9:30 PM CDT, August 10, 2012
There is no feeling quite like the anticipation and then the rush of adrenaline football players experience under game conditions.
Even in Thursday night's Bears-Broncos preseason game at Soldier Field, players said they felt "jitters" and "nervousness."
Don't try telling them the game was meaningless.
Bears coach Lovie Smith also talked about the novelty of working in game conditions with new assistant coaches and Mike Tice's switch from offensive line coach to offensive coordinator.
"Just like anything else, we got a start (Thursday) night," Smith said after the 31-3 loss. "There are a lot of things we need to improve upon, and we will. It will look a lot better when we get our (regular starters) out there."
Jay Cutler warmed up, but Smith decided to start Jason Campbell at quarterback. Matt Forte, Julius Peppers and Brian Urlacher also did not play.
With rookies and backups dotting the lineup, emotions were amped up further as they tried to make positive impressions.
"I had a little pregame jitters. But once I made my first catch, I was pretty good," second-round draft pick Alshon Jeffery said. "We were just going out there and adjusting to what the defense gave us. I've got my first game out of the way, so I know what to expect in the second game."
First-round pick Shea McClellin recorded a sack on Broncos quarterback Caleb Hanie. He also was credited with a tackle for loss and two quarterback hurries.
"The quarterback is there and you see him there and you just want to hit him," McClellin said with a smile. "I have a lot to work on. It's a start … some good things, some bad things. We will watch film and learn some things with coach (Rod) Marinelli."
Rookie safety Brandon Hardin admitted emotions nearly overwhelmed him, but he tried to use them to his advantage.
"The first couple of plays, it was just reaction," Hardin said. "I didn't know what I was seeing. I was playing like a rookie … staying back there, trying to do my job, trying to think. But it was all processing very fast."
Fourth-string quarterback Matt Blanchard, an undrafted rookie out of Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater, received significant playing time in the fourth quarter, completing 6 of 7 passes for 53 yards. He was sacked three times and tossed an interception.
"You look at the film and too many sacks on my part," Blanchard said. "I've got to get rid of the football quicker."
Blanchard guided the Bears to their only points — a 47-yard field goal by Robbie Gould.
"As a group, that third team ... I thought we did well," Blanchard said.
Scrutiny by the coaches will not be reserved for the rookies.
With Urlacher out, Nick Roach moved over from his outside linebacker position.
"You have to know where everybody is going to be. It's just part of the position," said Roach, in his sixth season out of Northwestern. "When I go back (to outside linebacker), that will give me just that much more insight as to what is going on with the whole defense. It will be good to have (Urlacher) back. We miss him. It's his defense."
Sixth-year running back Michael Bush, in his first season with the Bears, bemoaned the fact he fumbled a pitchout from Campbell in the first quarter that Von Miller recovered for the Broncos.
"It was just me not looking in and trying to make a play before I got the ball," Bush said. "One mistake … as long as we get it out of the way early, we'll be fine. On execution, I guess we were a little off. We've just got to start over and go back to the basics."
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