When the Bears announced this spring that they would travel to practice against the Broncos for two days before facing them in Saturday’s preseason game, tight end Adam Shaheen immediately thought of their two outside linebackers: the all-world Von Miller and No. 5 overall pick Bradley Chubb.
“I think once we saw the schedule, all the tight ends were looking at those guys,” Shaheen said. “It’ll be a good challenge and a good chance to get better.”
When Roquan Smith boarded the team plane Tuesday, it added even more intrigue to the joint practices, which start Wednesday at the Broncos’ facility in Englewood, Colorado. Rather than going up against each other, the Bears will test themselves against another team in navy and orange.
“You get tired of banging against your guys for so long,” said inside linebacker Danny Trevathan, who spent four seasons with the Broncos.
The benefits are more than psychological.
“We are lucky to go against a great defense in practice, but it will be nice to go against someone else — different styles and different coverages,” quarterback Mitch Trubisky said. “It’s going to be competition all week, so we definitely have to bring it. It will be a great week for us to get better and compete and see who wants to win every single snap — not just a game, not just practice periods, but every single snap, every single rep.”
The Bears have participated in joint practices three times, most recently in John Fox’s first two seasons, when they traveled to face the Colts in 2015 and the Patriots in 2016. Coach Matt Nagy, who has never participated in one as an NFL assistant, spoke with Broncos coach Vance Joseph on what to expect.
“In my opinion, it ‘spicens’ up practice a little bit,” Nagy said. “There’s that monotony when you’re out here every single day going through the same thing over and over again.”
After weeks of pitting the offense and defense against each other, Nagy hopes the practices will bring the Bears together. After a recent brawl at a joint practice between the Redskins and Jets, Nagy wants his players to be smart.
“You just want to stay away from the fights,” he said.
General manager Ryan Pace and the front office will be watching, too. In 2016, the Bears claimed Patriots cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc weeks after their joint practice. The year before, the Patriots practiced against the Saints, for whom Akiem Hicks played. Later that season, the Patriots traded for him.
“For Bill Belichick, it was to get a good look at your competition …” Hicks said laughing. “It’s an opportunity to have some other type of competition. And then to finish it up and play them at the end of the week, it just works well.”