HEAD COACH BILL O'BRIEN**
How is WR Will Fuller V coming along and are you hopeful for Sunday?
"He'll be fine."
What do you expect from P Shane Lechler this season?
"He had a good preseason. He and I communicated during the offseason about some things that I thought he could do to help our team. He's a great teammate. He's at the point of his career where he just really wants to win and do what's best for the team. He's a good example of what we're looking for. He's done a nice job of directing the punts when we need them directed or just absolutely smashing them when we need a far kick. I think he's done a good job and hopefully it continues."
Do you plan to put a play count on DE J.J. Watt?
"I don't know. I always try to just do what the medical people advise me to do. We'll decide that probably sometime before the game, talking about like Saturday or something. I just know that he's been out there practicing and he's been in there quite a bit in practice. That's good. That's good for the Houston Texans."
Will DE Christian Covington start on the right side on Sunday?
"A lot of that depends on what package we - you know, what do they come out in? What do we come out in? I don't really think too much about the depth chart. I apologize for that. I know that's something we have to do but the depth chart really doesn't mean a whole lot to me other than maybe a couple positions. We have so many different packages on defense. We have a base package. We have this package. We have that package. He does start in certain packages. In other packages, he comes in as a backup, so we'll see what happens at the start of the game. It's the same thing on offense, not really worried about the depth chart."
What have you seen from RB Lamar Miller and are you excited about what he can do for you this season?
"He's been good. He's a very hardworking guy. He's a smart guy. He's quiet and he leads by example. He's out there all the time. He's a very hardworking guy. I think that he's come in here and picked up our offense well. We limited his plays during the preseason, to me, for obvious reasons. We want to keep him healthy, but also try to get him some work so he may not have had the flashy stats during the preseason that maybe some other backs had but I don't really care about that. I think that he's ready to play and looking forward to seeing him play on Sunday."
What have you seen on film from Bears WR Alshon Jeffery?
"Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White, I mean these guys are big, they're fast, they're physical. They throw a good amount of 50-50 balls when there's tight coverage and they come down with more than 50-50. It's going to be a big challenge for us. I think that our secondary's had a good preseason and now they're facing a very good receiving core led by Alshon. He's an excellent receiver, big guy. Some of our coaches here are familiar with him from South Carolina and they all say he's a great guy, great work ethic and just a top, top player."
Have you seen signs that the team can start right where they left off towards the second half of last season when they started to play well?
"I would say that I think there's better trust if that makes sense. I think guys really are understanding the defensive system. I think that I see guys communicating really well out there. We play hard. I don't think there's ever going to be a question about how hard we play on defense. We run to the ball. We play hard. I also know that guys are really in tune to just doing their jobs and trusting that the guy next to him is going to do their job and hopefully that continues on Sunday."
Can you talk about NT Vince Wilfork?
"One thing he did this offseason was he worked hard to come in here in good shape. First of all, when he came back for training camp, he really did a great job in our conditioning test. For a man that size to be able to really hammer that conditioning test says a lot about him. So he came back in good shape. Some of that may have to do with the (ESPN) Body Issue, I'm not sure, which was motivation in and of itself. Seriously, he's a very hard worker. He's one of our leaders obviously. The one thing about Vince is what's always been kind of interesting to me is ever since I've been around him, he is out there every day. Never, knock on wood, he's had that one injury that he had in New England. Other than that, the guy never misses any practices, any time. He's day in and day out consistent. When you think about that, playing that position in this league where it's basically a bunch of car crashes, that's what it is. To withstand that pounding for as long as he has, that's a testament to him and his strong will."
Has it been difficult to prepare for Sunday's game with not a lot of game film on some of the Bears new players?
"Forget about any of that, they're just difficult to prepare for anyways. Then you add on what you just said, that there's some new personnel. Some of those guys haven't been in there a whole lot during the preseason. (Danny) Trevathan has been out. He'll be in there on Sunday. We're familiar with Trevathan from watching him in Denver and things. They're a good group. They're tough, they're physical, they have good length. Third down, which is what we were kind of focusing on today, is very difficult because they have a number of different packages. We have tremendous respect for Vic Fangio. He does a great job. He's been doing it for a long time in this league. So it's a big challenge for us, it's going to be a big challenge."
