BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- When Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman talks about dealing with "the noise," he's not thinking about the crickets outside the Olivet Nazarene dorm rooms.
When the fans show up in full force this weekend to watch the Bears practice, the two words on everyone's lips will be "Super Bowl."
That's OK. That's what the organization is thinking about, too.
"That's our goal," the always loquacious Phil Emery said at the team's opening news conference. "We're not going to apologize for it; that's our goal. Our goal as an organization is to win championships. We have fallen short since I've been here. That doesn't mean we're going to change our goal."
The Bears finished far from that goal last year in an 8-8 season marred by a last-second loss to Green Bay that knocked Chicago out of the playoffs. But hopes are high for this team, which finally has an offense worth talking about.
While almost every position is up for grabs on defense following last year's grind-it-out season, the offense comes back almost completely whole, with visions of domination in their second year under Trestman's tutelage.
You know it's a different era when we're asking Cutler questions about overconfidence.
"We haven't had a lot of success, so I don't think it's that hard" to protect against cockiness, Cutler said. "It's not like we're coming off a monster season after monster season. I still think this is still a hungry group. There's a lot left that we want to prove."
Trestman calls that "turning paper into performance." We know the Bears offense could be dangerous. But so do the defenses preparing for them.
Cutler, who mingled with the hoi polloi at his charity beach volleyball tournament last week, understands that people are excited about a team that boasts perhaps the best receiving duo in the NFL in Marshall and Jeffery. He realizes there are high expectations for him in his sixth season with the Bears.
"We're glad they're excited," Cutler said. "We try not to let it affect us. But obviously, being out in the city and being around people, you can tell how excited they are, how ready they are for this season. We can't let that kind of seep into our mindset. We haven't done anything yet. We've got to take this camp seriously and get out of it as much as we can."
While the offense was top-five to top-10 in most important categories, there is plenty of room to improve and several reasons to believe a backslide is possible. Injuries and turnovers, first and foremost.
Cutler is, of course, the focal point. What are his expectations this season? He's got the weapons, and he says the Bears' playbook is "pretty dialed-in" already, with only a few "more tweaks here and there" expected throughout the season. Trestman talks a lot about paying attention to detail, previously not thought to be one of Cutler's strengths. Now the 31-year-old quarterback is talking about the importance of footwork and mental legwork, just like his coach.
"I think statistics kind of take care of themselves," Cutler said. "We do more of the little things of my mechanics, play to play, not wasting plays, looking for the best play possible. We set goals in that manner. At the end of the day, if we win the game, we can always clean up the mess afterward. That's kind where we stand."
Last season, Cutler's future was the storyline. Then, the Bears took about five minutes after that painful loss to Green Bay to re-sign him to a big deal. Cutler is the quarterback of the present and the future. Will that pressure be off his shoulders?
"Yeah, yeah, I think that's definitely fair," he said. "There were a lot of questions last year going into the season: Would I be back? How would everything work out with Tress? How would the offense work? So this year, there are still questions, but they're questions about, 'Are we going to go out and perform and do what we did last year?' I think that's a better feeling going into camp for myself."
The main positional question right now isn't starting tackle or second wide receiver; it's backup quarterback, between Jordan Palmer and Jimmy Clausen. Let's not think about Cutler missing five or six games right now. There are a host of running backs looking to spell Matt Forte, and Marquess Wilson is aiming for that third receiver role.
But for me, the real question is the old one: offensive line.
Maybe I'm just not used to prosperity.
The offensive line jelled quickly last season, after adding four new starters. The Bears quarterbacks, Cutler and the sainted backup Josh McCown, only got sacked 30 times all season. Forte had a strong season. I'll admit it, I'm waiting for bad things to happen.
Left guard Matt Slauson is returning from an injury, and center Roberto Garza, a beast in the weight room, is 35. Jermon Bushrod has little room for error on the left side, and then are second-year starters in Kyle Long and Jordan Mills.
Starting two rookie offensive linemen is rarely done; can they improve even more this season? Furthermore, can they all stay healthy? Cutler looked much better last season because he wasn't skittish. He's admitted as much many times. The previous iterations of the Bears' offensive line warped Cutler's progress and decimated offensive game plans, many of which were flawed from the get-go. Trestman can't tell yet how this group will perform, but he likes how they're preparing.
"From start to finish, they're always working," Trestman said. "They're always doing the things to try to help them get better. That's what we're gonna try to do. We're just gonna try to get everybody better because a 6-inch step, a hand placement, where your eyes go -- they all make a difference. They're the difference between the quarterback having an extra click and not having a click to make a throw. That's what we're gonna try to do in every way. We're facing some tremendous defensive minds across the league this year, and those things are important. So it's about just the mindset of we've got to go back to work."
Chicago architect Mies van der Rohe was famous for using the phrase, "God is in the details." That's one to put up in the Bears locker room, because if these Bears can focus on the little things, as Trestman commands, we can expect big things from them.