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Intensity heats up in Bears' final training-camp practice

Fireworks fly for Bears on final day of camp. What does it all signify?

BOURBONNAIS — Toward the latter stages of the Bears' final training-camp practice Sunday at Olivet Nazarene University, offensive coordinator Adam Gase chose to intrigue the crowd by thumbing to the "Trickery" tab in his playbook.

In a dizzying sequence that began with running back Matt Forte taking a snap and ended with receiver Eddie Royal lofting a touchdown pass to quarterback Jay Cutler, Gase provided a glimpse into the unpredictability he hopes will become a hallmark of the offense.

"There was some creativity there," head coach John Fox said later with a smirk.

Royal, for one, was thrilled with the play's result, even if he was necessarily critical of Cutler's route-running.

"It could use a little bit of work," Royal said. "In the walk-through I had to pass up on him and take my second read. But it all worked out in practice."

That play provided arguably the biggest sizzle for fans on a smothering 90-degree morning. But the practice's more tenacious tone was evident throughout, with tempers flaring and a handful of mini-skirmishes bubbling up.

Rookie safety Adrian Amos delivered a borderline late hit on Dante Rosario near the sideline, sending the veteran tight end into a somersault and prompting an angry helmet slam.

Defensive end Jarvis Jenkins and guard Vladimir Ducasse took a few swipes at one another, needing to be separated by teammates. And in Sunday's main event, defensive lineman Jeremiah Ratliff had more than his fill of feisty center Will Montgomery, furious when a few of their tussles from one-on-one work — and a few of Montgomery's chippy techniques — carried over into the team portion of practice.

Fox needed several minutes, along with some aid from Kyle Long, to calm Ratliff even slightly. That provided the most obvious indication of the tension that defined Sunday's work.

The elevated friction was just fine with Fox, who made a point to keep his players in full pads and immersed in contact right down to the final whistle of their final practice at ONU.

"This was not one of those non-padded, easy, exit final days of camp," Fox said. "We kind of warned them and alerted them. Stuff happens in camp."

Added Jared Allen: "I think every time I've been in full pads on the last day of camp, that's how it's been. … You get tired of being around each other 24-7."

In many ways, Fox left Bourbonnais with a sense of accomplishment. No, the Bears' 13 practices since July 30 haven't magically transformed them into playoff contenders. The head coach is fully aware of how much work remains for him to get a true sense of his roster. But Fox has been thrilled with his players' engagement to this point.

"They've been very open and hard working to learn what we've been teaching," he said. "I like our bunch. Time will tell (what it all means) when we start playing real games."

Many players, meanwhile, believe Fox and his staff have already succeeded in injecting this team with needed toughness.

"He's been around football for a long time," Forte said. "He was used to camp back in the old days when there were no days off or breaks or things like that. So when you hear from a guy like that, you don't come go out there on hot days and feel sorry for yourself. … If you have a tough team, that's mentally tough as well as physically, you can overcome a lot of things that talent-wise you might not have."

While the Kevin White shin injury mystery — and this weekend's worst-case development that he will undergo surgery for a stress fracture — has been the dominant storyline of the Bears' preseason, other important seeds were planted at camp. The offense, for one, continued evolving, rallying behind Gase's up-tempo demands.

On defense, as the 3-4 renovation project continues, that unit's personality has slowly emerged as well.

"We're still trying to build our identity," Lamarr Houston said. "But for a fact, we know that one of the pillars of our foundation will be physicality. I think we have that understood."

Later this week, the Bears will migrate to Indianapolis, preparing for Saturday's exhibition game with two crossover practices against the Colts. Fox made it clear he hopes the aggression and intensity that characterized Sunday's practice follows his team.

"We've still got a lot of work to do to find out who the tough guys are," he said. "The only way to find out is with practices like that."

So on the Bears march through the grind of August, their quest to find an identity well underway.

dwiederer@tribpub.com

Twitter @danwiederer

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