Bears' new defensive coordinator confident that team is on board
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BOURBONNAIS — New Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker isn't buying the notion that his group — even the players who were devoutly loyal to former coach Lovie Smith and coordinator Rod Marinelli — will take a step back as they transition to new leadership.
"We want to build on the foundation that's been laid and what's been done," Tucker said. "We want to come out here in training camp and hit the ground running, pick up where we left off in OTAs; plain and simple, that's what it's been. The guys know that. That's what they want. That's what we want as coaches. That's what we're working hard to do."
Tucker inherits a veteran group that finished third in points and fifth in yards allowed last season and scored 9 touchdowns, tied for the second most in NFL history.
"This group of guys, for me personally, has been great, (even though) it's not about me personally," Tucker said. "They understand what the situation is, and they've been very helpful, and they're very coachable and they're pros. They want to get better. They want to give us a chance to win games. So it's a fun group to coach, and there haven't been any distractions. Everyone knows what the expectations are, and it's a challenge, and everybody's fired up about it."
Some special guys:
Like many of the new coaches, special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis, a 24-year-year veteran NFL coach, is learning the abilities of a roster of players completely new to him.
But DeCamillis knows about the Bears' core special-teams players like linebacker Blake Costanzo, kicker Robbie Gould and return specialist Devin Hester.
"It's nice to have a core guy," DeCamillis said of Costanzo, who tied for second on the Bears with 11 special-teams tackles last season. "Blake has been a guy that has made a lot of plays in this league. He's played on a lot of good groups. So, his experience helps us, no question."
Costanzo was second on the 49ers with 17 special-teams tackles in 2011, led the Browns with 14 tackles in 2009 and was the Bills' No. 1 tackler in 2008 with 26.
Hester, the NFL career leader with 17 kick-return touchdowns, has been relegated strictly to special teams and is not working with the wide receivers, as in previous seasons.
But Hester is handling the situation well.
"His attitude has been great," DeCamillis said. "He's been great from the start."
Although rookie kicker Austin Signor is in camp, it's more to give Gould some down time rather than as competition for the NFL's fourth most accurate field-goal kicker in history, who had off-season calf surgery.
"That guy is a piece of work, by the way," DeCamillis said of Gould. "He's done a great job, and we're glad to see him healthy."
Yin and yang:
During a mid-practice defensive flurry, the secondary got pass breakups from cornerbacks Charles Tillman and Zack Bowman and safeties Major Wright and Chris Conte in short order.
"There was some good and some bad, and that's the way it's going to be in games," said defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. "Either way, a good play or a bad play, we just have to move on to the next play and get better. When we do have success out there, it feels good to see. The guys feed on takeaways, they feed on getting hands on balls, and obviously the pass rush makes everything else work."
Head coach Marc Trestman said the offense started off strongly with a successful two-minute drill, the defense dominated the run portion of 11-on-11 work and called the final practice segment of fourth-down plays a draw.
"It's back and forth," Tucker said. "The offense is doing a great job, they're giving us a lot of different looks and it's very competitive. I think our guys are having fun with that."
Players will not practice today but will be back on the fields at Olivet Nazarene University at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday before the team returns to Chicago on Saturday for a 6:45 p.m. practice at Soldier Field.
Monday's crowd was estimated at between 4,000 and 5,000.
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