BOURBONNAIS — It rained for the third straight day at Bears camp, making it more like the British Open than the British Open. As a tribute, the starting quarterback for that morning’s practice should have been listed as Mitch Carnoustie.
I knew why the Bears were there Sunday. I had a vague idea of why I was there. I hadn’t the foggiest idea why fans would sit through a soggy workout. The few people who did brave the weather and the 8:15 a.m. start time spent most of their energy opening and closing their umbrellas. If there was a big play on the field and you were behind one of those umbrellas, it was a rumor carried along by the cheers of the people in front of you. Note to manufacturers: The world does not need any more golf umbrellas large enough to house two offensive linemen.
We were there to find out what all the talk of a new vibe actually looked like. It looked early, is what it looked like. It also looked a lot like all the other training camps we’ve seen. That means fans cheered hard when Tyler Bray completed passes to undefended receivers, even though a day before, those fans wouldn’t have been able to identify Bray if he had been wearing a “Hi, I’m Tyler Bray, and I Play for the Bears; No, Really, I Do’’ jersey.
Mitch Trubisky, the starting quarterback and the basis for just about everything the Bears do these days, looked good on a lot of plays and bad on a couple of interceptions. It’s impossible to tell if any of this has meaning. Is the highly regarded Bears defense so good that any quarterback would take a few lumps against it? Or is there a possibility that this is who Trubisky is?
Three practices into camp, it’s like trying to read hieroglyphics.
The most revealing observation of the day came after practice, when Matt Nagy talked about the contrast between being the Bears head coach, his new job, and the Chiefs offensive coordinator, his title last season.
“The biggest difference is the fact that you can’t cheer too much either way,’’ he said. “You’re right down the middle now. If Mitch throws an interception, it’s good for our defense, right? It’s not good for Mitch, so how do you balance that?’’
The Bears hired Nagy to help Trubisky get to the next level as a quarterback. They brought him in for his offensive creativity. But he can’t be Trubisky-centric, can’t be about Mitch to the point of distraction. But until Nagy said that, it hadn’t occurred to me that he has to be an equal-opportunity cheerer now. Of course he has to praise what he used to consider the enemy, in front of his top student.
“If I can’t do that, we’re in trouble with Mitch at quarterback,’’ he said. “I know I can do that. He gets that.’’
During the team’s first padded practice of camp Sunday, Trubisky completed a bomb to the oft-injured receiver Kevin White. If you want to get Bears fans fired up on a rainy day in July, this is how you do it. A strong pass by Trubisky and no apparent physical harm to White, the former first-round pick. Was that the sun trying to peek through the clouds?
Then Trubisky threw an interception, and the P.A. system played “Showdown’’ by Electric Light Orchestra, with a lyric to match the weather: “And it’s raining all over the world.’’
At a minimum, it was raining all over Bourbonnais. But that couldn’t stop the optimism that the Bears and their fans were feeling. Is it optimism based on reality or is it the same optimism we heard before the previous four seasons, each a season of double-digit losses? Hard to say. If new Bears receiver Allen Robinson can recapture what allowed him to catch 80 passes for 1,400 yards in 2015 … if White can get past all those injuries … if Nagy can figure out a way to make defenses fear running back Tarik Cohen even more … if guard Kyle Long can stay healthy … if Trubisky is even half the quarterback the hype says he is … then all the optimism will be spot-on.
That’s a lot of “ifs,’’ though not an insurmountable number of them.
On Sunday, some fans showed up wearing jerseys from the ghosts of Training Camps Past – Forte, Payton, Nagurski, Urlacher, Ditka, Kreutz. There was also a kid wearing a Dwyane Wade Bulls jersey. Did the jersey involve overspending too?
By the time practice was over, the small crowd had grown smaller, to a size usually reserved for high school freshman games. Loyal and wet to the end.
Everybody wants to know what the “feel’’ of camp is so far. Moist. It feels moist.
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.