Chicago Bears to train in Bourbonnais

July 25, 2011 8:38:44 PM PDT
The Chicago Bears will return to Bourbonnais for training camp while the team and NFL work out a specific practice schedule.

Bears spokesman Mike Corbo confirmed the plan Monday. He said the earliest the team could begin practice is Friday.

Corbo said training camp was originally scheduled to open on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University on July 23, but did not due to a dispute between the NFL and the players' union.

The Bears will blast out the training camp schedule when it comes together.

After four and a half months, the NFL player lockout is over. Players' representatives voted unanimously to ratify the deal.

"To our fans, I know that you love that game as much as I do, and I know that it has been a very long process since the day that we stood here that night in march, but our guys stood together when nobody thought we would, and football is back because of it," DeMaurice Smith, NFLPA, said.

"It's good to have it, you know, behind us, have, you know, coaches, ownership, you know, with the players, everyone back as one team, and you know, focus on our goals," Israel Idonije, Bears defensive end, said.

Word of a deal is welcome news for the village of Bourbonnais. Many there count on the financial dollars that the Bears annual training camp brings. Business owners measure the potential cost of the lockout in much smaller - but no less real - dollars and cents.

"We actually get an increase in business, we make about 15 percent more than we'd normally make in those three weeks," said Tina Vasilakis, Brickstone Restaurant and Brewery.

Brickstone Restaurant and Brewery is popular with Bears players, and the fans who come to town to see them.

Nearby, on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University, the practice field has been ready for days. The team was supposed to begin training camp last Saturday.

Gary Griffin coordinates the Bears' visit for Olivet every year.

"More than anything, the community would've been hurt and feel the real effect of the Bears not being here if the NFL didn't come to an agreement. We're happy for the community most of all," said Griffin.

The town and, in fact, many in Kankakee County have been holding their collective breath a deal would get done. Local officials say the team's time there pumps millions of dollars into the local economy.

"We get a lot of people from out of town but also a lot of locals who may not stop by if they weren't over here," said lynn Alberico, T.J. Donlins Restaurant and Bar.

"We get 8 to 10,000 people in for a typical day and sometimes a night practice we may have 20,000 people here. Well our population is only 19,000, you can do the math," said Paul Schore, Bourbonnais mayor.

The Bears were scheduled to be in Bourbonnais for nearly an entire month. But the lockout canceled the Hall of Fame game and reduced camp to its regular length of just over three weeks.

The Chicago Bears will kick off the pre-season against the Buffalo Bills on Saturday, August 13 at Soldier Field, according to the NFL website.

NFL key dates (from

According to the documents forwarded to all agents from the NFLPA, obtained by La Canfora, the key dates to the league year would be as follows:

Monday: The free agent list will be published at 6 p.m. ET.

Tuesday: Facilities open "for training, conditioning" and "classroom" work; trading period begins (no time specified); teams can start signing undrafted free agents and their own draft picks at 10 a.m. ET; teams can begin negotiating with any free agents -- their own and those who were with other teams.

Thursday: Waiver period begins and teams can begin terminating contracts at 4:01 p.m. ET.

Friday: Full free agency begins -- teams can begin signing their own free agents and those who played with other teams at 6 p.m. ET.

Under the proposed schedule, training camps would open for 10 of the 32 teams on Wednesday, 10 more on Thursday, another 10 on Friday, and the last two teams on Sunday.

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