Clark does heavy lifting for Bears

At Emery's introductory news conference last year, Emery referred to Clark as "my mentor as a strength coach," and he admires him for more than his training knowledge.

"What really stands out about Mike beyond his vast experience and outstanding technical knowledge in the field is his coaching ability," Emery said. "He excels at gaining rapport and establishing a positive relationship with every individual on the team. Mike is outstanding at uncovering each athlete's needs and hot buttons and helping that athlete … push up his own level of performance while working with and toward team goals".

Clark appreciates working for a boss who has a grasp of Clark's challenges.

"It's really nice to have a man in his position as general manager who has lived in that room," Clark said. "He understands what we're trying to do and what it takes."

It seems like Bears players understand what Clark and assistant Jimmy Arthur are trying to do as well. The participation rate in the offseason lifting program has been well above 90 percent, Clark said.

"The guys have bought in," he said. "They get competitive and are pushing themselves."

Clark has the Bears working out in groups. After one recent OTA practice, he was pleased to see the offensive linemen go back to the weight room on their own for more, "running the rack" with dumbbells on biceps exercises and hooting and hollering all the while.

"It was as much about the banter as anything," Clark said.

Center Roberto Garza, whom Clark calls a "weight room junkie" has been one of the leaders. So has cornerback Tim Jennings, whom Clark jokingly referred to as an "ornery little nut."

Other standouts, according to Clark, have been defensive end Julius Peppers, defensive tackle Stephen Paea, new linebackers James Anderson and D.J. Williams, safety Craig Steltz and running back Matt Forte.

Clark said he is disappointed he hasn't yet worked with offensive lineman Gabe Carimi, who is training in Arizona.

"Hopefully he has been working hard and doing the things he needs to do and he'll be a solid player for us," he said.

When Carimi and his teammates show up for training camp, they will be tested.

One of the first orders of business in Bourbonnais will be a 300-yard shuttle conditioning test administered by Clark. Each player has to hit a prescribed time depending on his position.

Anyone who has been working in the program during the offseason should have no problem passing.

dpompei@tribune.com

Twitter @danpompei

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