LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- With still over a month left on the calendar until players are required to report to training camp, Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler told reporters on Tuesday he already has a strong comfort level with the club's new offense installed this offseason by coordinator Mike Tice.
"It's kind of surprising to see where we're at and how well the guys have picked it up," Cutler said at the onset of the team's mandatory minicamp. "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 non-contact nature of the NFL offseason program has made it counterproductive for the Bears to devote a huge chunk of practice time to the run game, but according to Tice, the group has been exposed to the entire offense.
"The whole offense is in," Tice said. "We've put it in more than once. We don't install everything in one day because that would be hard to install your whole playbook in one day, but we install big sections of our playbook each day.
"In minicamp, we've actually taken plays from our entire installation and narrowed them down to almost like a game-plan week where we've said, ‘OK, this percentage of play-action, this percentage of three wide receivers.' Not very man runs, though."
The Bears went to great lengths during the offseason to upgrade the offense with the addition of Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall and quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates, who both had previous relationships with Cutler dating back to their time together in Denver. Tice also made it priority to tailor the system to Cutler's strengths as opposed to the more rigid, scheme-driven offense run by previous coordinator Mike Martz.
"It's stuff that I do well," Cutler said. "It's stuff that I know. 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.'
"A lot of carryover (from my time in Denver), a lot of stuff we did last couple years. It's kind of a mixture of some stuff Mike had done in his past, stuff Jeremy has, and he learned even more in Seattle, so it's a mixture of a lot of different things."
Tice stressed the importance of taking input from Cutler as the team continues to grow in the new offense.
"Well, right now he's throwing every ball well, so it's hard to figure out what he's comfortable at," Tice said. "It looks like he's comfortable with everything that we've installed.
"But there are some things. The communication between the coaches and the players has been phenomenal. I've always found that sometimes the players have great thoughts, especially when they're very focused like our players are right now. They're trying to win. They're trying to play fast and explosive, play smart. So we're going to make sure that we put our players in positions to do well and not ask them to do things that we don't believe in as coaches or their body language is telling us that they don't like."
The quarterback is now even permitted to audible at the line of scrimmage, a practice that was taboo under the old Martz regime.
"That's the word (that I can audible)," Cutler said. "We did some (audible) stuff (on Tuesday), we've had a lot of OTAs. If we're going to look at stuff, now is the time to look at it and see if we like it and throw some stuff at the defense and throw some stuff at the wall and if it sticks we'll keep it. If not, we'll keep going."