The start of the NFL season is around the corner and you know what that means: Bears sightings. Lots of them.
The Bears players who live elsewhere during the off-season have joined the teammates who live in the Chicago area year-round. Together, the hard-to-miss athletes and their coaches will be eating, hanging out and shopping around the city over the next few months. Where? Judging from the last few seasons, they have their favorite places. Here are 10 things I’ve learned about Bears sightings:
Cutler likes Mastro’s after games: Jay Cutler will often dine at Mastro’s Steakhouse with fiancee Kristin Cavallari following home games, including after both playoff games in 2011. I’m told the quarterback prefers to sit in a booth in the back when he’s with Cavallari or family but will sit at the bar when he visits Mastro’s on other occasions with teammates. Of course, it remains to be seen how fatherhood affects Cutler’s routine.
Lovie opts for Joe’s before games: Maybe he’s superstitious or maybe he just has a set routine he likes to follow, but Bears coach Lovie Smith frequently dines at Joe’s Stone Crab the night before home games. I hear he likes the chilled crab legs and banana cream pie.
Urlacher enjoys a good country show: There are plenty of Chicago athletes who like country music, but few bigger than Brian Urlacher (literally and figuratively). The eight-time NFL Pro Bowler has been spotted at several country shows, including Carrie Underwood and, more recently, Jake Owen at Joe’s Bar, and has befriended members of Rascal Flatts. “Brian loves country music,” Rascal Flatts singer Gary LeVox told me in July. “He’s too big to tell him he sings it off-pitch.”
Hester doesn’t hit the scene often: Devin Hester told me last November that he’s become a homebody, partly because he doesn’t always feel comfortable going out in public and his wife likes when he stays home. Also, he’s an avid gamer and plays just about every day — but not as much as teammate Kellen Davis. “He stays up all night playing, even if we’ve got practice the next day,” Hester said of Davis.
Peppers goes to Bulls games: Julius Peppers has been spotted courtside at Bulls games ever since he signed with the Bears in 2010. Makes sense: In addition to playing football in college, the defensive end was a walk-on for North Carolina’s basketball team. Hester and Urlacher also like to take in Bulls games.
Cutler and Marshall click on and off the field: Since Brandon Marshall was traded to the Bears in March, Cutler has taken his former Denver Broncos teammate to several of his favorite Chicago spots — including Mastro’s, Cuvee, Public House, Paris Club’s upstairs club, Studio Paris, and Joe’s Stone Crab. They went on a double date with their significant others to Joe’s Stone Crab in April.
Monday night is like Saturday night for players: You typically won’t find the Bears practicing at Halas Hall on Tuesdays — they tend to get the day off; that’s why some stay out late Mondays.
Briggs shops for comic books: Lance Briggs is one of Chicago’s most famous comic book fans (he co-created the comic book “Seraph” and has hosted comic book drives for charity) and will shop for comic books about once a month during the off-season, often at Challengers Comics in Logan Square.
Idonije is available: Want a Bears player to come to your charity event? Call Israel Idonije. He seems to hit more social functions than any other Bears player, from fundraisers hosted by teammates Briggs and Charles Tillman to benefits hosted by retired Cub Kerry Wood and the Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade. The good news is that former Bears Pro Bowler-turned-Chicago socialite Jerry Azumah will have someone to pass the torch to.
Do not photograph Cutler without permission: When a nosy restaurant patron tweeted a photo he took of Jay Cutler and fiancee Kristin Cavallari at Joe’s Stone Crab in November and wrote “@KristinCav doesn’t look pleased! @JayCutler6 may have been using the menu as an offensive line?” Cutler tweeted back “Could be how rude and disrespectful you were. Just a guess though.” Cutler also has been known to give the middle finger to people who try to snap photos of him, as seen in a few photos online.