.
Despite OTAs and minicamps wrapping up last week, there is still plenty of buzz surrounding the 2013 Bears and their new coaching staff.
Here is a roundup of the latest offseason buzz surrounding the Chicago Bears:
For years, the previous Bears coaching staff had tried to convince fans that one of the greatest return men in the NFL could be a No. 1 wide receiver.
The new coaching staff did not wait long to put that notion to rest and are planning on keeping Devin Hester solely as a kick/punt returner for the 2013 season.
When asked if he wished he was still a wide receiver, Hester said:
Nah, I’m past that. It’s a new season. I’m looking forward to what Coach has in mind for me this year. I’m having fun, I feel more energized, more in shape as far as my legs being fresh by limiting some of my reps. It reminds me of my first two years.
Hester is the NFL's all-time leader in combine kick/punt returns for a touchdown with 18 and is also the all-time leader in punt returns for a touchdown with 13.
Taking Hester off of the field as a wide receiver and keeping him solely as a return man has the Bears hoping he will return to being the dominant returner he once was.
A former seventh overall pick for New Orleans in 2008, Sedrick Ellis signed with the Chicago Bears early last week after five mediocre seasons with the Saints.
Ellis' first three seasons with the Saints saw him net 12 total sacks, culminating with a career-high six during the 2010 season. He played in all but one game between 2011 and 2012 and finished with just a half sack and 22 combined tackles.
He comes to Chicago with the hope of helping to solidify a defensive tackle position that, outside of Henry Melton and Stephen Paea, lacks depth and explosiveness.
While not able to participate in the Bears' mandatory veteran's minicamp last week, he did tell reporters:
I’m almost guaranteeing that [my production] will [increase] because this is the style of defense that caters to defensive linemen getting up the field and playing fast, which is what I got drafted for in , and the last couple years I haven’t been able to do that as much. Now I’ll have my chance.
Expect Ellis to compete with Nate Collins as the backup to Henry Melton at the three-technique, and he should help provide depth to a position that sorely needs it.
During part of the team's OTAs and the mandatory minicamp last week, wide receivers Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and rookie Marquess Wilson all missed time due to nagging minor injuries.
Jeffery and Wilson both suffered from hamstring problems while Marshall missed a good portion of the OTAs rehabbing from hip surgery he had in January.
Head coach Marc Trestman did not seem concerned about injuries, telling the Chicago Sun-Times, "Couple of nicks, but nothing where guys won’t be available for the start of training camp. So I think we got a lot done, and looking back, a lot of things came together."
Training camp is expected to begin July 25 on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Ill., and barring any setbacks, Marshall, Jeffery and Wilson are all expected to participate from day one.
In 2002, the Oakland Raiders' Rich Gannon capped off his most impressive season by winning the league's MVP. During that season, Gannon's offensive coordinator was Marc Trestman, the Bears' current head coach. Trestman invited Gannon to the team's minicamp last week to talk to the team and quarterback Jay Cutler.
The most notable comment from Gannon following his time at minicamp was that it was vital for Cutler and Trestman to trust one another:
That relationship between the play caller and the quarterback is absolutely vital. To get to know Marc, and not only that, to get to develop some trust ... it's really important to be able to trust the guy on the other end, that he's got your back. Not only that, but that he can trust you (that) in critical situations, you're gonna do the right thing. That's gonna be really important in terms of how the Bears start the season and how they finish the season, that relationship between Marc and Jay.
Cutler is now on his fourth different offense/offensive coordinator in five years, and Trestman likely offers him the best opportunity to succeed. Cutler's prior relationships with coordinators Ron Turner, Mike Martz and Mike Tice eventually became strained, and both Cutler and Trestman will have to learn to trust one another if they want to succeed in 2013.
Head coach Marc Trestman has not been shy about his desire for the Bears to work at an up-tempo pace not just during games but also at practices. Back in April during his team's first voluntary minicamp, Trestman said, "Our only goal today was to practice fast,that was it, to try to develop ... a tempo of practice where we can keep our players safe."
Fast-forward two months later and Trestman and his staff are continuing to prepare their team for the 2013 season with a quick pace. He capped off his team's minicamp last week by saying:
This concludes just a heck of an offseason. I mentioned the players on a number of things. We learned we got our practice tempo up, we had great meetings, learned how we were going to meet, divide our time up during the day, the whole thing it culminates a major portion of our offseason obviously and leading into the next step, which will be training camp.
While minicamps have provided a base for what this Bears team will want to do this season, training camp will help push this team toward being a faster and smarter team on the field, and Trestman's up-tempo practice style in mincamps will have his team prepared for camp later next month.
After a solid 2011 season, punter Adam Podlesh struggled at times in 2012, and the team even went as far as to workout punters late in the season, but they ultimately stuck with Podlesh to finish out the season.
The team signed undrafted free agent Tress Way this offseason, and special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis thinks he has a chance to unseat Podlesh, telling the Chicago Tribune, "I view him as a competitor," DeCamillis said of Way. "He has some positive things. He has a chance."
Way had 22 of 53 punts land inside the 20-yard line last year at Oklahoma, and his gross average was 44.2 yards per punt.
Podlesh is scheduled to make $1.3 million this season, but a strong showing from Way in training camp could have the Bears cutting Podlesh and freeing up more cap space.
After joining the Bears as an undrafted free agent last season, James Brown started three games, including the team's final two games last season, and despite the team signing veteran guard Matt Slauson and drafting Kyle Long, he still has a chance to fight for a starting job in 2013.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, head coach Marc Trestman said of Brown:
James has ascended during camp, and I’ve talked to [offensive coordinator/offensive line coach] Aaron [Kromer] and [assistant offensive line coach] Pat [Meyer] about that almost each and every day. He’s locked in, and he’s grown as a player.
Brown's athleticism lends himself more to the left side of the offensive line, and he could push Slauson for the starter's job considering Slauson struggles at times in the run game. First-round pick Kyle Long is still a bit of an unknown considering he was not allowed to participate in the majority of OTAs and minicamps, and if he fails to pick up on the team's concepts early, Brown has a real shot of becoming a starter in 2013.
"It's good to be back and I'm happy to be back, having another opportunity to play again," said Devin Aromashodu to Larry Mayer of ChicagoBears.com last Thursday about returning to the Bears after leaving for the Minnesota Vikings two years ago.
Aromashodu built a solid connection with Jay Cutler back in 2009 and finished that season with 24 catches for 298 yards and four touchdowns. During his two seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, he caught 37 passes for 650 yards and one touchdown.
Once the only big-target wide receiver for Cutler, Aromashodu joins two other big receivers, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. While likely not pushing for a starting job, he will be going up against guys like Earl Bennett, Eric Weems, Marquess Wilson and Terrence Tolliver for a spot on the 53-man roster.
If he can quickly learn and adapt to Marc Trestman's new offense, his rapport with Cutler could give him an upper hand against some fringe wide receivers on the roster.