Chicago Bears rookie David Fales won’t beat around the bush. He’s eager for Friday night’s exhibition opener against the Philadelphia Eagles. Admittedly restless, too. Three months after the Bears drafted Fales in the sixth-round with a quest of grooming him into a long-term back-up option behind Jay Cutler, the 23-year-old quarterback wants a test, an on-field measure of how much progress he’s making and how far he still has to go.
“I’m excited to finally get some live bullets,” Fales said after Wednesday’s practice in Bourbonnais. “I’m eager to see how I’ll react. It will be a lot different for me than practice when you’re running plays and you can’t tell for sure if you’ve been sacked and you don’t really know what would happen in game conditions. So with these live bullets, you get out there and compete, you go through your reads and you have some fun.”
Through two weeks of training camp and 11 camp practices, Fales has had to stay ultra patient. He’s had to zero in on making strides during individual drills while getting used to a role in which he is getting very few reps in team periods as the Bears’ No. 4 overall quarterback. That has tested Fales’ focus as he looks for ways to accelerate his learning.
“You have to get used to different learning styles,” he said. “The past four years, I’ve been playing and actually getting extensive reps in practice. Now you don’t get as many reps. The majority have to go to Jay. But for me, I still have to get those mental reps and be able to perform when you go in and do it just like he does it. That’s been an adjustment.”
Head coach Marc Trestman and quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh remain bullish on Fales’ potential. But at present, no matter how much Trestman asserts that the rookie is in the competition for the back-up job, veterans Jimmy Clausen and Jordan Palmer are vying for that job. So now comes the opportunity for the rookie to make incremental strides in his adjustment to the NFL.
“Dave’s just out here competing and learning how to play quarterback,” Trestman said this week. “He’s certainly doing very well with learning the offense, the verbiage, the reads. He’s articulate right now. He has spent a lot of time. And he’s as good as anybody in getting that done. He just needs the work and the reps, the experience throughout camp and the exhibition season, preseason games. We’ll continue to watch, but we’ve like what we’ve seen up to this point.”
Fales has also appreciated the opportunity to observe and converse with Cutler, a ninth-year veteran with 104 career regular season starts to his name. Cutler’s comfort in the offense has been obvious to the rookie understudy and Fales values the regular back and forth. He has quickly developed an appreciation for Cutler’s footwork and how he can quickly adjust it to move in the pocket and make strong throws.
“I’m learning,” Fales said. “Being able to pick his brain after he comes off is valuable. ‘Why’d you do this? Why’d you go here? What was your thought process here?’ That end of things is huge. And for my own development, it’s mental reps. It’s get in the script. Then hit a couple throws that we might have installed that day but I didn’t get a chance to make because we only practiced them with the (first-unit and second-unit offenses). And then you have to stay focused and in tune all throughout practice reading the defense, feeling what the defense sees, trying to see what Jay sees and what he’s thinking and continually go through that process mentally.”
On Friday night, a test awaits against the Eagles. And Fales can’t wait.
“There will be some jitters,” he said. “I don’t know that I’ll be nervous. As long as I feel like I know what I’m doing, just react and have fun. I’m going to get hit. No nerves about getting hit. So let’s get out there.”