By Doug Halberstadt
The 2011 Chicago Bears have begun their training camp workouts on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Ill. For the past nine years, thousands of fans have flocked to the site 60 miles south of Chicago to watch the team go through their drills and practices in preparation for the upcoming season.
This Friday night, Aug. 5, the Bears will move their evening practice session from Bourbonnais back to Soldier Field in Chicago for an annual event that has become known as “Family Fest.”
The festivities begin at 5 p.m. outside the stadium. Activities include a live band, entertainment, radio station remote broadcasts, kids’ games, sponsor booths and giveaways. Gates open at 5 p.m. for entry into Soldier Field, and practice begins at 7 p.m.
Fans are encouraged to enter early to see exciting youth football demonstrations. Player introductions will start at 6:45 p.m., and practice will begin promptly at 7 p.m. The first 20,000 fans to enter the stadium will receive a scratch-off card for the chance to go on the field, meet a player, and win a signed practice jersey in the Comcast Practice Jersey Giveaway Contest.
Assigned seating is $8 (in advance) and available for purchase at www.ChicagoBears.com. Onsite sales will be available for $12 starting at 3 p.m., Friday, Aug. 5 outside of Gate 10 and Gate 45/47 (cash only at this location). Families who purchase four or more tickets in advance will receive a $1 discount per ticket.
Bears fans will notice the conspicuous absence of a couple of their former favorites. The team released Olin Kreutz, the long-time center and cornerstone of the offensive line, Sunday, July 31. Last Thursday, July 28, they traded last year’s starting tight end, Greg Olsen, to the Carolina Panthers for an undisclosed draft pick.
Kreutz played 13 seasons with the Bears, appearing in 191 games with 183 starts, one shy of Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton’s franchise record.
Olsen was the Bears’ first-round draft choice in the 2007 draft (31st overall). He appeared in 62 games with 39 starts in four seasons, catching 194 passes for 1,981 yards and 20 touchdowns.
In case you can’t make it to Family Fest, the team will return to their regular training camp schedule this Saturday, Aug. 6, at 2:30 p.m. Practices at training camp are open to the public and are free of charge.
The Bears will play their first preseason game against the Buffalo Bills Saturday night, Aug. 13.