WESTFIELD, Ind. – Several Bears players felt that Wednesday evening's joint practice with the Colts seemed more like a game than a training camp workout.
The intensity level on the field ratcheted up a few notches, and the bleachers at the Grand Park Sports Complex were packed with fans of both teams.
"The atmosphere was great," said rookie running back Roschon Johnson. "I think Indy brought a nice little fan base and there was some great energy between us and their team and their fans. There was definitely some juices flowing."
"It's like real NFL football stuff here," added tight end Cole Kmet. "It's just a lot of fun to be able to come out here and practice against another team. Things get a little chippy, a little chirpy at times. We all like that. It's fun and we enjoy that. We'll definitely take full advantage of this week."
The Bears and Colts will conduct a second joint practice Thursday evening before meeting in a preseason game Saturday night in Indianapolis.
"It gives our guys a fresh look," said defensive coordinator Alan Williams. "We get the same look since OTAs, so you kind of get used to how this guy blocks the routes they run, the call. Now you have to be able to look out here, see what the formation is, get lined up, ready your keys.
"It's good to see, 'Can guys make that transition from what they've been doing from OTAs until now and then see a different team, different plays, that type of thing?' So you really get a pretty good idea of, 'Can a guy make that transition from week to week?' That's a big deal."
Practicing against another team also provides a litmus test.
"We kind of get used to the guys we've been going against now for all of OTAs, all of camp," Kmet said. "You get to go against a new squad here and get to kind of test out some skills and work on some things. It's always good to be able to do these type of things."
Traveling to Indianapolis en masse is giving the Bears a chance to break the monotony of training camp while also developing camaraderie.
"Things get a little dull once you get two, almost three weeks into camp and you're doing the same thing over and over again," Kmet said. "Schedule change is nice. I had fun coming out at night. Little change of schedule – kind of treat it like a night game almost. Kind of rejuvenates you a little bit. Looking forward to tomorrow, and it's just good team building time too. We spend a lot of time in the hotel together and going out and getting something to eat, all those things. It's just good team building. It kind of just gives you some juice back into camp."
"It’s just a lot of fun to be able to come out here and practice against another team. Things get a little chippy, a little chirpy at times. We all like that.” Bears TE Cole Kmet
Quarterback Justin Fields showed deep ball accuracy in one-on-one drills in Wednesday's practice, connecting on long touchdown passes to receivers Daurice Fountain and Darnell Mooney, both of whom beat tight coverage.
In the first 7-on-7 drill, Fields completed all six of his passes to five different players: two to receiver Equanimeous St. Brown and one each to Mooney, Kmet, receiver Dante Pettis and tight end Robert Tonyan. DJ Moore made a sensational one-handed catch on a pass from Fields after shaking a defender.
Fields threw two interceptions in 11-on-11 drills, one on a pass that deflected off Kmet's hands and another on a deep heave intended for Mooney. On the throw to Mooney, it appeared that Fields likely would have been sacked on the play and he also had his arm hit as he threw downfield.
Late in practice, Fields completed deep passes to Moore over the middle and receiver Velus Jones Jr. down the left sideline.
Running backs D'Onta Foreman and Johnson both broke long runs in 11-on-11 drills.
"I think we were on and off," Kmet said about the offense. "Some of the timing stuff was off. We hit some big runs, but here and there. Definitely some good things, some bad. Definitely some things to learn from, some things to be proud of. We'll take a look at the tape and go from there."
Tonyan provided one of Wednesday's most impressive plays, diving to catch a touchdown pass from P.J. Walker despite tight coverage in the end zone.
"Good play call, good route, good timing," Kmet said. "All that stuff. Hopefully we see a lot of those from tight ends this year."
Veteran safety Eddie Jackson produced two impact plays, intercepting a deep throw by Colts starting quarterback Anthony Richardson in 7-on-7 drills and later breaking up a pass along the sideline with a big hit on receiver Michael Pittman Jr.
Nickel back Kyler Gordon had a good view of Jackson's PBU.
"Eddie's just doing what Eddie does, flying around there and making plays," Gordon said. "I turn my head and he was flying toward the ball and blew the play up immediately. That's just what Eddie Jackson's done his whole entire career, so just brings more energy and hype to the defense and everyone [is] looking to do the same thing. We feed off that."
Williams was focused on the pass rush on the play.
"I just saw the last part of it, honestly," he said. "I was looking up front. Even though I'm a secondary coach by nature, I'm looking up front to see what the rush looks like. I just saw the back end and hey, threw my hands up in the air, celebrated. I love it when our secondary makes plays. Big plays."
The defense ended practice on a high note when linebacker Micah Baskerville dove to intercept a deflected pass in traffic in the end zone to end a two-minute drive.