The Bears kicked off training camp with an 80-minute non-contact practice Wednesday at Halas Hall. Four more unpadded workouts are scheduled for Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Monday before the first padded practice Tuesday.
"We're in the middle of a ramp-up session here mandated by the league," said coach Matt Eberflus. "Today was pretty short. As it gets longer, we'll really put more emphasis on individual [drills], because that's where the technique and the fundamentals of each position are really honed in and polished up during that time. That's an important piece, and we'll be looking closer at that as we go."
The Bears worked on red-zone drills Wednesday in part to prevent players from having to continually sprint the length of the field.
"We don't want the receivers to run down the field," Eberflus said. "It's more controlled. And plus, it's really good situationally for us to be able to put that emphasis in right away."
The Bears coach was pleased with how players picked up where they left off during the offseason program, which concluded in mid-June.
"The guys retained a lot of good information from the installs," Eberflus said. "Every day they're going to have a lot put at them, so it's going to be exciting to see who can handle the installs. And I told them after practice about being able to trust those guys. The guys we can trust to execute are the guys that are going to play in the games for us."
On the shelf: Veteran linebacker Roquan Smith attended Wednesday's practice but did not participate. The two-time All-Pro was placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list after undergoing a physical exam Tuesday.
"He's really in a good spot," Eberflus said. "We had a great conversation, talking to him about where he is. He's focused. He's in meetings and he's wired in that way. He's on PUP right now, so he's not able to get out there and practice, but he's wired in."
Asked what he expects from Smith while the fifth-year pro is on the PUP list, Eberflus said: "Stay involved as a leader, be engaged, which he's doing and will do. He's a pro. He's been in the league long enough. He's a really good player. We're excited to have him as a Chicago Bear, and he'll do that."
Off and running: Eberflus told reporters that every player who took part in the Bears' conditioning test on the first day of camp Tuesday afternoon passed.
"I thought the guys came back in really good shape," he said.
The Bears hit the fields at Halas Hall on Wednesday for the first practice of Enjoy Illinois Training Camp where they welcomed about 30 groups, including the Highland Park High School football team, as part of "Community Day."
Moving around: Eberflus vowed Tuesday that the Bears would continue to experiment with players at different positions in practice. One of those individuals Wednesday was rookie second-round pick Kyler Gordon, who lined up at cornerback and nickel back.
"You kind of saw that with him moving in and moving out," Eberflus said. "He's a heck of an athlete. He's uber smart. I mean, he's so smart. And he's able to move in and out. I think the guy could play three positions if we let him, but we're not going to do that. But he's doing a great job."
Important piece: Free-agent acquisition Tavon Young is also in the mix to be the No. 1 nickel back. He signed with the Bears in April after spending his first six NFL seasons with the Ravens. After missing all or most of the 2017, 2019 and 2020 campaigns due to injuries, he rebounded to play in all 17 games with seven starts last year, registering 35 tackles, one interception and three pass breakups.
"He's done a good job," Eberflus said. "He's right in the middle of that competition. We're going to evaluate that nickel spot day-to-day. What's the best combination of three corners on the field at the same time? That's an important piece to what we're looking for defensively."
Special visitors: Wednesday's practice was not open to the public. But it was "Community Day" and the Bears welcomed more than 1,000 individuals from 30 local groups. The groups included a Bears-supported wheelchair football team, Make-A-Wish, Special Olympics Illinois and the Highland Park High School football team.
The village of Highland Park, which is located about six miles south of the Bears' training facility in Lake Forest, was the site of a mass shooting earlier this month during a July 4th parade that claimed seven lives and injured more than two dozen people.