LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler had something else to worry about Friday besides getting familiar with the complex offense being installed by new coordinator Mike Martz.
It was Julius Peppers, the new Bear who immediately made his presence felt in non-contact scrimmages by pressuring Cutler and even knocking the ball out of his hand as he attempted to throw.
"He's a good player, but offensively, we've just got to clean some stuff up," Cutler said as the three-day minicamp got under way. "I do. We're all learning. I think we're all learning at a pretty good pace so far."
Peppers and the new offense, which will include running back Chester Taylor as well as Matt Forte, took center stage as the Bears began the first of five practices. The full squad was in attendance, though defensive tackle Tommie Harris is practicing only once a day and center Olin Kreutz cannot go yet after undergoing bone spur surgery.
When Cutler did get passes off, a surprisingly high number went to tight ends Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark. Martz's offense didn't use tight ends much in his time with the St. Louis Rams, Detroit Lions and San Francisco 49ers.
"We're going to spread it around, get everyone touches," Cutler said.
The offense emphasizes deeper quarterback drops and passes to spots on the field rather than throwing directly at receivers.
"It is a little bit different," Cutler said. "It's a high-paced, high-octane offense. Guys are flying around. Quarterbacks have to make quick, precise decisions and you have to be really accurate with the ball. It puts a lot on the quarterback, puts a lot on the receivers."
Cutler last year led the NFL with 26 interceptions in his first season with the Bears while playing in a different offense. He expects the entire offense to understand the new attack by the July 29 reporting date for training camp.
"That's the game plan," he said. "We've got a lot of time. But we've got to keep putting a lot of pressure on myself and the rest of the guys to learn as much as possible as quickly as possible, but be able to retain all the information throughout the year — that's going to be the hard part."
The defense definitely had the upper hand as Peppers made a difference in the pass rush. He moved back and forth from right to left defensive end all practice and the Bears plan to use him that way after signing the five-time Pro Bowler away from Carolina with a six-year deal worth potentially $91.5 million.
"Before I actually signed to come, that was something that was discussed, as far as where I was going to play and how they were going to use me and those type things," Peppers said. "I expected to be moved around and right now we're just trying to figure it out."
The Bears' defense ranked 17th last year after finishing 21st and 28th the previous two seasons. They signed Peppers to try to bolster their pass rush.
"There are certain guys that, No. 1, you pay a lot of money to for a certain reason and he's going to earn every dime," coach Lovie Smith said.
The Bears' defense had linebacker Brian Urlacher back on the field for the first time since the 2009 season opener, when he suffered a season-ending dislocated wrist. Urlacher made an interception of Cutler during Friday's full-squad scrimmage. The defensive starters also played with safety Chris Harris, reacquired in a trade after being dealt to Carolina in 2007.
"Brian missed most of last year, but he's been here every day in the offseason (working out)," Smith said. "He's a good football player, we're expecting great things from him. It seemed like old times out there today with him. Also with guys like Chris Harris. Getting Chris Harris, it seems like he never left us."
Urlacher recently engaged in a salvo of words through the media with former Bears great Gale Sayers, who had criticized him, the coaching staff and team. The war of words caught Smith's eye.
"Those are guys in the Bear family," Smith said. "When you're in a family, ideally you would like to keep things in (house), but when you're in the Bear family no one in the Bear family is happy with where we are right now. That's why you need minicamps and things like that. Our football team is better and when we play better this year, everybody will be happy."
A few other players will be limited or miss the camp. Recently acquired tight end Brandon Manumaleuna is out after arthroscopic knee surgery. Linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa, who had knee surgery last year, is going on a limited basis. Defensive tackle Marcus Harrison was out due to illness.