Chicago Bears Family Night always about the fans
To say Chicago is crazy about the Chicago Bears right now is about as controversial or debatable as reminding folks that Papa Bear George Halas is the father of the National Football League.
In spite of huge crowds and a serious web of traffic tangles in the loop due to the normal rush of Saturday night summer visitors and the penultimate evening of the Lollapalooza music fest, a full-throated mass of Bears fans estimated at 18,797 showed up Saturday night at Soldier Field for the Meijer Chicago Bears Family Fest to cheer on the team.
Donít ever doubt that Bears head coach Matt Nagy knows how to play to a crowd as the evening featured a full practice of two hours, 40 minutes almost identical to one we've seen daily in Bourbonnais, capped by a fireworks show after practice to the joyous delight of Bears Nation.
The videoboards at each end of Soldier Field were active throughout the practice, including a special montage of 2018 end-zone celebrations and closeup looks at the live action on the field along with regular shots of the fans enjoying themselves.
There also were special moments early in practice as a number of fans, mostly kids, were taken out to midfield by Bears personnel to meet Nagy, go into the huddle with Mitch Trubisky and then watch with Nagy as the play they had heard called unfolded in front of them.
The first player to single himself out in drills was wide receiver Javon Wims, who appeared to be catching everything in sight early in the evening. Then, about 40 minutes in, during a 7-on-7 drill, Wims beat all-pro cornerback Kyle Fuller with a double move and made an impressive over-the-shoulder catch in the end zone on an absolutely perfect throw from Trubisky that traveled roughly 55 yards in the air.
For those worried about the quarterback's accuracy on deep balls, it might have been his best throw of training camp so far.
Running back Mike Davis also has a particularly impressive catch and run to the end zone on a stop and go from backup QB Chase Daniel, and undrafted rookie free agent tight end Dax Raymond took a nice over-the-shoulder throw to the end zone that brought the crowd to its feet.
As I'm sure you'd guess there was, of course, a place-kicking duel in which both Elliott Fry and Eddie Pineiro were impressive. Pineiro got the edge, finishing with a 60-yarder that split the uprights, while Fryís long ball from 60 went wide right.
Each kicker was perfect from 33, 38 and 45 to the north end zone and then from 38, 48 and 53 through the south uprights before Pineiro hit and Fry missed on their long bombs, both aimed at the south end.
While family night is aimed at entertaining the fans more than anything else, this event gave the Bears the added bonus of their first evening practice at Soldier Field, kicking off at almost the same time as their season opener will in just less than five weeks against the Green Bay Packers.
It also allowed the team a bit of a dress rehearsal for its first exhibition game, Thursday night against the Carolina Panthers.
One of the things rarely thought about, unless you're a member of the team, is that with 90 players on the roster and a number of new coaches, half the guys on the team have never even been to Soldier Field, most not at all and some at least not as the home team.
Saturday night's practice gave them a chance to get all the logistics out of the way so they can focus on trying to earn roster spots next week.
A few other players with special moments Saturday included Tarik Cohen with a big catch and run that electrified the crowd, and Akiem Hicks interception of pass that was deflected at the line by Roqaun Smith in a 7-on-7 drill. Hicks took it to the house as the crowd roared.
All things considered all, fans and players alike had a good time.
• Hub Arkush, the executive editor of Pro Football Weekly, can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Hub_Arkush.