How many snaps will T Derek Newton play on Sunday?
"He'll be out there quite a bit."
How much does it benefit the team to be able to work in the stadium?
"It's been good. It's been really good. To be able to dress in your locker room and just walk across the hall. I told Bob (McNair) that this morning. He was out there at practice. They put in new turf as you guys know. I don't want to go overboard speaking for the players, but it seems like the players, especially the veteran players - I don't really care what the rookies think about the field - but veteran players seem to really like the field and that's good. It gives us the opportunity to go out there and practice. Not to say that we're going to be in there every day, but to have that ability to just dress - you know, go from your meeting room to your weight room to your locker room and right out to the field is a good feeling."
Does it make a difference to practice on the surface that you're playing on?
"I think it does to a certain extent. I think you just have to understand that as a coach, you probably can't do it every day. I think there's some wear and tear involved there, but I do believe that practicing in the stadium on the surface that you're going to play on is important."
You mentioned talking and coaching P Shane Lechler. After watching him in the preseason are you getting what you want out of him?
"I'll just speak on my end of it. You can ask Shane. I really enjoy my relationship with Shane. He's a great guy to coach. I've actually learned a lot from Shane. He's hopefully learned a lot from us. He's been around so long. During the offseason, I try to communicate with a lot of the veteran players. Just to talk to them about where they're at, how's it going. Not just about football, but a lot of different things. Sometimes it's about what we think they can do to help us improve as a team. One of the philosophies or one of the themes of this offseason was to enhance and change, so enhance what we're doing well and try to change some of the things we're not doing well and that was a theme that we took with a lot of players. It seems to me that a lot of those guys have taken it to heart and it's helped our team."
What are your thoughts on OLB Jadeveon Clowney?
"He's been out there every day. He's worked very hard. He's had a good week of practice here this week. I think the big key with him, and I've said this all along, is health. I think as long as he feels good and he's healthy and everything's all systems go as far as his body's concerned. I think he's a really, really good player."
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR ROMEO CRENNEL
Where is your defense now as opposed to this time last year?
"Every year is a new year and it's always hard to tell until you start teeing them up and playing the games. Then you find out exactly where they are. We've had a good preseason, but we could play better. Now, we're going into this first regular season game trying to get a better start than we had last season defensively. That's been what we've talked about. Now, we have to go on the field and see if we can pull it off and make it happen."
The defense performed better this preseason, especially forcing turnovers. Are you hoping it carries over to the regular season?
"Definitely because we know how important turnovers are to the game and to winning and losing. So if we can turn the ball over, that will help this team win."
In your opinion, what makes a defense great?
"You have to look at the numbers a little bit when you talk about making a great defense. Generally, they stop the run, they get off the field on third down, they don't let teams score many points against them and generally they are an aggressive 'run to the ball' type unit."
Do you see chemistry as being a more important factor in being a great defense than offense?
"I think chemistry is an important part for all facets of the team, offensively, defensively and special teams. But I think a defensive unit has to have chemistry because the chemistry usually involves trust. When the guys start trusting each other, then they don't try to do too much. They do their job first and then they try to help out after that. When you don't have trust, then you try to do too much which opens up holes in the defense."
Would it be fair to say you had that problem early last year where guys were trying to do too much?
"Well, our guys always work hard. But trying to do two jobs, rather than one job. When you try to do two, you are generally out of position. Then good teams hit you in that open spot. That was happening to us quite a bit in the first part of last year. Hopefully, we've developed the kind of trust that you have to have. Everybody will be in their gap, they will take care of their gap first before they try to help out."
Do you look at if there are a lot of defenders around the football on film and is that something you value?
"That's one of those things about good defenses that you notice. Guys run to the ball and you get a lot of guys around the football because they know the importance of getting bodies to the ball."
What stands out to you about Bears RB Jeremy Langford?
"I think he's a tough running back. He's got some quickness. He's got good vision at the line of scrimmage to find the holes. When they are there, he usually has a good acceleration to get through them and get to the second level."
