It's only mini-camp.
The biggest danger facing the Bears heading into the 2012 season could be high expectations. With Jay Cutler's comfort level at a record-high, Brandon Marshall the best receiver the Bears have had since Harlon Hill and Mike Tice replacing Mike Martz as offensive coordinator, the enthusiasm could quickly become overwhelming -- and it's only June.
Cutler, not prone to overstating anything, added to the momentumafter Day 1 of the Bears' mini-camp Tuesday at Halas Hall, calling Marshall, Earl Bennett, Devin Hester & Co. ''the best receiver group I've worked with.''
''It's kind of surprising to see where we're at and how well the guys ave picked
it up,'' Cutler said. ''It's a testament to how hard they have worked. There are a lot of fun guys. It's a good group. It's the best receiver group
I've worked with. A lot of guys on this team like coming to work and like
football so that makes my job a lot easier.''
The finicky Cutler thrives on a comfort level, and with Jeremy Bates as his quarterback coach, Tice as his offensive coordinator and Marshall as his No. 1 receiver, Cutler couldn't be any more comfortable if he were running the show himself. Bates has helped install an offense that is comparable to the one Cutler ran in Denver when he made the Pro Bowl in 2008.
''It's stuff that I do well. It's stuff that I know,'' Cutler said. ''As a quarterback you want to be in the same offense over and over and over and over again so you can get a good feel for it and so you know all the nuances. This offense, I was in it three years in Denver, so this is my fourth year in it. I'm very comfortable with it.''
The Tice/Bates offense is expected to allow Cutler to call audibles, which he could not do in Martz's offense. ''That's the word,'' Cutler said.
It remains to be seen whether the enthusiasm and change will lead to better offensive numbers -- lost in the Martz-to-Tice transition is the fact that the Bears' offense averaged 27 points a game during the five-game winning streak prior to Cutler's season-ending thumb injury.
But by the same token, that Martz is no longer there seems to have made a difference for Cutler. He's already developed a good relationship with Tice, emphasizing again Tuesday that Tice is ''listening to a lot of different guys ad taking everyone's opinion into consideration.''
''I think Mike's done a heck of a job,'' Cutler said. ''I think he's got probably the hardest job of a lot of guys in this building, being able to mesh all of these offensive players with different schemes.
''It's always hard as a first-time coordinator installing your offense and getting it up and running for Game 1. He's got a tough gig, but he's doing great. He's listening to a lot of different guys and taking everyone's opinion into consideration and trying to find the best solution.''
All that's left is the rest of mini-camp, training camp and four preseason games before the regular-season opener Sept. 9 against the Indianapolis Colts at Soldier Field. It's almost scary to hear a Bears quarterback say the offense is ''playing fast'' in June. It seemingly took four games into Year 2 to reach that point in the Martz offense.
''We don't want to get ahead of ourselves but I think everybody is feeling really comfortable, myself included, with [Bates and Marshall] and those guys,'' Cutler said. ''We've got a good group. Everybody is kind of feeding off that and staying relaxed and playing fast. That's what we want to do as an offense.''