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Emery continues to send right message

It's play-for-pay time for Jay Cutler

Dan McNeil

7:53 PM CDT, July 25, 2013

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Until the Bears beat the Bengals in the Sept. 8 opener at Soldier Field, there's no call for a victory parade. No cause for celebration.

Regardless, I consider the first two days of Camp Trestman a "win."

Before Marc Trestman outlined — in greater detail than necessary — his practice plans Wednesday, Phil Emery belted out the lyrics of a song many of us longed to hear. The Bears personnel boss declared he will not permit any in-season discussions about new deals for quarterback Jay Cutler or any other of the 2014 free agents on the roster.

I love it. It's play-for-pay time for Cutler, for whom the Bears finally have stacked the offense with bona fide NFL talent, and other core players, such as cornerbacks Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings, all of the three projected starting linebackers, franchised defensive tackle Henry Melton, center Roberto Garza and more.

Vanished is the fear that a productive September would land Cutler a new deal before his honeymoon with Trestman has evaporated. The eight-year veteran and all Bears with expiring contracts are going to be judged at the end of the semester, not several weeks into the grading period.

This is Emery continuing to send the right message, as he did in the offseason when he showed fullback/tight end Evan Rodriguez the door for aberrant behavior. Rodriguez, a fourth-round Emery pick last year, showed promise in his rookie season, but Emery exhibited a zero-tolerance approach to players who act like goofs.

He extended the same take-no-bull approach to Gabe Carimi when the 2011 first-rounder chose to pass on training in Lake Forest with new coaches and teammates. Want to do things your way? Cool. See how that flies in Tampa, not here.

During the next six weeks, these pages will be stacked with words attempting to chronicle the productivity and vibe during Trestman's maiden voyage as an NFL headmaster. It's advisable for those who consume the coach's words to finely tune their Trestman decoder rings.

They're just words. Talk-radio blather. What matters is how the Bears perform on Sundays down the road. But that doesn't mean August isn't going to be chock-full of events worth watching and digesting.

More than anything, the dynamic between Cutler and the guys in hats who surround him (most specifically, hard-nosed quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh) will be the main attraction. If Cutler shows progress with fundamentals, gets rid of the ball quicker and evolves as a coach-in-uniform, he'll be on his way to earning the type of contract he covets.

I'm eager to see if first-round pick Kyle Long, described by the brass Wednesday as a magnificent leader, looks like he can be a credible starter at right guard with a mere handful of college starts on his resume. It has been said what Long lacks in experience, he makes up for with "nasty." I can't wait to see him between the bags, exchanging rude intentions with fellow NFL talent.

Brandon Marshall, who underwent a third procedure on a problematic hip after last season, always is worth watching. Does he appear comfortable? Will he continue to comport himself as professionally as he did in his first season here?

Shea McClellin, Emery's first "reach pick" at No. 19 in 2012, admittedly was awestruck in his first Bourbonnais experience. McClellin showed flashes in his rookie season but needs to have a good camp to earn the majority of snaps at defensive end opposite Julius Peppers.

Last August (who says exhibition games don't produce indelible images), defensive tackle Nate Collins piqued my interest with his play. Collins earned some playing time once the Bears began playing for real, but the bar was raised for him with Thursday's surprise retirement of fellow DT Sedrick Ellis, a free-agent acquisition who was expected to be a part of the rotation.

I'm intrigued by second-rounder Jon Bostic, a linebacker from Florida, who, based on measurables, might push for a starting job.

Will the Bears really miss the leadership they got from Hall of Fame-bound middle linebacker Brian Urlacher?

There is no certainty we'll remember much of any of this by the time the first snow falls. These questions merely are the hyperbole that invariably accompanies the commencement of a training camp.

That doesn't mean, however, there aren't a handful of juicy subplots worthy of our attention until the potentially-dangerous Bengals roll into town that second Sunday in September.

Special contributor Dan McNeil hosts "The McNeil and Spiegel Show" weekdays from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on WSCR-AM 670.