BOURBONNAIS — For the third time in as many days, the Bears strapped up their pads and ran through live 11-on-11 drills, with the week’s intensity reaching a climax on Saturday, much to the chagrin of coach Matt Nagy.
“We challenged the team last night in the team meeting to pick it up a bit and to make sure they understand that we need some energy. They did that,” Nagy said. “I thought it was a good live period. We’ve had three tough days in a row now with a lot of reps, some tackling, some thud.”
The moment the team’s energy reached its boiling point was early on in the morning, when guard Kyle Long and defensive end Akiem Hicks — two of the team’s top talents — got into a bit of a scuffle.
“Think about it. If you put yourself in their body, how many times would you lose? Not often,” Nagy said. “So, when they’re going, somebody usually loses, so there’s a bit of an ego thing between either one of them, which is natural.
“I knew it was going to get that way once we went live,” Nagy said. “You strap it on and you go.”
Center Cody Whitehair, who plays right next to Long, said the skirmish was just evidence of the three-time Pro Bowler’s competitive nature.
“Kyle plays with a lot of passion. He loves the game; he loves the physicality of being in the trenches,” Whitehair said. “He’s just playing competitive and doing his job.”
Smith still a no-show
The Bears now have held eight practice sessions and play their first preseason game on Thursday. As that opener nears, inside linebacker Roquan Smith, the Bears’ first-round pick this season, remains unsigned.
Smith is one of two drafted players yet to sign, along with New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold, something the Bears and Smith are both aware of, according to Nagy.
“I know I keep saying it’s part of the process; it is,” Nagy said. “It’s us and New York right now ... we understand that, he understands that. We’ll continue to just keep trying our best to make this thing happen.”
As the Bears begin preparing for Thursday’s preseason Hall of Fame Game against the Baltimore Ravens, Nagy recognized the team can’t play with players who aren’t there.
“We need to focus on who’s here right now, that’s the realism of it all,” Nagy said. “There’s valuable reps going forward with our guys. The biggest thing for our organization, for our players, is for me to be focused on who’s here right now, and that’s what I’m doing.”
‘Kwiatk’ to fill in
While Smith remains a holdout and fellow projected starting inside linebacker Danny Trevathan has been out of practice for more than a week with a hamstring injury, the Bears have been getting a look at second team linebackers.
So far, Nick Kwiatkoski has made the biggest impression.
The third-year linebacker intercepted quarterback Mitch Trubisky for a touchdown in the team’s first live session on Saturday and has continued to wow Nagy.
“You’ve got to earn your spot. (Kwiatkoski) right now is playing really well,” Nagy said. “You saw the pick he had out there. He’s thumping people in the run game. I love his mentality.”
Kwiatkoski has filled in at starting inside linebacker during parts of his time with the Bears. Entering his third season, the West Virginia alum knows the situations with Smith’s contract and Trevathon’s hamstring always could change.
“Just from my past couple years, you never know what can happen; you never know what’s going to happen,” Kwiatkoski said. “It’s just coming out here each day and getting better individually and as a defense and just building each day.”