Notebook: Bears Setting Standard In Bourbonnais

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BOURBONNAIS, Ill. (670 The Score) -- Bears rookie running back David Montgomery was running with only green grass ahead of him to the end zone when he heard footsteps chasing behind. It was linebacker Khalil Mack charging at him just shy of the goal line looking to rip the football free.

The Bears had the toughest defense to score against in 2018, ranking first in the NFL allowing only 17.7 points per game. They can be just as daunting in practice, as Montgomery learned as Mack chased him down Tuesday morning.

From the superstar Mack to the rest of the defense, the Bears are practicing like they intend to play.

"It's an energy that you feel when you're out there," Mack said. "You can't help but bounce around and feel light because everybody is flying around to the ball and wants to make a play."

Coach Matt Nagy has been the man reiterating to his Bears that what they accomplished last season -- winning the NFC North crown and reaching the playoffs -- doesn't mean anything with a new season ahead. His task is preventing his team from encountering complacency. Early in training camp, that hasn't been a problem.

The Bears have 11 practices under their belt this preseason, and Nagy has sensed a special trait in his team.

"Not one time, literally not one time this whole camp, not one time in the periods, have I had to say to pick it up," Nagy said. "Not one time. 

"It's real. These guys, they lead themselves. They motivate themselves."

The opportunity to improve has been something the Bears have embraced since their season ended in the wild-card round last January. They reconvened in the spring and had near-perfect attendance for the entire offseason program. Every player was accounted for during optional OTAs and veteran minicamp. 

Now, the Bears have carried it into training camp at Olivet Nazarene. 

How this team has worked has impressed new secondary coach Deshea Townsend, a two-time Super Bowl champion as a player.

"They compete," Townsend said. "No matter where it is, when coach puts the ball down and tells them the period, they come compete. That's all you ask for. You don't have to push them. They're self-motivated. It's easy when they're self-motivated.

"I've been on some good defensive teams. They have it within. They're close. You see them, they push each other, they can get on each other. When you have that, you tend to be a good defense. 

"It's hard to find."

Mistakes are OK

Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is tasked each day with facing an elite defense in practice, and it's a challenge the Bears believe will benefit him moving forward.

"Each play is a chess match for us," quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone said. "This is when you want to be tested as a quarterback. You want to go through it in training camp. You want to go through it when you get your chance in preseason.

"You want your best versus best. This is a time where you're going to see what you need to get better at, what you got better at and then move on from there with the next-play mentality."

Trubisky, 24, is working his second training camp under the direction of Nagy, who has encouraged him to take chances. The Bears don't want Trubisky to be shy of making mistakes in practice. Instead, they encourage him to force a ball into tight coverage on occasion and evaluate the play on film later.

That happened in practice Friday when Trubisky threw a deep ball to top receiver Allen Robinson. Robinson beat cornerback Kyle Fuller, but safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix came from over the top and intercepted the pass. For Trubisky, it was an example of something he could have done better -- in this case, throw the ball earlier, as offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich said.

"That's why we do those things right now," Helfrich added. "We want to make a million mistakes on this field so when we're in Soldier Field or wherever else, that's happened before and we learn from it. "

Mack truck

What's it like coaching a superstar in Mack?

"Hah, where do I start?" new Bears outside linebackers coach Ted Monachino said. "My job is not to screw him up. Give him a few tools that he can add to his toolbox so there are certain situations where he can play better. There's always ways to play better. 

"You coach them to perfection. Those really great ones like Khalil and Terrell Suggs and some of those really good ones that I've coached, they come pretty close to it."

Extra points

-- Bears tight end Trey Burton was held out for a fourth straight practice, but the team continues to downplay his absence. Burton had sports hernia surgery in the offseason.

"Mentally, I'm not worried about him at all," Nagy said. "Timing he had all year last year with Mitch. We just want to make sure he's really good come Week 1."

-- Rookie receiver Riley Ridley practiced near full speed and has caught the attention of Nagy. The Bears are "50-50" as to whether Ridley will play in the preseason opener against the Titans on Thursday, Nagy said. 

"He's adjusted well to the playbook," Nagy said. "Unfortunately, he had that hamstring (injury). He's come back now, he's worked every day to get back to this point."

-- Illinois governor JB Pritzker was on hand for practice Tuesday and set his expectations for the Bears. 

"He told me he expects 16-0 and a Super Bowl," Nagy said.

-- The Bears still haven't publicly committed to their plan for playing time Thursday, but Nagy suggested it will be similar to last preseason, when the Bears held out most of their key players and used the exhibitions to assess roster depth.

"We're still going through some things with that," Nagy said. "I think you guys know where I stand a little bit big picture. We'll see."

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.