Tashaun Gipson Sr. didn't sign with the Bears last year until May 1—six weeks after the start of free agency. Needing to quickly get up to speed with the defense, the veteran safety leaned on position coach Sean Desai.
"It was countless hours of getting extra meeting times with him," Gipson said. "All the way up and through from the time I signed to the beginning of the season, I would meet with Sean at 7 o'clock in the morning just to kind of get a grasp on the defense. The defense is a little complex, but Sean helped me all the way throughout the season."
Buoyed by Desai's tutoring, Gipson had a productive first year with the Bears, starting all 16 games and recording 66 tackles, two interceptions and five pass breakups. Their relationship remains just as close—even after Desai was named to replace retiring defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano in January.
"For you to have a genuine guy like that, you want to see him win at no matter what it is," Gipson said. "Me and Sean still talk as much as we did when he was the safeties coach last year. It's just a testament to the type of guy he is.
"We want to play hard for him. A lot of people have genuine love for Sean. This is his first opportunity, and we want him to make the best of it. Anything that we can do specifically, speaking for myself, I'm going to do what I can do to make sure that I put a good look out there for Sean."
New this year: Coach Matt Nagy has added a competitive twist to training camp practices this year. In the middle of a drill, he'll call for a "sudden change" and bring the offense and defense together to battle in a predetermined situation. Players and assistant coaches won't know when or what the scenario will be.
"It's to break up the monotony of the drill we're in," Nagy said. "It just kind of brings the team together."
In Friday's practice, the offense and defense squared off on a fourth-and-four play at the 50-yard line. The No. 1 defense defeated the No. 1 offense, but the second- and third-string offenses beat their counterparts to give the offense a 2-1 comeback victory. As a result, all defensive players and coaches had to do 10 "up-downs."
On the three plays, a pass caromed off receiver Darnell Mooney, Justin Fields completed a swing pass to running back Ryan Nall and Nick Foles connected on a slant pass to receiver Jester Weah.
On the shelf: Rookie left tackle Teven Jenkins was held out of practice for the third straight day Friday with back tightness. The Bears want the second-round pick to be as healthy as possible when they begin working out in pads.
"The No. 1 thing when you look at all of this is, for Teven, we want to be able to see what he can do with pads on," Nagy said. "We understand that. The only way to do that is to be available and be out at practice.
"As we're going through this back issue that he's having, we want to make sure that we're doing it the right way by taking care of him, listening to our doctors [and] our trainers and then just taking it day-by-day … He wants to be out here bad, but we're holding him back. We've got to do it this way."
Itching to return: Despite being fully vaccinated, pass game coordinator/quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo remains in COVID protocol, which restricts him to interacting with players solely on a virtual basis.
"It's killing him," Nagy said. "Flip is like psychotic with fundamentals and that kind of stuff. Flip lives for one thing—that's individual drills for 15 minutes with those quarterbacks. That's all he cares about in life, and he can't do that right now because he's on a computer, Zoom. So you're going to see some unbelievable individual drills when he gets back here."
The Bears took to the fields at Halas Hall on Friday for the second day of practices in front of fans at Dr Pepper Zero Sugar Training Camp.