BOURBONNAIS – A group of reporters waited in the shade Wednesday while hoping to catch a glimpse of Bears players arriving to training camp.
After a long drought, the group heard something.
The soft hum of an engine. Tires crunching on pavement.
It was a player’s car. A PLAYER’S CAR!!!
Behind the wheel could be anyone. OK, maybe not anyone, but someone.
“The guy drives a Toyota,” a cameraman joked. “How big of a deal can he be?”
Hey, now. Zackary Bowman plays for the Bears. He’s a huge deal.
And it’s not merely “a Toyota,” it’s a four-door Toyota Camry, thank you very much.
Yes, this felt like training camp all right.
But for every tiny movement that attracted two-dozen cameras and microphones, the Bears also provided big-picture excitement as they exited Interstate 57 and reported to Olivet Nazarene University.
No more Lovie Smith. No more status quo.
There’s a new sheriff in town, and Marc Trestman is nothing like his predecessor.
When it comes to training camp – with apologies to Arby’s – different is good. Different is great. Different is unbelievably refreshing.
Time will tell whether the Bears will be better with Trestman in charge, but it’s safe to say that training camp will be better. Weirder. More interesting.
Could you imagine Smith drawling through any of these Trestman gems?
On Thursday’s player conditioning test: “I don’t even look at it as a test. I look at it as an accountability exercise.”
On how he will coach his players: “We’re just trying to show them we’re going to do everything on multiple levels to allow them to self-actualize every day and don’t worry about the big picture.”
On fostering teamwork: “Because of the interconnectivity of this game, you can’t be the best you can be unless the guys around you are working at it.”
Accountability exercise? Self-actualize? Interconnectivity?
How new. How strange. How fun.
Without fail, every July from 2004 to 2012, Smith would stand beneath a gazebo in the middle of the ONU campus and declare, “We’ve got a good foot-bawl team.” Typically, he was correct, although rarely did he have a great foot-bawl team.
On Wednesday, Trestman sat behind a table in a climate-controlled lobby with general manager Phil Emery at his side. His description of the Bears differed, albeit slightly, from Smith’s.
“We’ve got a very smart football team,” Trestman said.
Maybe, just maybe, the smarty-pants Bears could be a Super Bowl team.
“When our coaches walk through the locker room, we say, ‘Why can’t we?’ ” Trestman said. “Is there any reason why we can’t compete for championships based on what we see in this locker room and on the field?
“And the answer is we certainly can. There’s no reason why we can’t compete.”
Until the Bears play meaningful games, it’s impossible to know for sure.
But training camp will be different, and for that we should be grateful.
After Bowman unloaded bags from his Toyota – his four-door Toyota, mind you – a charter bus pulled on to campus carrying a dozen or so rookies.
Top draft pick Kyle Long clutched three (three!) duffel bags in one hand. He headed inside to drop off his bags and emerged soon after to conduct the first of what will be many group interviews during training camp.
After his final answer, Long was free to leave. Now, if only he knew where to go.
“Do any of you guys know where to eat?” Long asked. “I’m trying to find the food.”
Some things never change.
• Northwest Herald sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @tcmusick.