As training camp nears an end, the Bears go under the lights for practice

BOURBONNAIS – It’s a simple thing that becomes a little bigger deal when a long training period comes to an end.

In fact, it can be a welcome chance to turn back the clock, as it was for Akiem Hicks on Saturday night.

“It feels a little like high school. I’m looking up in the stands and I’m looking for my mom and dad now,” said the defensive end at Olivet Nazarene’s Ward Field on Saturday evening. “It’s a good feeling, it’s a great atmosphere, we look forward to it.”

That’s a night practice – a taste of the “Friday Night Lights” on a Saturday. It’s the first and only one during a long training camp for the Bears in Bourbonnais, one that began with an early reporting day on July 19th and finally comes to an end on Sunday with a final workout.

With all possible tickets given out, the Bears went through a workout under the lights that was quite different from others the last three-and-a-half weeks. It was a unique atmosphere, said head coach Matt Nagy, but it presented challenges just 48 hours after the team’s last preseason game along with Saturday off work off the field.

“It’s a pretty long day for them, mentally, with the stretch of meetings that we’ve had, to have a late practice coming off a day off and now knowing that we break camp here after tomorrow,” said Nagy of Saturday. “I thought the energy was different, could have been better, but at the same time, right now, we’ve got some guys who’ve got some tired legs, just like all the other teams in this spot.

“We’ve just got to keep staying on them and keep them mentally strong.”

It doesn’t end with that workout on Sunday, which is closed to the public. The team heads to Denver for a pair of workouts with the Broncos before their third preseason game at Saturday night at Sports Authority Field. Then come workouts at Halas Hall till a final roster is set a week before the opener September 9th against the Packers.

Training camp, in the end, will be just a fraction of the time that defines the team, but at least Hicks believes the group got a sense of identity during their time in Bourbonnais.

“Early on we had to battle with some of those things about guys being younger and guys not knowing the scheme and just watching everybody over these past couple of weeks come together and really have a good grasp of this scheme, know what it takes to build our culture and work hard and make something out of our team,” said Hicks. “It’s a good feeling and we’re gonna leave here feeling good about the season.”

Not before a little time under the lights before turning them out on training camp in 2018.