BOURBONNAIS -- Even though the first practice in pads isn't until tonight, Devin Hester took a solid shot from safety Major Wright in Friday afternoon's practice when both players arrived simultaneously at a pass thrown deep over the middle.
Hester went down and was slow to get up, but he returned to the field a few plays later despite a minor ankle injury.
"If you don't expect accidents, then you shouldn't play football," Hester said, downplaying the collision. "It's just the nature of the beast.
"There are going to be accidents, even if we're playing touch. Both of us going for the ball. It's just something that happens, period."
According to wide receivers coach Darryl Drake, Hester has made strides since last season when he slumped to 26 receptions and 369 yards, his lowest totals since 2007, his first year as an NFL wide receiver after transitioning from cornerback.
Drake claims Hester is better "in every way possible," including route running and has benefited from not being characterized as the team's No. 1 wide receiver anymore.
"He's no longer worrying about being the guy," Drake said. "He's just playing."
At one point during Friday afternoon's practice during the 7-on-7 portion of scrimmage, rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffery caught passes from Jason Campbell on four consecutive plays while working with the second team.
"Less is more with him," quarterback Jay Cutler said of the second-round pick from South Carolina. "We're going to put him in positions where he can be successful -- not a lot of thinking -- where he can just go out and play football and play fast. Whenever you start putting these guys in positions where they've got to move around, where they've got to think a lot, it just slows them down. They already have enough on their plates."
With his combination of size, leaping ability and catching radius, Jeffery could give smaller DBs fits, especially in the red zone when he is paired with 6-foot-4 Brandon Marshall and 6-foot-7 tight ends Kellen Davis and Matt Spaeth.
"Alshon is going to be a guy where we just kind of throw him in there and let him do what he's naturally capable of doing, which is go up and get the ball," Cutler said.
Maybe the most interesting matchup on the practice field is the Brandon Marshall-Charles Tillman battle.
For the Bears, it's a win-win situation with the two Pro Bowl players making each other better through competition.
"He's competing against one of the best corners in the NFL in Charles "Peanut" Tillman, and Peanut is making him work," wide receivers coach Darryl Drake said after Marshall struggled in Thursday's first practice. "It's only going to make him better as time goes on. I'm very excited about what Peanut's doing to get Brandon ready.
"Brandon welcomes that challenge and understands and knows that it's only going to get him better. The thing that I don't want him to do is get frustrated because Peanut's going to win some of those battles."
By adding Michael Bush, a 977-yard rusher last season, to the backfield, the Bears are loaded at running back behind Pro Bowler Matt Forte.
Four-year veteran Kahlil Bell, who has an impressive 4.7-yard average per carry; five-year veteran Lorenzo Booker and quick, little change-of-pace first-year player Armando Allen will battle for playing time and roster spots. The Bears won't keep all five running backs.
"Any guy can go in there and make plays," Bell said. "All you can worry about is yourself, so that's all I'm going to do. I don't worry about reps, I don't worry about none of that stuff. When I get a chance to make a play, I'm going to make a play."
Just a number:
After making the Pro Bowl for the first time last season, cornerback Charles Tillman is 31 years old and preparing for his 10th NFL season. But don't suggest to him that he's getting old.
"I don't feel like it's my 10th year," he said. "My body doesn't feel like it. My mind doesn't feel like it. I feel good: mind, spiritually, physically ... it's mainly just more of what I hear about from ya'll."
When betting in Las Vegas opened the over-under on Bears wins was 8 ½, but that has already jumped to 9 ½, according to the Bovada.lv Sportsbook.
"I expect our biggest bet totals to be the Chicago Bears over 9.5 and the San Francisco 49ers over 10," Bovada.lv Sportsbook manager Kevin Bradley said. "They have been our heaviest bet teams when it comes to Super Bowl odds."