After back-to-back 8-8 seasons, Bears coach Matt Nagy vowed Wednesday that a heightened sense of urgency will be palpable throughout training camp.
"When you talk about philosophically where we're at, you're going to see and feel a team that practices hard," Nagy told reporters. "That emphasis that we're talking about is going to be on a different level than what you all have seen in three years here with me."
The Bears' first training camp practice Wednesday afternoon at Halas Hall was open to the media but not the public. When fans are welcomed for Thursday's 9 a.m. workout, they'll see Nagy's team operating at a quicker pace than ever before.
"The practices that we have are going to be fast," Nagy said. "There's going to be no walking around. Every rep is going to count. In 10 reps, you might see a starter get four reps, but those four reps are going to be a hundred miles an hour—and if they're not, they won't be on the field.
"We're going to take that and we're going to use that for Sundays, and Sundays are going to be easy."
Nagy decided to speed up practices after some self-reflection.
"I don't think I was good enough in my area at being a head coach and overseeing practices and the tempos of practices," Nagy said. "It's going to be different this year."
Nagy is confident that the increased sense of urgency will result in a team that remains driven and determined to improve.
"I want them laser-focused," said the Bears coach. "I want no complacency. It's easy to have these rah-rah speeches on Day 1 of training camp, but the focus is going to be on making sure that we don't get complacent in any area."
“The practices that we have are going to be fast. There’s going to be no walking around. Every rep is going to count.” Bears coach Matt Nagy
Kmet's role to expand
To no one surprise's, Nagy predicted that tight end Cole Kmet will be more involved in the offense this year than he was as a rookie in 2020. The second-round pick from Notre Dame took advantage of expanded playing time late last season, catching 20 passes for 149 yards and one touchdown in the final five games after recording eight receptions for 94 yards and one TD in the first 11 contests.
With no offseason practices or preseason games in 2020 due to COVID-19, Kmet was eased into action. The 6-6, 262-pounder played fewer than 50 percent of the offense's snaps in each of the first nine games before lining up for 70, 79, 78, 85, 100, 90 and 89 percent of the plays in the last seven contests.
"It was really neat getting to learn and see Cole Kmet develop last year," Nagy said. "Early on, the first half of the season, we were just trying to figure out with Jimmy [Graham], with both of those guys being new to the system, what their roles are and how it's going to fit.
"Now with Cole, his role is definitely going to increase. He's the type of kid that we have to sometimes protect him from himself because he wants so much. He wants to practice every route. He wants to practice every block that he can do on the edge with the tackles. You love that about him. Now that we know what he can handle, it makes it a lot easier to be able to use him. So, he's going to certainly be used more than he was last year."
On the mend
Outside linebacker Robert Quinn (back) was limited in Wednesday's practice, but Nagy doesn't sound too concerned about the issue.
"We're just bringing him along slow; just going to pull him back in some of the team periods," said the Bears coach.
"Right now, with his health and with this back that he has, we feel good that he is going to get through this training camp and be pretty healthy and strong. We have to day-by-day just keep getting him stronger and stronger and getting him where he needs to be."
Nagy acknowledged that getting Quinn live reps when the Bears begin practicing in pads next week will be crucial.
"For the speed of him getting out there and the tempo coming off the ball, I feel like he is in a good place," Nagy said. "But we certainly want to get him going when we get pads on; we need to get those full-speed reps."
The Bears on Wednesday placed tight end Jake Butt on the reserve/retired list.
Butt signed with the Bears June 18 after participating in the full-squad minicamp on a tryout basis.
The 6-6, 250-pounder was selected by the Broncos in the fifth round of the 2017 draft out of Michigan. He was being projected as a second-round selection before sustaining a torn ACL in his final college game with the Wolverines. Injuries limited Butt to just eight games in four seasons with the Broncos.
The Bears took to the fields at Halas Hall Wednesday for the first full-squad practice of Dr Pepper Zero Sugar Training Camp.