CHICAGO – Football has arrived, even if it doesn’t really feel like it.
Indeed the Bears will take the field on Thursday night at Soldier Field in full game uniform for the first time in the 2017 season. Another team will be on the field to meet them around 7 PM and the lights will be on, just like they will be for the next four months. Four quarters of 15 minutes will be played and if they’re still tied after that, they’ll play 15 minutes of overtime.
It’s a game, sure, but not like the one the Bears will have on September 10th. This is August 10th. This is the first of four games that don’t count when it comes to standings.
Yet for each individual coach or player, there is a personal pride that’s on the line when they face the Broncos on Thursday. Some know they’ll be on the roster at the end of training camp while another of other players don’t. Many of the coaches are wondering if they’re starting off a final season in Chicago after just nine wins in two years of the first regime.
That’s likely on the mind of John Fox, who could be staring at a “Make The Playoffs or Else” scenario in 2017. What’s odd is the team that he’s been handed isn’t really built to win now but rather in the future, as a look at the draft class will show having just five players that includes a couple of projects.
But as the teacher of this group as a whole, Fox is taking Thursday night along with the other three games to see what this group is about. A series of “tests” will give him a better sense of the best 53-guys he’ll want to keep around.
“These games really separate guys,” said Fox of the preseason opener. “It’s a little bit like in a classroom – you had pop quizzes, you had tests, the mid-term kinda weighed more. That’s what these preseason games are a little bit like.”
But it’s much different from the ones Mike Glennon has been used to over the past three years. In 2015 and 2016, he was the second man in for the Buccaneers as they went away from Glennon and towards top pick Jameis Winston to lead the franchise into a new era. Such a move came after the quarterback was a starter for a significant part of the 2013 and 2014 seasons.
No such worry this year for the lengthy quarterback – he’ll be the first quarterback to take a snap on Thursday no matter what.
“When you’re a backup in the preseason, it’s kind of a weird feel because you know you’re going to get in but you’re not exactly sure when,” said Glennon. “Now mentally going into the game you know you’re going to be in there right away. So I’m looking forward to that, but yeah, it will be a little bit different.”
How long he stays in, according to Fox, wasn’t set after Tuesday’s practice. Once Glennon’s time under center is done, Mark Sanchez gets some snaps as the backup. When he’s finished comes perhaps the most intriguing part of the game – the first NFL preseason snaps for Mitchell Trubisky.
Anointed as the future quarterback of the Bears from the minute he was drafted, Trubisky now begins his year of training behind two veterans. He may not enter till the latter part of the game but expect plenty of eyes to be on the quarterback once he takes the snaps under center. Most of those will be critical, including general manager Ryan Pace’s, considering he traded up to acquire his signal caller of the future.
Not that Trubisky feeling that much pressure yet from the outside, all he wants is the one provided by the opposing defenses.
“I’m ready to get hit, just to get that over with,” said Trubisky, who like the other quarterbacks takes little contact during training camp. “That’s the hard thing about the quarterbacks, we’re sitting back there in the pocket and we can’t really get a good feel in practice of when we need to get out of there, when we need to move on, when we might have been sacked.
“You see a couple plays throughout practice where a big play happens but the defensive end might have had you down, might have gotten the ball out. So it will be good to play live on Thursday.”
Yet Sam Acho, who enters his seventh preseason this year, keeps one thing in perspective: While it might be NFL Football, this in the end is only a preparation for the show and not the actual performance.
“We talk a lot about proving it in September,” said Acho, who is starting his third season in Chicago. “Obviously you can do great in the preseason, you can talk about OTAs, and all the new additions, how great we’ve become in the offseason and with free agents. But at the end of the day you have to do it when it counts which is September, October, November, December and then postseason.
“That’s our mentality – we have to prove it in September.”
Hence the value of Thursday night is truly in the eyes of the beholder.