Bears receivers coach Mike Furrey proudly strutted along the sideline during the most entertaining part of Tuesday's training camp practice, holding a WWE championship belt high over his head.
With his bulging biceps and booming voice, Furrey looks and sounds a bit like a professional wrestler. But the former NFL player didn't earn the title belt by executing a finishing move on an unsuspecting colleague. Instead, Bears receivers claimed the belt for the day by outperforming the team's defensive backs in one-on-one drills.
The idea to award the belt was hatched before training camp by Furrey and defensive backs coach Deshea Townsend, also a former NFL player.
"Deshea and I were talking about just trying to create as much competitive pressure-oriented environments as we possibly could," Furrey said. "One of the great things that we get to do during practice really that isolates you is one-on-ones. So we came up with the idea of having a world heavyweight championship belt. Whoever wins the day gets the belt."
Furrey revealed that the belt was purchased on WWE's official website, saying: "It's not light. It's an authentic, real belt."
In terms of the competition, the winning group is determined via a system that awards points to the players who win their one-on-one matchups. The defensive backs captured the belt in the Bears' first padded practice Monday, while the receivers claimed it Tuesday.
"It's just a good way to have fun," Townsend said. "Even when you're working hard and you're competing for jobs, it's still a good way for guys to have a little fun while they're competing. Keeps the juices going. It's always exciting to compete for something, a little prize at the end of the day. It's just a way for us to keep guys motivated and challenging them daily."
The championship belt may as well have been a winning lottery ticket given how the intensity level ratcheted up for the one-on-one drills Tuesday.
"It brought a lot of energy, which is what we wanted," Furrey said. "And it's competitive, which is what we need. So it's been good so far."
The spirited session included some entertaining banter between the two sides, led by Furrey and Townsend.
"Why go out there and just be dry and just play football and not have fun while you're doing it?" said coach Matt Nagy. "You saw a little bit of trash talking, a little bit of energy, a little bit of juice, a little bit of passion—and that's what we want. It's time that we get back to that: Be who you are."
The ultimate goal, of course, is for the daily battles to result in improvement on both sides of the ball as the Bears prepare for their Sept. 13 season opener against the Lions in Detroit.
"Coach (Nagy) always preaches that we want to be competitive, not combative," said quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. "So whenever it's an offense-versus-defense drill, we're talking a little smack, having fun with it. But at the end of the day, we're a family, and we've got to make sure we're pushing each other and both sides are getting better."
If an MVP award was presented for the one-on-one drills, Jimmy Graham would have won it Tuesday. The veteran tight end, who signed with the Bears in March, made several nifty catches—and celebrated by chucking the ball across the field or dunking it over the crossbar.
"Jimmy Graham, as you saw down there, he throws a football 40 yards," Nagy said. "It's to help his teammates, get them going. It's to help his quarterback. It's to say thank you to the quarterback for throwing it to him. But then you see at the end, too, [safety] Eddie Jackson jumps up there and says, 'You know what, give me some of that. Let me get him one-on-one.' And he does a great job and wins that one-on-one battle.
"But, what do you see? At the end of practice, you see all those guys mingling together, talking about different techniques—'why did you do this, why did you do that?'—to make us a better football team. We can't have enough of that. I want more of it. I appreciate their love of the game. And that's just not going to stop while we're doing this thing."
Townsend joked that he intends to speak to Furrey about including Graham in the point tally because the 6-7, 265-pounder is a tight end and not a wide receiver. But the defensive backs coach understands that every player who participates in the competition no doubt will benefit.
"Oh man, it's good for everybody," Townsend said. "Competition is the way that you get better. And when you have a guy like Jimmy who is a really fantastic player, it just makes everyone better. It just makes you want to compete. And that's our job. It's still great competition, and that's what you always want every time you come to practice."