What's the future of Bears training camps?

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Bears fans watch players practice Friday during the team's NFL football training camp at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais.

    Bears fans watch players practice Friday during the team's NFL football training camp at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais. Associated Press

 
 
Published8/3/2009 12:10 AM

BOURBONNAIS - Last Thursday, when players reported to training camp, coach Lovie Smith seemed to pay a backhanded compliment to Olivet Nazarene University.

"This has been good for us," Smith said as the team prepared for its eighth summer session at ONU. "If you have to go away to training camp, this is a great setup. We've enjoyed our time here. I don't know how much longer we'll be here, (but) I know we're here this year and we're excited about that. They do a good job helping us get better out on the football field."

 

The trend in the NFL has been for teams to conduct training camp at their own facility, and most coaches favor that setup. But an all-time training camp record of 11,000-plus fans showed up for Sunday's afternoon practice. Those numbers could never be accommodated at Halas Hall. The first three practices attracted over 25,000 fans.

The Bears have recently received overtures about moving training camp to Lewis University's Romeoville campus. But the Bears and ONU have a joint option for next year, and both sides have indicated it's all but a done deal that the 2010 training camp will be back in Bourbonnais.

Any move to Halas Hall is likely several years away.

Bears gone Wildcat: For the first time in camp, the Bears lined up in the Wildcat formation Sunday with Devin Hester taking a shotgun snap and Jay Cutler split out wide as a potential receiver, which created an immediate buzz on the sidelines and in the bleachers.

Hester faked a handoff to Matt Forte up the middle then bolted around right end.

"Everyone seems to notice that," coach Lovie Smith said. "It seems like it's catching on in the league. We're all talking a lot about it. We have some guys that can do things like that, whether it's Devin Hester or Garrett Wolfe. We have some players that can play in that role. Jay Cutler's an athlete, too, so who knows? We may throw him a pass out there."

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Then, partially into answering the next question, Smith suddenly stopped and said, "We won't be throwing the ball to Jay Cutler. Let me go back to that a second. Bad joke I made."

Smart guy: Not only is tight end Greg Olsen a gifted athlete on the field, he's shrewd away from it. He and quarterback Jay Cutler have become fast friends.

"Greg's smart, he spends a lot of time with (Jay) in the off-season, away from football, getting him to like him," offensive coordinator Ron Turner said, half-joking. "He knows. He knows who's throwing that ball. He's been real smart about that. He started getting that very quickly. They were hanging out."

Just watching: Linebackers Lance Briggs and Hunter Hillenmeyer were held out of Sunday afternoon's practice with soreness, but both are expected back today for the noon practice. Nose tackle Marcus Harrison remains on the non-football injury list as he pares his weight down to the prescribed 309.

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