BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – The Bears team that won the NFC North title with a 12-4 record in 2018 returns virtually intact this year—with one notable exception.
While much of the roster remains unchanged, the running back position was revamped during the offseason. The Bears signed veteran Mike Davis in free agency and selected David Montgomery in the third round of the draft.
Davis and Montgomery have replaced Jordan Howard, who was traded to the Eagles, and Benny Cunningham, who was not re-signed. The two newcomers join Tarik Cohen to form what should be a dynamic backfield.
Davis and Montgomery are both known for their ability to break tackles, something they were unable to show during non-contact offseason workouts.
That all changes beginning Sunday, however, when the Bears will practice in pads for the first time since last season. As usual, the team is opening training camp with two non-contact workouts Friday and Saturday.
"I'd say probably for me, going into the start of this camp, that running back position is what I'm probably most excited to see," said coach Matt Nagy. "You can't see much in OTAs on what they do. You can see mentally. You can see what they do on the route tree. But now we put pads on.
"David Montgomery is at a point right now where he won't even talk to me he's so mad that we can't put the pads on [yet]. They're coming on here Sunday and then we're going to see what everybody's all about."
Group effort: Cohen, Montgomery and Davis all excel as ballcarriers and receivers, which should keep the Bears offense unpredictable. All three are expected to contribute, though their exact roles remain undefined.
"I feel like the message I'm going to try to spread is, 'Definitely make your impact when you're on the field,'" Cohen said.
"You might not be on the field to start the game. I might not be on the field to start the game. I might not be on the field for a critical third down, but when I'm in the game I'm going to make my presence felt, and if all of the guys in that room feel the same way, then we have a wonderful room."
Injury update: Nagy revealed that rookie receiver Riley Ridley, a fourth-round pick from Georgia, exited Friday's practice with a hamstring issue.
"I think you'll see unfortunately as you go through these camps you have those," Nagy said. "Luckily, we have an unbelievable training staff and Dre (head trainer Andre Tucker) and them will do a great job of getting him back."
In other injury news, Nagy is hopeful that safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who started training camp on the physically-unable-to-perform (PUP) list with a sprained knee, will be able to practice in the near future.
"I really don't have an exact [timetable]," Nagy said. "I think he's close, but I don't have anything specific."
Grade A effort: Nagy was pleased with how his players performed during the Bears' annual conditioning test Friday morning.
"They aced it," Nagy said. "They did really well; matter of fact I cut it short because they were doing so well."
When the Bears held a "Monday Funday" at Halas Hall in May—they were split into 10 11-man teams and competed in an obstacle course and dodgeball tournament—one squad won the chance to skip one rep in Friday's conditioning test.
"That was incorporated in there," Nagy said. "They laughed at me when I brought it up months ago, [but] man did it feel good for them today."