3 things we learned in Chicago Bears training camp, including adding Riley Reiff to a questionable offensive line

Chicago Bears players reported to training camp Tuesday at Halas Hall, preparing for the six and a half weeks leading up to Week 1.

The team will hold its first camp practice on Wednesday morning. On Tuesday, general manager Ryan Poles, coach Matt Eberflus and a handful of players spoke to reporters. Here are three things we learned.

On Monday, the Poles signed veteran guard Michael Schofield to a one-year contract. On Tuesday, the first-year general manager announced the signing of 33-year-old offensive tackle Riley Reiff.

Reiff, a first-round pick by the Detroit Lions in 2012 who also spent time with the Minnesota Vikings and Cincinnati Bengals, immediately figures into the Bears’ competition at tackle and has the versatility to play anywhere.

Both signings are an indication that Poles is not resting in his efforts to improve the line against quarterback Justin Fields, who expressed his happiness with the moves.

“It’s definitely going to help our team,” Fields said. “Especially the younger guys, just teaching them how to be an NFL lineman and how to stay in the league for a long time. I’m definitely excited for them.”

The Bears appear to have only two clear starters on the offensive line at the moment, with Lucas Patrick locked in as a first-unit center and Cody Whitehair about to enter his seventh season as a starter on the interior. The Bears will now be looking closely at Schofield at right guard, as well as Sam Mustipher and rookies Zach Thomas, Doug Kramer and Ja’Tyre Carter.

At tackle spots, Braxton Jones, Larry Borom and Teven Jenkins all took first-team reps during the spring, but may now have to fend off Reiff to cement a leadership role.

“If everyone is competing, we will get the best out of that unit,” Poles said. “I said it from the beginning. Our front office is not going to stop working and bring good soccer players to this team to compete and improve the whole team.”

Schofield and Reiff will challenge the Bears’ coaching staff in the early stages, pushing them to get veterans in shape, teaching them the offense and assessing where they can best fit. However, Eberflus went on to emphasize that he is not operating on a firm timetable to pick a group of five starters.

“There is no deadline,” Eberflus said. “But like I said in the spring, the sooner the better. We just added a couple of pieces. So there are going to be two more pieces of the puzzle.”

After seeing Fields during the offseason show, Poles said the Bears’ second-year quarterback is “doing everything he’s supposed to do.”

“We’re going to keep adding stuff on offense, and he’s going to have to keep growing based on what he sees and (what) the defense throws at him,” Poles said. “I think one of the most important pieces is that command. He continues to bring that command and that leadership, and he saw it when we were finishing the offseason.”

Fields said he took a week and a half off for a family vacation in Los Cabos, Mexico, before returning to training, including working in Austin, Texas, with other NFL players. When he returned to town, he contacted his Bears teammates to continue his work.

Fields said he has a different feeling heading into camp now than when he was a rookie.

“Our team as a whole, I think this year we feel more united, just in my opinion,” he said. “Everyone on the team is excited. We are all trying to achieve a goal and we are ready to start working.”

Campbell was a respected resource within Halas Hall, having a strong bond with many players and even serving on the organization’s five-person search committee during last winter’s search for a new general manager and coach. But the Poles fired him in July and replaced him 12 days later with Mike Wiley Jr.

Poles emphasized Tuesday that his move to go in a new direction was largely based on his desire to add a mental health and mental skills component to the role of the Bears’ director of player development. To that end, Wiley Jr.’s psychology degree and extensive experience proved attractive. He had been with Courtex Performance since 2019 and, according to the Bears, has consulted extensively with college and high school players, as well as FIBA ​​players. Wiley Jr. has also worked with the Indiana State and Lincoln Memorial men’s basketball programs, the Lipscomb women’s basketball program, and the Loyola track team.

Polacos said: “With the pressures this game puts on you, there is a mental piece to this that is absolutely critical. And he wanted someone who could come and be educated, through his education, through school, on how to work with players to get them psyched up the right way. How do you clear your mind? How do you go to the next step and walk away from a bad game, a bad practice or things that are wearing you down mentally? How can you get over that? So I just wanted to go in a different direction with regards to the support that we provide to our players.”

Poles noted that he speaks monthly with a sports psychologist to help him deal with the intense pressures of his job.

“It’s absolutely critical that you can lean on someone who can give you advice on how to handle different situations so you can perform at the highest level possible,” Poles said.

The hope is that Wiley Jr. will help Bears players in that regard.

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