When Cairo Santos returned home to Florida to train on his own during the offseason, the Bears kicker worked primarily on long-distance field goals.
It wasn't that Santos felt he needed to improve that aspect of his game—he made 4 of 5 attempts from 50 yards and beyond last season—it was due more to necessity.
Santos worked out at Episcopal High School in Jacksonville, where the football field is adjacent to tennis courts that are crowded throughout the day.
"If I kicked it too far over the goalposts, it would go into the tennis courts," Santos said. "I didn't want the ball to go there, so I just worked on long field goals. I would just hit a bunch of 50-55-yarders."
With their regular practice facility under construction, the Jacksonville Jaguars conducted training camp at Episcopal High last summer.
"It was the only place in Jacksonville I could go to practice with NFL uprights," Santos said. "It turned out to pay some dividends with long field goals."
It did indeed. Santos made all six of his field-goal attempts this preseason, including kicks from 49, 50 and 51 yards.
"Something that I worked on this offseason was my ball-striking with the long-distance kicks," he said. "I always knew that my distance was there, but it was that ball striking. We had three longish kicks, so it's given me confirmation about what we've been seeing in practice, knocking through those long kicks. I know that the ball striking has been good, and it just gives me confidence too."
Take a look at the best photos taken throughout Enjoy Illinois Chicago Bears Training Camp, including the joint workouts with the Indianapolis Colts and the Meijer Family Fest practice at Soldier Field.
Pickens had a few doubts
Rookie defensive tackle Zacch Pickens, a third-round pick from South Carolina, conceded that he experienced some self-doubt about playing in the NFL when he initially joined the Bears.
"When I first came in for practice, I was like, 'Oh man, I don't know,' because I was a little rusty and I was afraid that I wasn't meeting my expectations," Pickens said. "I was a little nervous, but all that went away after I kept on practicing. My confidence started going up after each practice."
Pickens was convinced he belonged after registering four tackles, 1.0 sack and one fumble recovery in a preseason-opening win over the Titans at Soldier Field.
"Our first game I felt like I was doing a lot of stuff better than I was in practice," he said. "I started recognizing stuff quicker that I was doing, and I started going off that."
Asked what he learned during the preseason that will help him in the regular season, Pickens said: "That I belong here. Everything that I've seen, everything that coaches showed me, that I belong here. I had a few doubts about myself a little bit because I didn't know what to expect."
Edmunds gets his feet wet
After sitting out the first two preseason games with an undisclosed injury, middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds played six snaps in last Saturday's preseason finale versus the Bills.
"It felt good," Edmunds said. "It felt good going through real game live reps and communication and getting back out there with the guys."
The prized free agent addition—who signed with the Bears in March after spending his first five NFL seasons with the Bills—enjoyed playing against his former teammates.
"It was all friendly, just catching up with some of the guys and wishing them luck," Edmunds said. "I haven't seen a lot of those guys since I left, so it was good seeing them again."
Defensive coordinator Alan Williams was asked if he learned anything from the six snaps Edmunds played and how close he is to fully being himself.
"He's himself," Williams said. "I don't know if I'd put anything into those six snaps. I probably wanted him out there more than he needed to be out there. I don't know if he even needed those six snaps, but it's good to see him get out there, make the calls, be with the group in a live situation."