BOURBONNAIS -- For Martellus Bennett, Saturday night's practice was his first time at Soldier Field, and he said the 29,000 made it special when he and his teammates were introduced and ran through the tunnel onto the field.
"I never played here before, so it was pretty fun," the sixth-year veteran said. "I loved it man, a lot of energy coming out of the tunnel. I was glad they made it a lot better than just a practice. Got a little feel of the game atmosphere, so it was pretty good."
But Bennett believes some changes need to be made at the Bears' home.
"I told Brandon (Marshall) there's a lot of (No.) 15 jerseys out here," Bennett said, noting the fans' fondness for Marshall's number. "We need some 83 jerseys out here soon."
The physical play from Friday's practice continued and included safety Chris Conte putting a huge hit on wide receiver Eric Weems, which brought an end to the practice.
"That's just the way it is," Bennett said. "Guys are going out here; they're playing. It's been kind of intense the last couple of days.
"It's part of the game. Everybody's intense, I'm an intense guy, we just keep playing. They're my teammates, but every day we're competing. I have to do everything I can to make a play. They try to stop me from making a play at practice, but I have to do everything I can to show the coaches that no matter what happens or what kind of coverage they show me, or what kind of guys I'm playing against, I can get open."
Just win, baby:
Defensive tackle Henry Melton made his first Pro Bowl last season and, although he didn't get the big, multiyear contract that he would have preferred, he received the franchise tag -- guaranteeing him $8.5 million for this season.
Melton's 13½ sacks over the past two seasons, second among NFL tackles, and last year he improved his performance as a run defender. Another big season could earn him a megadeal in the off-season, but that's not his focus for now.
"I just want to win," he said. "If I'm doing my thing, I feel like the defense is going to thrive off of me and we have a chance to win some games."
Melton at the three-technique spot and Stephen Paea at nose tackle are ensconced in the defense, with each having started 14 games last season.
They have meshed well.
"Me and Steve are really good friends on and off the field," Melton said. "We have great communication. The longer you're working with somebody, the better you can gauge how they're feeling, where you can feed off their energy, and I think we're a good combination."
Knack for the back:
Receivers have been working with quarterback Jay Cutler on back-shoulder catches, an effective tool that can help pass-catchers defeat even excellent coverage. But it takes a lot of practice for the thrower and catcher to get in sync.
"The biggest thing is (the quarterback) has to measure the receiver's route, and the receiver really has to stay on the route," said Bears coach Marc Trestman. "If he stays on the route, then the quarterback can determine the location of the throw by where the defensive back is. If (the defensive back) is playing high, (the quarterback) will back shoulder (the throw). If the receiver can get over the top, he'll try to put the ball over the top.
"It takes special people to be able to make these throws and measure that kind of trajectory and pinpoint them. Jay and quarterbacks throughout this league are capable of doing that, and it's a very important gift."
The addition of 6-foot-8, 264-pound eighth-year veteran tight end Leonard Pope provides yet another skill set to the position behind starter Martellus Bennett.
"We've got different skill sets at that position," Marc Trestman said, "and we've got somebody in Martellus who really gives you the optimal -- he's a three-down player. He can block the run, he can protect in the pass, and he can run routes inside and out. Those guys are hard to find.
"But obviously the tight end position demands that you initially have to block the point. That's No. 1, and from there we try to work with our skill sets the best we can."
Pope is a big target and has 105 career receptions for 982 yards and 11 touchdowns, but he's been more effective as a blocker.
Linebacker D.J. Williams (calf), offensive tackles Jermon Bushrod (calf) and Jonathan Scott (knee) and defensive lineman Jamaal Anderson (knee) did not practice Saturday night at Soldier Field. Defensive end Corey Wootton (hip) returned to action but only participated in individual drills.
The injury list grew during Saturday's practice.
Cornerback Kelvin Hayden suffered a left hamstring injury that the Bears said made him "week to week." Wide receiver Earl Bennett was being evaluated for a concussion, and defensive end Julius Peppers and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery were sidelined with tight hamstrings as a precautionary measure.