Da Coach in Da House
When the media walked on to the practice fields at Halas Hall, we were greeted by an old familiar face: Mike Ditka.
Although "greeted" probably isn't the most apt term for Ditka's treatment of the Chicago press. He denied our invitation to talk, saying "Don't you remember when you ran me out of town?"
But Iron Mike wasn't in Lake Forest to give sound bites. Instead, he was there by invitation of coach Marc Trestman to talk to the players on the current roster.
"I reached out to coach Ditka when I got the job. I thought that was a great place to start, [somebody aware of] the Bears and the tradition of the Bears as he does," Trestman said. "It turned out to be dinner with our wives and I called him last week with the idea that we left it, was to bring him to come by and see Halas Hall and the new facility and spend some time with out players and say hello to them. He graciously agreed to do that and we certainly appreciate the fact that he came out here today to be with us."
As we approached the practice field, we could see the players huddled around Ditka, who was holding court.
"His message was a great one," said Trestman. "It's about the relationships that you have with your teammates, it's about the camaraderie, it's about the locker room. The money is the least significant portion of it. I think that's pretty universal in the game of football when you've been around it a long time."
For a player like Martellus Bennett, who plays the same position Ditka did when he played in Chicago, it was special.
"We all know the story behind Ditka and the things that he brought to the team and to the Bears' organization," Bennett said. "Even when he's just giving us that speech at the end, you can feel his passion. He talked about the commitment to the teammates, things like that and it comes down to the players, not just the coaches. The coaches can coach, but when we're on the field, we need to make the commitment to one another, making things happen for each other."
Even the coaching staff took something away from Ditka's visit.
"Anytime you can bring history, an alumni of a team, especially someone like Mike Ditka, it really brings the player back, the coach back, ourselves – I'm saying us in the building – back to the reality of what's going on. That this is the Chicago Bears. This is the greatest city on Earth, and that's what he spoke about," coordinator Aaron Kromer said. "We needed to hear it from someone like Mike Ditka."
DT Henry Melton and WR Earl Bennett, both recovering from concussions, did not practice but they were on the sidelines today for the first time since the second week of training camp. That's progress but they still have not been cleared to practice.
Kromer said the team is working out different receivers at different positions in case Bennett's injury lingers into the regular season.
"There's a couple of guys that have obviously showed you they are ready, you saw it in the game," said Kromer. "Joe Anderson has come back and Marquess [Wilson] has come back. We're looking for that guy. Terrence Toliver has gotten reps. There has been a lot of guys that have gotten a chance, and I'm probably forgetting somebody, but we're going to find that guy."
One Day at a Time
Jordan Mills will start his second straight game at right tackle on Friday night. In less than a month, Mills went from a player whom no one was sure would make the roster, to a crucial piece of the offensive line puzzle. For his part though, Mills isn't looking at it in those terms.
"It's still one game at a time," Mills said. "Coach says about two weeks ago we're throwing people in different spots to see how we do and I'm just taking it one day at a time, one moment at a time, trying to help make myself better and my team better.
"You never know what's going to happen. Somebody goes down, coach throws you in, my college coach always told me to expect the unexpected. I didn't come in expecting to start. I expected to learn behind these great tackles and offensive line, get tutelage. They took me under their wing and I learned as I went. Coach threw me in to see how I did, and I've been doing it pretty well in his eyes. In my eyes, I'm my worst critic but I think I'm doing OK."
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his third season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.