Bears players have to be in Bourbonnais on Thursday, and there hasn’t been this much public anticipation for training camp since . . . last year. Or the year before that. Or the year before that.
Most of the anticipation has to do with young quarterback Mitch Trubisky, the way it had to do with a younger Trubisky last year. But let’s face it: The starting quarterback could be a Michigan Avenue mannequin in a Bears jersey, and anticipation for camp still would be soaring. I know what you’re going to say about the mannequin: Enough about Mike Glennon. And that would be mean.
Because fan optimism follows the Bears like a well-trained dog, there was even some public excitement when they overpaid for Glennon last offseason, though there was more trepidation about a guy who hadn’t accomplished much in his NFL career. When it became clear in training camp that Glennon had trouble completing passes, all eyes turned to Trubisky. Actually, all eyes first turned to general manager Ryan Pace, with fierce looks that said, ‘‘What could you have been thinking?’’
But the excitement is real this time. No, really. Trubisky has changed the minds of many of the people who thought the Bears were crazy to take him with the second overall pick in the 2017 draft. He doesn’t have a large body of work to his name, but he showed enough promise after taking over for an ineffective Glennon last season that the fan base seems stoked. He looked average much of the time, but it was impossible to tell how much of that was his doing. The talent around him was thin, and the game plans were unimaginative.
The offensive talent will be improved as long as former Jaguars receiver Allen Robinson, who missed most of last season with a torn knee ligament, is healthy and tight end Trey Burton, who was a third-stringer for the Super Bowl champion Eagles last season, is what the Bears think he is.
The game plans? Lots of raves from Bears players about the playbook, but it’s probably worth pointing out that new coach Matt Nagy called plays in only six games last season as the offensive coordinator for the Chiefs. So we’ll be watching him, too.
Most of the eyes will be on Trubisky, though, because we just don’t know. We think we know about him. We think we have a pretty good idea based on some flashes last season, but we really don’t know. In its own way, that’s exciting. Sure, you rather would have less excitement and more evidence, but that’s why training camp brings out the craziness in Chicago. The city wants to believe in the Bears, even after getting its heart stomped on year after year.
The new coaching staff has said so many good things about Trubisky that you wonder whether he has decided whom his Hall of Fame presenter will be. But if Cubs manager Joe Maddon can compare Javy Baez’s popularity to any of the Beatles, as he did recently, I don’t see anything wrong with Nagy saying that Trubisky is the next Michael Jordan. That Nagy hasn’t said any such thing only means he’s saving the good stuff for Bourbonnais.
The theme of camp will be freshness. It’s the theme every time a new coach rides into town, but Nagy does seem more open and engaging than some of his predecessors at Halas Hall. That’s good for everybody. It’s good for the players, who should be excited about playing for someone who can motivate them. It’s good for the fans, who deserve a coach with more personality than an old wingtip. And it’s good for the media, who still are getting used to our mandatory ‘‘Enemy of the People’’ badges.
There’s a tug-of-war in town between ‘‘It’s way too early for training camp!’’ and ‘‘The battle for the backup left-guard position can’t start soon enough!’’ But the Bears are playing in the Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 2, so they’ll need all the practice time they can get. And that figures to benefit Trubisky, who needs as many reps as he can get.
Glennon will be third on the Cardinals’ depth chart behind veteran Sam Bradford and rookie Josh Rosen, meaning he’s in the position he should have been in last season but wasn’t.
But enough about the unfortunate past. This is Trubisky’s chance to begin to live up to all the glowing things people have said about him since last season ended. This is his year, though it might be the year after this. Or the one after that.
Sun-Times sports columnists Rick Morrissey and Rick Telander are co-hosts of a new podcast called “The Two Ricks: Unfiltered.” Don’t miss their candid, amusing takes on everything from professional teams tanking to overzealous sports parents and more. Download and subscribe for free on Apple Podcasts and Google Play, or via RSS feed.