BOURBONNAIS -- No. 2 quarterback Josh McCown, who will get extended playing time Friday night after Jay Cutler makes a cameo appearance, said he benefits from having a quarterback guru like Marc Trestman as the head coach.
"It helps obviously when somebody has their focus on the quarterback, and has their mindset bent toward the quarterback," McCown said. "They're taking the time to see the world through your eyes as a player, and that certainly helps."
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McCown was coaching high school football in North Carolina last year when the Bears signed him Nov. 13 after Cutler suffered a concussion two days earlier against the Texans. So he'll have his own cheering section at Bank of America Stadium when the Bears open the preseason on the road against the Carolina Panthers (7 p.m., FOX).
"It'll be neat," he said. "I'm excited about that. Some of the kids that I've coached are coming to the game."
McCown has played 10 NFL seasons but didn't play in a game for more than two years and was out of the game entirely when the Bears signed him the first time, late in the 2011 season after Cutler suffered a fractured thumb.
"I count my blessings every day to come out here and practice and to be part of this team," he said. "I'm very thankful to Mr. (Phil) Emery (Bears G.M.) and coach Trestman and everybody that's allowed me to be a part of this team. It's special to me.
"Going back to Charlotte is cool and being able to see some of those kids. I'm thankful for that high school (Marvin Ridge in Waxhaw, N.C.) for letting me be a part of their life in a different and difficult time in my life."
Most first-team players aren't expected to do much more than break a sweat against the Panthers on Friday night.
"I would not expect our starters to play very long, and we'll start pulling them out some time in the first quarter," coach Marc Trestman said. "Jay (Cutler) will play, (but) he'll play very, very limited. How limited, I don't know. It could be three plays, it could be one play, it could be eight plays.
"We'll allow the guys competing for positions (to play more), certainly special teams positions, (where) it's critically important to get on the field and see how they work, see how they tackle, see how they play, obviously for the first time in a real game in a real football environment."
James Brown took all the first team reps at right guard Wednesday and is expected to start there Friday, but rookie Kyle Long will play extensively and could see some snaps with the ones.
In preparation for Friday night's preseason opener, Wednesday's practice featured a different format, with coaches coaching from the sideline, as they would in a game, and not on the field, as they have been throughout camp.
"We were more game-management type of situations," Marc Trestman said. "There were no scripts or preparation for the players. (It was) situational football like it would be in the game."
How'd that work out for you, coach?
"I thought we were sluggish at times," Trestman said. "At times we were very good. There was an ebb and flow to it. Pre-snap penalties were still an issue on both sides of the ball, and that's always going to be a focal point for us."
Defensive end Julius Peppers had a second straight excused absence but was back on campus shortly after the end of Wednesday's practice.
Wide receiver Earl Bennett's concussion was confirmed, and he will not play Friday night. Safety Chris Conte and defensive end Corey Wootton didn't finish practice. Conte had a tight hamstring but said he expects to play Friday night; Wootton had a tight right calf.
Craig Steltz took Conte's place at free safety with the first team. Kyle Moore got first-team reps in place of Wootton. Defensive tackle Henry Melton left practice after banging his knee but suffered no injury.
Linebacker D.J. Williams (calf) and offensive tackle Jonathan Scott (knee) remain out of practice and will not play vs. the Panthers.
Wrapping it up:
The Bears return to Olivet Nazarene University on Sunday for a scheduled 3:15 practice, followed by 9 a.m. sessions on Monday and Tuesday before breaking camp and heading back to Halas Hall.