What does your defense have to do to stop WR Alshon Jeffrey?
"Sometimes you have to double him, put two guys on him and try to slow him down off the line because big guys, once they get started, it's hard to catch up to them, it's hard to stop them, and then once they get started they can always put the body on you and use the body to make plays. That's one of the things that Alshon does very well. He can body guys up. Even though he is 'covered', he still comes up with the ball."
What do you have to do to stop QB Jay Cutler?
"I think you have to try to keep him in the pocket for one, so that he doesn't get out and get those open throwing lanes. You have to be cognizant of your rush lanes, so that you don't give him those big windows to throw in because when you give him those he can make the throws. He can make all of them and he can stick it in pretty good. One of the things that he does is, when you're able to pressure him and he's able to get outside the pocket or move around in the pocket, he can still make the throws. He's pretty good that way."
How much do you think we will see DE J.J. Watt on Sunday vs. the Bears?
"You know what, I think this week is an evaluation week for what he's able to do, what the medical people feel like he can handle, so after we consult with those guys then we will make a determination about how we are going to use him and how much he'll get used and all those kind of things."
Is DE Christian Covington starting this Sunday vs. the Bears?
"That depends on what package we roll out there to start with. We have several packages that we can use. If we put out the package where he's the starter, then he'll be the starter. If we don't - we rotate the guys around quite a bit. What we try to do each week is try to figure out what the best grouping is to play the opponent with. Some of that depends on what grouping they put on the field. So whoever they throw out there, we'll try to match it and then see what happens."
T CHRIS CLARK
Why is the vibe in this locker room so different than others you have been in?
"I don't know, man. I've been on teams that - you know, I've seen both sides of it. There's sides of it where guys don't talk to each other. There's sides of it where guys are interacting with each other. The best ones I've been with have been when the guys interact with each other. That's on offense and defense. When you see us joking around in the locker room and talking together, playing around, doing whatever, you know like kids all over again. That's a good sign. It just makes our brotherhood stronger."
Is it good to be a little older than everyone else on the team?
"Yeah. They don't let me forget that. Every day it's an old joke. It's a good thing. We keep each other accountable. We just hold each other accountable."
How does everyone feel leading into the season opener?
"Everyone feels good. Everybody's excited about the first game. It's a big thing for us. It's a big deal. We wish we could have played on Thursday as some guys were saying. It's just one of those things. You get the butterflies. You get ready to get going again and we're all curious about what we have. We feel it. You can feel it when you step in the locker room. The chemistry we have with each other, so we're all ready to put it out there and show what we can do."
What are you hoping for leading into the season?
"Something great. Something great. Something that will be remembered."
What is it like with QB Brock Osweiler running the show?
"That's the man right there. Brock's the leader. Brock holds us down. He is doing what he's supposed to do and that's putting us in the right positions and we love him for it. We're going to take care of him. "
Is QB Brock Osweiler owning the quarterback position?
"Oh yeah. Brock is doing a heck of a job. Young guys that are under him, they are looking at him like 'okay, okay, this is the way it's supposed to be done.' I've seen a huge change in Brock from when we were in Denver together to now. He has become this great leader and I'm loving it."
What are some of the differences that you see in QB Brock Osweiler since you played with him in Denver?
"The way he's managing the game. The way he's making corrections. The way he knows when he's wrong if something happens. Nobody's perfect. He picks up on the little things, the detailed things. I see the little Peyton (Manning) things that he picked up on. He's turned it into his own."
Can you see Peyton Manning's influence in QB Brock Osweiler?
"Yeah. Playing with both of them, I can definitely see it. A lot of the things he's done, I can see that's one of the things he's incorporated into his game. He's doing a terrific job and I'm thankful to have a guy like that."
WR DEANDRE HOPKINS
How did you get to be so good at one-handed catches?
"It's really second nature. It's not anything I practice. Honestly, I think it's overrated. Guys don't really try to do it, it's just part of going out there and making plays."
Can it be part of your strategy sometimes because you want to use your other hand to jostle with the defensive backs?
"It can, definitely. You do it so much over and over, you kind of get better at it as you go. But it's not something I go out and practice every day. It's just making a play on the ball."
