The Bears hit the road Thursday night, traveling to Mount Prospect to conduct a "Varsity Bears" practice before an enthusiastic crowd of 4,713 at Prospect High School.
"Kudos to all our fans; they're great," said coach John Fox. "They want a winner bad and we're going to try to do everything we can to give them one. We were really pleased with the turnout. Our guys were excited and I thought we had a good practice."
The Bears practiced at Prospect High School in suburban Mount Prospect Thursday night.
The experience reminded receiver Cameron Meredith, a Chicago area native, of his days at St. Joseph High School in Westchester—only with considerably more fans.
"It was really fun," Meredith said. "My high school is about half the size of the visitor's side, so coming out here and seeing everybody have a good time, that's like 'Friday Night Lights' all over again. We had a great time. It was a fast-paced practice. We came out here and got to fly around a little bit in front of the fans, so it was fun."
Fox felt that practicing in front of a boisterous crowd helped the Bears prepare for Saturday night's preseason game against the Cardinals in Arizona.
"Even in Bourbonnais with our open practices when the fans are there I think that gets their juices flowing," Fox said. "It was good here tonight because we were able to have loud music. We are going on the road for the first time in the 2017 season. So it was good for our offense and particularly our quarterbacks."
In the trenches: Veteran guard Kyle Long was on hand but did not practice Thursday night after receiving treatment on his surgically-repaired ankle on Wednesday.
"We held him back today," Fox said. "The treatment he did usually requires 24 hours off. But he feels a lot better and we're excited to get him going again."
With Long sidelined, Hroniss Grasu continued to take reps at both center and guard.
"We're going to play him at both," Fox said. "He's going to have to know both. He's going to have to have reps at both. On game day we only have seven linemen [active]; that's five starters and two backups who typically have to swing to more than one position. He's able to play and he's gotten reps at both guard and center."
Getting better: Fox is hoping to see improvement from the Bears' No. 1 offense in Arizona after the unit committed two turnovers sandwiched by a three-and-out in last Thursday night's 24-17 preseason-opening loss to the Broncos.
"We had a very limited look last week against Denver," Fox said. "We've had a little bit more time to prepare. We were not real excited about how it went with the first unit. But I don't think we're the only team in the league that feels that. Some first units don't even play in the first game, but hopefully we can build on that."
Meredith is confident that the starters will perform better against the Cardinals than they did versus the Broncos.
"I think we went out there and did some things well," Meredith added. "[But] we have a lot of things to fix. We went back and watched the film. Our passing game wasn't quite how we liked it. So we went back and we fine-tuned some things. We came back today and throughout the week and we fixed a lot of things."