The first preseason game may be a snoozefest for most starters and a lot of fans, but it wasn't for first-year offensive lineman Michael Ola Friday night.
"This is not just a preseason game," the Canadian Football League import said before the Bears left Bourbonnais. "This is my audition. This is my opportunity to put forth ... all the work that I've done. "This is my time to show what I can do; to allow my natural ability to come out and to go full speed against somebody else and to really show these coaches the things that I have within me to be able to make the Bears a better organization. This is not just another game for me. This is it."
Contact information ( * required )
The 6-foot-4, 312-pound Ola played for coach Marc Trestman when both were with the Montreal Alouettes in 2012. He's battling several other players for the couple positions available behind the five starters and top backups Eben Britton and Brian de la Puente, who suffered a knee injury in the second quarter and did not return.
Ola got the start Friday night in place of Jordan Mills, who was out with a left foot injury.
Ola and the first-team O-line did not allow Cutler to be sacked, as he posted a 112.7 passer rating.
A lot has changed since Lance Briggs' first NFL training camp way back in 2003, Dick Jauron's last season as the Bears' head coach and their second season at Olivet Nazarene University.
"We can't imagine that we used to have two-a-days," Briggs said. "We had three-a-days when I was in college."
But Briggs said he never had time to consider being overworked.
"The only thing I was thinking about was earning the position and trying to start," he said. "I was just running around like a chicken with his head cut off, trying to figure out what I'm supposed to do on special teams. My focus wasn't on 'Oh my God, we have two-a-days,' it was, 'I have to do everything I can to make this team.'"
Briggs cracked the starting lineup in the fourth game of his rookie season, and he's been there ever since. The seven-time Pro Bowl pick doesn't have to work as hard as he did as a rookie, but he still looked ready for the regular season on Friday night. Briggs had the game's first big hit, a helmet-to-helmet stop of Eagles wide receiver Brad Smith after a short gain. Earlier, he narrowly missed a diving interception.
Bigger and better:
The suspension of 6-foot-6 tight end Martellus Bennett, and the fractured clavicle that has sidelined 6-foot-4 wide receiver Marquess Wilson have diminished the size advantage that the team's receivers usually enjoy.
But with 6-foot-4 Brandon Marshall and 6-foot-3 Alshon Jeffery, quarterback Jay Cutler still has a good supply of big targets.
"It makes it easy," Cutler said. "You kind of just hang balls up there for those guys and they make the play. They all do a really good job of finding the ball in the air and knowing when the back-shoulder is coming."
Marshall had 5 catches for 31 yards in the first quarter vs. the Eagles, and Jeffery had 1 reception for 16 yards, but he also had a 40-yard grab called back because of a holding penalty on running back Matt Forte.
Six-foot-5 backup tight end Zach Miller caught 6 first-half passes for 68 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Sitting it out:
Eight players who have started games for the Bears, plus defensive end Jared Allen, did not suit up for the Eagles game. Allen missed practices earlier in the week to be with his wife for the birth of their second daughter.
Others who did not participate were safeties Craig Steltz (groin) and Chris Conte (shoulder), cornerbacks Tim Jennings (quad) and Isaiah Frey (hamstring), guards Kyle Long (ankle) and Eben Britton (hamstring), offensive tackle Jordan Mills (foot) and tight end Martellus Bennett (suspension).