Meaningful football games may be a month or so away, but thousands of Chicago Bears fans near and far are continuing the tradition of flocking to training camp to get a first glimpse of what the team will look like in 2014.
“It’s an awesome way to see the players and interact with them,” said Michelle Kenny, who says making the trip from Aurora to Bourbonnais in early August has become a yearly tradition in her family since she first starting taking a serious interest in the team around seven years ago. “It’s cool to see them up close and get a good outlook on how the year may go.”
The Bears are coming off a season in which they were less than a minute away from qualifying for the playoffs as the NFC North champion, but with the additions of Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston on defense; and an already explosive offense with stars Jay Cutler, Matt Forte and Brandon Marshall, expectations are much higher entering the second year under the Marc Trestman regime.
“12-4” was the prediction given by Aaron Baker from Bettendorf, Iowa - who made the three-plus hour trip to Bourbonnais on Friday with his family, with plans to stay for Family Fest, which took place at Soldier Field the following evening.
“(Training camp) is a great opportunity to come out and see them and watch them do what they do best,” Aaron’s mother, Shari, said. “I’ve been a Bears fan forever and think they will do great this year.”
Longtime Bears fans like Shari and Cliff Thomas, from Richton Park, know how rare it is for the Bears to be offense-driven and watching games hoping the defense can play well enough to give the team a chance.
“This is pretty interesting,” said Thomas, who was attending his first ever training camp session on Friday, donning a classic No. 34 Walter Payton jersey. “One of my friends works for the media and asked me to come down since I’m not from that far away.”
Saying he has been a Bears for for his “whole life,” Thomas recalled his favorite “Sweetness” moments, including the game he broke the all-time rushing record in 1984 and a play against the Minnesota Vikings earlier in his career where he kept bouncing off of would be tacklers to find the end zone.
“They kept hitting him, but they couldn’t stop him,” Thomas remembers. “He was the whole offense, they never had a truly great quarterback.”
He says this year’s Bears’ offense has “come along way,” while noting his concern on the defense.
“Usually it is all defense with the Bears, but this year we are going to have to rely on our offense,” he said.