FOXBORO, Mass. – After hitting each other in practice the past two and a half weeks, working out with the Patriots in New England Monday was a welcome respite for the Bears.
"I think guys get tired of banging on each other and seeing the same offense, the same defense and the same kicking game every day," said coach John Fox. "It's good to expose them to different stuff like we're going to get during the regular season."
Bears wide receiver Cameron Meredith runs a route against Patriots cornerback Cyrus Jones.
The two teams will conduct two more joint practices open to the public Tuesday and Wednesday before squaring off in a preseason game Thursday night at Gillette Stadium. The work is especially valuable for the Bears given that they're facing a perennial Super Bowl contender.
"I think it's great," Fox said. "Last week we played the defending world champions (Broncos) and this week it's an AFC perennial playoff team. They've won their share of Super Bowls as well."
"It's a professional team," added quarterback Jay Cutler. "These guys do it the right way. They're very sound and very good at what they do. They're very well-coached. They've been in big games and they've produced, so for us—with a lot of new guys and a lot to prove—it's a good matchup."
Cutler was impressed with how the Bears offensive line fared in 11-on-11 drills.
"I thought today was a huge test for them," he said. "We saw a lot of different fronts out there, a lot of situations where we had to make a lot of identifications, a lot of conversation, a lot of talk. We handled it well. We'll look at the film tonight. We'll clean some stuff up. But I thought it was a big test for them and they did well."
Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery made several nice catches Monday before getting involved in an altercation with Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler late in practice. The two shoved each other and grabbed each other's facemask before being surrounded by a throng of players from both teams.
In accordance with an agreement made between Fox and Patriots coach Bill Belichick heading into the joint sessions, Jeffery and Butler were both ejected from the practice.
View photos from day one of practice in New England at the Patriots' training facilities.
"Bill and I both made a big deal out of it," Fox said. "The agreement was that if anything happened like that, they're out, and they were."
Cutler wasn't surprised that Jeffery's intensity level was ultra-high Monday.
"He enjoys stuff like this," said the Bears quarterback. "He is a competitor. He likes games. He likes big moments. He wants the ball in those types of situations. He's not going to back down from guys. He is going to go up and he is going to make the catch and if you get in his face, he is not going to take it lightly."
Other highlights in Monday's practice included: 1) Receivers Marc Mariani and Cameron Meredith making several impressive catches; 2) Outside linebacker Lamarr Houston recording a "sack" of Tom Brady and skirmishing with former teammate Martellus Bennett during a field-goal drill; 3) Safety Adrian Amos and cornerback Jacoby Glenn both breaking up Brady passes; and 4) Tight end Khari Lee making a tough catch at the goal line with a defender draped on his back.
Asked about positives from Monday's practice, Fox said: "I liked the competitiveness. I thought all-in-all it was pretty good. It was unfortunate that the one incident happened. But there were no real punches or craziness, [only] a couple shoving matches that happen in games that don't draw flags. All-in-all I think it was good work."