BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – After working out in helmets and shorts Friday and Saturday, real football returns Sunday at training camp when the Bears conduct their first padded practice since last season.
"When we're in shells, it's all about technique," said outside linebacker Aaron Lynch. "Now when you put pads on, you actually get to be physical and put your hands on somebody instead of being hesitant because it's your teammate and you don't want to hurt them. You have to kind of do the same thing in pads, but at the same time it's like every man for himself with the pads on."
Some players like practicing in pads more than others.
"I'm an aggressive, feisty type of guy," said nickel back Buster Skrine. "So I feel like having pads on is to my advantage. You have finesse corners and physical corners and I belong in the physical category."
Wearing pads changes the way players practice.
"When you don't have pads on, you really can't set guys up with power bull rushes or inside power moves or counters because you're too worried about something happening," Lynch said. "When you do have pads on, they no longer know you're about to do a speed rush or that you're only going to use your hands. Now they have to think like, 'Damn, is he going to try to bull rush me? Is he going to try to take the inside move?' It changes up the whole game for everybody."
The physicality that comes with working out in pads changes how players approach practice.
"You want to bring it," said left tackle Charles Leno Jr. "You don't want to get embarrassed out here in front of these fans and in front of your peers, so you have to bring it every day."
While there will be a whole lot of hitting, live tackling drills will only be conducted sporadically during training camp.
"I want it to be physical," said coach Matt Nagy. "As far as going live, we'll control that. We're going to go live. Our guys have got to. The beauty of that is that we can control it. It's going to be more situational.
"It's just so good for those guys, for a running back to thump against a 'Mike' linebacker and just to feel that and not necessarily bring guys to the ground, but they need that. They're starving for it. We'll ease them into it. And before you know it, we'll get some nice live action, which is where I think you're going to see a lot of the good stuff show."
One player expected to shine in padded practices is rookie running back David Montgomery. According to Pro Football Focus, the third-round draft pick led the nation in forced missed tackles each of the past two years at Iowa State with 109 in 2017 and 100 in 2018.
"You're going to see that he breaks a lot of tackles," Nagy said. "I mean, he was tops in college football in that and now you're going against the big boys. And there's some guys that can thump you. And he understands that. He lives for that. That's what he wants to do. He's a running back that plays with a physical style, but yet has the ability to do a lot of different things in the passing game."
Montgomery is eager to show what he can do in pads.
"I know he's excited about it," said general manager Ryan Pace. "I know he kept asking coach, 'When do we put the pads on?' One of his greatest strengths is his contact balance and his ability to break tackles, and now we're at a point where that can be showcased."