How about the body control for the contested catches? Is that something you think is more of a skill or a talent?
"It's just training, practicing, working on things like that in the offseason, body control, doing things on one leg. You know, if you do things on one leg you have to work on your body control, so that's something you work on in the offseason."
Was the game against New York Jets CB Darrelle Revis something that meant a lot to you?
"Always. That's a guy that I looked up to growing up. I played DB, so growing up I just wanted to be like him. Having that chance to go up against him was big for me."
What do you hope for from this season from yourself, starting this Sunday against Chicago?
"I don't ever have self-goals. I put the team first, as I should, as any player should. We have big team goals. As a team, we know we have a good team here. Have to see how the season goes."
Was there a one-handed catch somewhere in your past that was a turning point for you?
"Yeah, I think when I was in middle school or high school. I've been doing it so long. I've been blessed with big hands."
When that happened, what do you remember thinking and did think you could build off it?
"I really don't think too much about it. I just go out and make plays. I played defense my whole career in middle school and high school. My rookie year at Clemson, I made a one-handed catch against Georgia Tech which was probably my first start at wide receiver. It was just a natural thing, it wasn't something I went out there and tried to do."
How much did playing defense help your instincts as an offensive player?
"You kind of know how the wide receivers want to set you up, being a DB. But I played early. I wasn't mastering the position or the skillset. I was just going out there and playing."
Where do you feel like you're better this year?
"Just my all-around game. Going out there and being a complete receiver all around."
What kind of advice did Randy Moss give you?
"He gave me a lot of advice, more so off the field than on the field. He saw what I could do out there at practice when I was out there. He kind of played in a similar offense that I played in, so just kind of things about this offense and what I can do to become a better player in this offense."
Are you impressed or pleased with how things have gone since QB Brock Osweiler's arrival?
"We're working hard every day, just trying to get better day in and day out. Ever since he called the guys to Arizona to tell us to come out there and work with him, it spoke a lot about him."
Did you know that was going to mean a lot back then?
"Yeah, I knew that was going to mean a lot then because I've never had a quarterback demand, basically, for us to come out of our comfort zone while we're training, to come out there and be with him."
How encouraging is it to have some stability at the quarterback position?
"Very exciting, very exciting. I don't like talking about the past too much, but even last year going into the season we kind of thought we had a starting quarterback, we knew who it was. If a guy can play at this level as a professional quarterback then he deserves to be here, so I will never throw any of those quarterbacks into the ground because they're all pros, but knowing who my No. 1 quarterback is, being able to get timing down, it helps a lot."
What do you make of the Bears defense?
"Very talented. Very talented defense. They don't have a lot of guys out there that will just pop out to you as Pro Bowl guys, but they have young guys, they have veteran guys and they're a very physical defense."
Would you say your style is more about action than words, especially on the field?
"I talk on the field. You guys just don't hear it. That's how I've been my whole life. But once I come off the field, I'm a normal person. I would say I go out there and lead by example, for sure."
Are you good at talking on the field?
"I just do it. It's natural when you're out there in the gladiator state of mind. You're just out there playing."
NT VINCE WILFORK
Head Coach Bill O'Brien was just saying he liked how you nailed your conditioning test. Do you feel fresher this year?
"Every year gets harder and harder. The older you get, the harder you have to work. I understand that being around the game for a while. Just knowing guys when I was young, there were guys 9-10 years older explaining to me then that one day you're going to get older, and if you're still playing there's certain things you have to do. I can't look at myself as a young guy anymore, doing the things some guys do now. I take advantage of it. Every chance I get to work on something I try to work on it. I've always been a big believer in conditioning, especially being a big guy. Being able to be well conditioned, it's huge. I take pride in that. It wasn't a surprise for me. Thirteen years, that's a pretty good career, and I don't plan on slowing down anytime soon. I know I have to work harder than other people, though."
How much did you enjoy it a couple weeks ago when Defensive Line Coach Anthony Weaver let you guys catch some passes in practice?
