Dog days of training camp no time to let up

Bears' focus crucial while preparing for second exhibition

BOURBONNAIS — Find me a player in the NFL that isn't thinking about the end of training camp or jumping in their car to head back home.

This stuff stinks. You miss your wife or your girlfriend or your dog. You don't shave, and you wear the same clothes for days at a time. You're gross.

That's camp life in the NFL.

However, you drag your butt back onto that field to compete against your own teammates for one more week. That's right. Go beat up your friends again in full pads until camp finally breaks and you can get out of the stale dorm room you have lived in for weeks.

But there is still plenty of work to be done for the Bears on these fields at Olivet Nazarene University, where I have yet to see a sliver of shade under the afternoon sun.

The exhibition game Thursday night at Soldier Field resembled a junior varsity scrimmage at times. I get it. No Brian Urlacher, Jay Cutler, Julius Peppers or Matt Forte. An offensive game plan that was conservative, scaled back at best. A small, scripted cameo appearance from Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and a summer thunderstorm to delay the start. Plenty of reasons to sweep it under the rug.

Hey, it still was bad football. And that needs to be corrected.

I know these games don't count in the standings, and I played in many of them during my career. You get out injury-free and that's considered a win.

However, you still have to execute, put drives together, tackle in the secondary, get a push up front on defense and play much better along the offensive line. As a player, you watch the tape, sit through the coaching points, make the necessary adjustments out on the field and then put it to bed.

Now it's time to move on and get back to work during a week that is all about focus. As much as these Bears players want to hit that entrance ramp for I-57 and head north, the final week of camp can often be the most crucial to building a winning football team.

And it's not as easy as it sounds, because these players aren't robots.

Gone is the excitement and anticipation of running on the field for the first practice in late July or putting on the pads for some real competition. You feel fresh back then, your hamstrings are loose and nothing hurts when you pull into the player's parking lot for the first time.

Not now. Nope. That's all gone, replaced by beat-down bodies and thoughts of the big chair in your own living room. The simple comforts of home you don't get at an NFL training camp.

But before you can park in your own garage, you have to put in the work to close out camp.

This Bears team is loaded at some key positions. There is some pure talent out there on these practice fields. However, finding an answer at left tackle is more than just a priority, and despite the August hype, this team isn't ready to play the Colts on opening day. Not even close.

That's why this week, the final week in Bourbonnais, commands some accountability.

Twitter @MattBowen41

Special contributor Matt Bowen, who played at Glenbard West and Iowa, spent seven seasons in the NFL as a strong safety. You also can find his work at nationalfootballpost.com.
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