The Bears held their first live-tackling periods of training camp Saturday during a scrimmage-like practice at Halas Hall.
"Today was a big step for us getting more of a game feel and certain situations that we're going to face in the game," said fifth-year center Cody Whitehair. "I think they've done a really good job and they've really helped us in this ramp-up period get our bodies ready for what we've got in a few weeks."
Saturday's live scrimmage was part of the Bears' plan to develop an attacking and aggressive mentality heading into their Sept. 13 season opener in Detroit.
"Being calloused is certainly something that we talked about we have to have," said coach Matt Nagy. "We have to be mentally tough and we've got to be physically tough. You've got to be smart when you're doing the physical stuff.
"Today was a start. Next week will be another challenge for us where we might sprinkle a little live in there again and certainly have some longer-type practices. But we're going to keep a pulse on these guys. I'm going to listen to where they're at, and as long as we get quality reps, that's really all that matters. It's what's most important to this team."
While only second- and third-stringers participated in the live-tackling periods Saturday, the starters battled each other in full-contact "thud" sessions. (The only difference is that the No. 1 defense didn't take ballcarriers to the ground.) Nagy was generally pleased with how his team performed on both sides of the ball.
"I thought overall the pocket was good for the quarterbacks," Nagy said. "A couple times the defense got through, but I thought the O-line did a good job. The run game looked good, too. And then defensively, I thought you felt the speed on defense really with all three of our groups—I should say two-and-a-half groups—flying around. They didn't look like they were playing slow. They were playing fast, and ultimately that's what you want as a coach, just to be able to evaluate these guys playing fast and using their instincts."
Much of the attention Saturday, of course, remained focused on the ongoing competition between Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles for the Bears' starting quarterback job. The two continue to be evaluated, with a focus on their timing with receivers, decision-making and accuracy.
While Nagy acknowledged Saturday "there were a few throws that they both want back," the Bears coach also lauded both quarterbacks for making excellent throws.
Trubisky's best pass of the day resulted in a completion down the middle of the field to tight end Jesper Horsted.
"I don't say a whole lot when I'm back there watching the 'O' and 'D' go," Nagy said. "I like to just kind of take it all in. But that was one where I got excited and told [Trubisky] I just thought it was a hell of a throw. Great vision, great anticipation, and you give a guy a chance to catch the ball and run, that's all you can ask for. So that was a great play."
Foles' best pass came late in practice.
"Nick had a nice throw," Nagy said. "He anticipated and threw it early to Ted Ginn on the right side there. Those are the type of throws that we look for is, 'Are these guys anticipating where the wide receiver is going to be at?' When you do that and you throw it on time, it really helps out the O-line. And then there's other times, too, where you've got some movement in the pocket.
"I thought they both did a good job moving in the pocket, seeing the defense. It's a little hard for the defense just because we're not live for the [starters], and so they realize there's a major halo for those quarterbacks and they're not allowed to get touched or I freak out. So they try to do their best to stay away from them. And so it's not as realistic as it would be in a game."
Receiver Allen Robinson sat out Saturday's practice with an ankle injury he sustained Friday, while defensive tackle Akiem Hicks did not participate for a second straight day due to a quad injury.
"[Robinson] should be OK," Nagy said. "We're just keeping an eye on that. It didn't make sense to try and push him out there today. And then the same thing with Hicks. He's day-to-day. It's just what we thought was the best thing to do, which it was."
Reserve tackle Jason Spriggs exited Saturday's practice with a right knee injury. "We don't know anything yet," Nagy said following the workout. "We're still looking into it. Hopefully he's OK."