"I like to have fun. At the end of the day, this game is meant to be fun even though we get paid pretty well. To win, you have to have a group of guys that love the game, that love the passion, that have the passion for the game, that love each other, treat each other like family. Sometimes we get away from the fact that it is a game and the more fun you can have doing what you love, the better you'll be. I think this team this year has the right mindset. It started in OTAs and through camp. We attacked it head on. Being in Houston and the heat, it's not fun, but when you look around and see guys that aren't complaining and Bill (O'Brien) throwing everything he could at us and we respond, that's the sign of a good football team. Right now we just have to boil it down and put it on the field. That's going to be the most important thing, taking it from the practice field to the game field."
Did you know DE J.J. Watt was going through so much this offseason?
"No. I think I found out when everybody else found out. It's tough to go through something, especially when you're away from something that you love. It's tough to mentally fight through it. The physical part, you can get through anything. We play through pain in times like that, but mentally it can kind of wear you down. When I was hurt that was one of the biggest things for me, being able to just sit there and do nothing. That's tough. When something gets taken away from you that you love, you start questioning a lot of things: is it worth it, how you're going to come back, how long is it going to take, what is it going to be these next couple months? But I think he worked his tail off to get back. Every day we're happy to have him back. He's getting a little older himself, so he's not going to be the same as when he first got here, so there's things that he's going to have to do differently, and he understands that. The more we can stay a close-knit family in this locker room, the better we'll be, the better team we'll have. I think right now we have a pretty good locker room and I hope it stays that way."
You've said many times you won't keep coming back unless it's fun and the team is competitive. Where do you see that with this team?
"We all have fun. This team is a hard-working team. Coach (Bill O'Brien) has put us through hell, and he's supposed to. You have to challenge your team and I don't think you get challenged to the highest level like we do because of just acclimating to what we have to deal with, with the weather, being out there in over 100-degree weather and we're full-padded practicing, with two, two and a half hours of getting after it full speed. He challenges us. Not once did anyone say anything about why we're doing this or we shouldn't be doing that, we should be having a day off. Guys came to work, and that's the sign of a good football team. If we can go through what he put us through, it's just one sign that we can be as good as we want to be. But it has to show on Sundays. Everything we do in practice we have to transfer to the game. This week we're going to start with Chicago."
Is there anything you've seen from the defense the last couple weeks that makes you can do what you did the last few weeks of last season?
"Just everybody's focused, everybody's tuned in on their job, everybody holding each other accountable, understanding the playbook in and out, understanding our opponents, just understanding what we have to do to win. We have been. We're on the right track right now. It's all good until the bullets start flying on Sunday and you have to think and react and it counts. There's no more preseason. It's not practice. It counts. Everything we do Sunday we have to make sure we're doing everything we possibly can on these practice days to get us right for Sunday. I think right now we're pretty good. It's not perfect, but we have a couple more days to get it right where we want to get it and be ready to come out and play ball come Sunday."
How good can OLB Jadeveon Clowney be if he stays healthy?
"We all saw it. We've all seen it in college. He's worked his tail off this year, all offseason and coming back in shape, he's playing, he's happy, he's smiling. That's what we want. The more we can have that, the better this team will be. Not just him, it's all of us. Health is going to play a big part of this team's success. That's always something to look into in a season. The more healthy your team can be, the more chances you have at the end. We have to do everything we possibly can. It's the weight room, it's outside, it's in the treatment room, taking care of your bodies, understanding what it takes to be a professional. Right now it's all good, but it's at the start. As long as we can keep everybody healthy we'll have a chance."
What do you have to do to prepare for a quarterback like Bears QB Jay Cutler?
"I tell you what, he can hurt you on the ground and in the air. He can make every throw and he's very competitive. He has guys around him that he can get the ball to. We have our hands full with a quarterback like Jay. He wears his passion on his sleeves, I'll tell you that. He's a gunslinger. He's not afraid of much. He does a good job of getting the ball into his playmakers' hands, so we have to do a good job defensively to hold up on that end. But it's more than Jay that we have to worry about. It's the whole Chicago team we have to focus on, but he's definitely the leader of their offense so we have to make sure we're doing everything we possibly can to make sure we contain him."