BOURBONNAIS — John Fox has had good teams have bad training camps, and vice versa, in his 16-year head coaching career. More often than not, though, how his team performs during camp is a harbinger for the season.
“It’s pretty much the foundation,” he said Monday after the team’s short, final practice of camp. “It’s been my experience. It’s not the end all once camp breaks, but it’s a good foundation. Guys’ chemistry and how they get along, it’s beneficial. And I liked what I saw for the most part.
“I think there’s a bonding that occurs when you go away to camp. One of the values I’ve seen in it at least in my career, as far as they’re with each other, 24/7.”
The Bears drove home to Lake Forest on Monday afternoon content with Fox’s third camp. As he’s repeated during the Bears’ 19-day stay at Olivet Nazarene University, the coach praised this year’s roster for having “competition at a lot of spots.” That wasn’t he case the last two years.
“There’s a lot of position battles out there. … ” inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman said. “And everybody’s going out there and trying to earn a spot out there.
“I mean it’s training camp. It’s a grind, and it is what it is. It’s one of those necessary evils but it’s good to get out here and compete and to get better.”
The Bears unveiled a new schedule at Olivet Nazarene University this year — the team had three different practice plans, ranging from full pads to walk-throughs — and never held a padded practice more than two days in a row.
“The coaching staff, they’ve done a very good job getting in what we need to get, in but not grinding us too hard,” said outside linebacker Dan Skuta, who is entering his ninth season. “That’s such a balance. I think that’s something that’s probably a tough call for a coach.”
After finishing last season with 19 players on Injured Reserve — including two quarterbacks that started games — the Bears were desperate to try something different.
“One thing I know for sure,” Fox said. “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. If it is broke, you can’t be, ‘SOS,’ so you change.”
Even players who prefer a harder-hitting schedule embraced the schedule. Entering his 10th NFL season, safety Quintin Demps still maintains that he needs padded practices more frequently. That won’t happen.
“I think Coach Fox has done a good job of helping us recover,” Demps said. “It’s definitely been a little grind mentally, not so much physically, because we’re not going pads six days in a row, which I’m accustomed to,
“But it’s going to help us be fresh for the season. So it’s a positive.”
The Bears’ schedule will normalize back at Halas Hall.
“Everything’s closer, everyone’s more used to It,” Fox said. “Like they said in Wizard of Oz, there’s no place like home. Most everybody agrees with that.”