The third preseason game is traditionally a dress rehearsal for the regular season because starters play into the second half. But Saturday night's contest against the Bengals in Cincinnati will be much more for Bears coach John Fox.
With roster cuts down to 75 due Tuesday and 53 a week from Saturday, Fox plans to use the third preseason game as an important evaluation tool.
"It's a little bit unique when you're a new staff," Fox said. "Truth be told, I've only seen these guys play in two preseason games. I'm talking about feel the emotion, feel the energy, see their eyes; things that are all important when you sit in my seat.
"It's real important to understand your football team. Everybody in the league has to cut down to 75 after this week and then following the final preseason game cut down to 53. Those are the guys that you're going into the season with and I think it's important to choose wisely and you're evaluating everything."
|Head Coach John Fox at Thursday's practice at Halas Hall.|
The Bears got annihilated by the Seahawks in their third preseason game last summer, falling behind 31-0 at halftime en route to a 34-6 loss in Seattle. But that was under the previous coaching staff.
"I can't speak to what happened," Fox said. "I don't even know who we played the third preseason game a year ago. It doesn't leave a lasting impression when the games don't actually count. But they do count in the evaluation process in instilling kind of what you want into your team and how they react because they are games."
Aches and pains: Five Bears players missed practice Thursday, but Fox didn't rule any of them out of Saturday night's game. The group includes receivers Alshon Jeffery (calf), Eddie Royal (hip) and Marquess Wilson (hamstring); safety Ryan Mundy (hip); and tight end Chris Pantale (illness).
"Something can change, so they're day-to-day in my mind," Fox said. "We'll see how they are after today and their treatment."
Jeffery has missed the first two preseason games. Asked about his rehab work, Fox said: "We have activities indoors. They're getting treatment. When they get medically cleared, they'll be out there. They're doing all kinds of different stuff: rehab, treatment with the trainers and the medical people."
Same approach: Fox intends to play most Bears starters into the third quarter, even if some of their fellow first-teamers are unable to suit up due to injuries.
"We're going to approach it the same way we always would, game three of the preseason," Fox said. "Some guys will get more time than others. This will be the most extended [time] the starters play as we try to get ready for our season opener.
"My experience is that nobody rescues you. You play with the guys you've got and that doesn't change moving forward. They don't cancel games."
Small focus: One week after beating the Colts 23-11 last weekend at Lucas Oil Stadium, Fox's goal for the Bears Saturday night in Cincinnati is a simple one.
"I want to get better than we did in Indianapolis," he said. "It's a small focus and my experience is to keep the focus small and they usually respond better."