LAKE FOREST – Long after Jay Cutler and Jordan Palmer had departed with the rest of their teammates, David Fales lingered behind on the practice field, continuing to put his playbook into practice.
For now, the Bears rookie quarterback is nothing more than a depth-chart also-ran, a developmental work in progress at a position that currently runs five deep. To some, the fact the former San Jose State standout is even here is a bit of a surprise after Bears general manager Phil Emery suggested he wasn't interested the Bears putting work into drafting a reserve signalcaller.
Before the Bears signed Jimmy Clausen last week, Fales found himself competing against Jerrod Johnson to be the No. 3 quarterback and for a spot on the Bears' 53-man roster. Now with Clausen – another quarterback with NFL experience – in the mix to make a team with seemingly no solidified back-up in place, Fales will be forced to work even harder.
That takes us back to the practice field last week, where Fales and Johnson took turns throwing timing patterns to back-up receivers to better prepare the quarterbacking pair for the open competition that lies ahead.
"I'm just trying to grasp the offense and keep getting better," Fales said last week, two days before the Clausen signing took place.
On Saturday, coach Marc Trestman told reporters at the Bears annual charity gala event that Clausen's signing was just a matter of adding another experienced option.Trestman said he told Palmer he was planning on bringing in another quarterback, adding that Clausen's signing was "not connected" to whether he believes Palmer, who is entering his second year with the Bears, is the right man to back up Cutler.
"We're going to keep the competition open on a daily basis," Trestman said Saturday.
How that impacts Fales – who was drafted in the sixth round – remains unknown. For now, Fales is busy digesting the Bears playbook, focusing on learning the full installation of the offense after getting a small taste of what that process looks like during rookie mini-camp.
With training camp still a good six weeks off, Fales is less concerned with those around him vying for the same roster spot. Instead, he is focused on himself to make sure he's in a position to remain a viable player in the competition.
Much of that is happening now as Fales continues to adjust to the speed things happen at the NFL level.
"It's a lot, but if you know the base reads and just stick to it, you'll be OK," Fales said. "It's just that repetition of hearing someone say the play quick, spitting it out, seeing the whole picture and then getting it out.
"A lot of the concepts are the exact same stuff (from college) – the reads are the same, but with coach Trestman, (quarterbacks coach Matt) Cavanaugh and (offensive coordinator Aaron) Kromer, there's no gray area. With everything, you know exactly why you're going where you're going."
When that's not exactly clear, Fales has leaned on Cutler and Palmer to keep him pointed in the right direction. Fales met Palmer at an Elite 11 camp last summer in California and then worked with him again before the Senior Bowl. But it's been Cutler who has been more instrumental in helping Fales grasp the Bears offense, giving him plenty to mull over.
A lot of times, Fales – who, along with Fresno State's Derek Carr were the only two college quarterbacks to throw for more than 4,000 yards in both 2012 and 2013 – gets answers from Cutler to questions he hasn't yet considered. The two talk over scenarios and quarterback reads, helping to ensure Fales is seeing what he needs to when things start to happen at full speed.
Cutler has proven to be a valuable ally in Fales' development.
"Sometimes I don't even know the questions to ask because I've got such limited experience," Fales said. "So he throws a lot at me and it definitely helps."