BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – Wearing a No. 34 jersey to honor Walter Payton’s birthday, running back Tarik Cohen burned rubber in a three-wheeled slingshot on Thursday while tearing around the parking lot in a circle – twice – to announce his arrival at Chicago Bears training camp.
Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky chose a slightly more subtle entrance at Olivet Nazarene University, as the Bears reported before Friday’s first training camp practice.
That’s how Trubisky wants it. Now the veteran leader of a 12-4 team, Trubisky has to be the composed field general for a young offense trying to step up into the NFL’s upper echelon in order to complement a dominant defense.
“I don’t think I’ve tapped into the talent I have and what I can do and what I can show out on the field, and it’s just putting it all together really,” Trubisky said.
There are some critics who would agree Trubisky hasn’t done enough. However, some of them would question whether he can.
A recent ESPN poll of 50 NFL executives and coaches put Trubisky 25th of 32 starters. It’s uncommon when he earns high praise outside of Chicago despite improving from a 77.5 passer rating to 95.4 last season.
“It’s not really about what I can do individually, it’s about what we can accomplish as a team,” Trubisky said. “I think a lot of that is what I bring to the table, how I can lead these guys and how I could help us win games.”
The goal for the Bears is to improve from 21st offensively in coach Matt Nagy’s second season and make a long playoff run. To do it, Trubisky said they’ll all need focus on ignoring critics as well as supporters.
“We want to pick back up where we left off, but at the same time we didn’t accomplish what we did last year because we were worried about expectations,” Trubisky said. “Nobody expected us to do what we did last year, and now it’s kind of flip-sided where there is all these expectations.
“So we have to do a good job of staying focused, blocking that out and just doing exactly what we did last year that helped us win those games, and on top of that do even more so we can accomplish more than we did last year.”
Wide receiver Allen Robinson said Trubisky’s improvement in his second year of Nagy’s offense was apparent during offseason work. Now it’s a matter of picking up where the offense left off in June minicamp.
“I mean for him, all aspects of what he brings to the table, he’s gotten better at,” Robinson said.
Some anticipated improvement is in other areas, like leadership. Trubisky no longer just looks at leading receivers or the offense, but is leading the entire team.
He’s won over pass rusher Khalil Mack with his persistence and toughness.
“Over this past offseason, just getting to spend some time with him and talk to him, he’s a dog,” Mack said. “That’s what you want in your quarterback. That’s what I’m looking forward to seeing this year.
“It’s simple: simple words, simple interactions during practice, simple things, just understanding his mindset and how he thinks. Yeah, he’s a dog, man. That’s what I want in my quarterback.”
Bears general manager Ryan Pace has other expectations for Trubisky. During a pre-camp news conference, he said he wanted “steady, incremental improvement.”
Trubisky knows what Pace means. It’s the same goal he has for himself.
“I think if you just focus on the little things, then the big leaps will take care of themselves,” Trubisky said. “Obviously, we all want to have big years, but it doesn’t happen like that. We’ve got to come to work every day. You’ve got to focus on getting better at one thing at a time, every single drill, every single snap.
“And that’s what I am focused on and the results will happen how they will.”
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