BOURBONNAIS – This is a test. This is only a test.
If this were a real emergency, the Bears would have been running and screaming and praying to God (or is it Ditka?) (trick question!) to have mercy on their souls.
An overcast sky and a slight breeze greeted the Bears on Tuesday when they arrived to the practice field at Olivet Nazarene University. One hour later, at 10 a.m. on the nose tackle, something else greeted them.
It was a tornado siren.
Hut, hut, hike!
“That’s the first time since I’ve been here that I’ve heard the sirens go off,” veteran running back Michael Bush said with a smile. “But it didn’t alarm me or anything.”
Possibly, this is because Bush is a human wrecking ball at 6-foot-1 and 245 pounds. Alternatively, this is because Bush and his teammates were warned ahead of time that the nearby siren would blare at 10 a.m. as part of a regularly scheduled test.
By 10:03 a.m., the siren sputtered to its final note.
At 10:05 a.m., the siren awoke for a second round of testing.
At 10:08 a.m., silence. At least, as close as Bears practice ever comes to silence.
Through the noise, Bush ran for several gains down the right side of the field, fellow running back Michael Ford lumbered up the middle of the field once or twice, and Eric Weems slapped his hands in frustration after letting a ball hit the ground.
Fortunately, like the siren system, the Bears’ practice represented another test run. Thirty-two days remain before the real deal takes place Sept. 8 at Soldier Field, where the Bears will host the Cincinnati Bengals in the regular season opener.
“Coach was telling us not to be alarmed with everything,” said defensive end Corey Wootton, quite possibly the most laid-back player on the team. “Actually, it wasn’t as big of a deal as I thought it was going to be. I thought it would be louder.”
Keep in mind that Wootton’s workplace often includes 60,000-plus screaming strangers. Some of them paint their faces. Many of them lose their voices.
So, yeah, a tornado siren is kind of ho-hum by comparison.
Bush knew all about rowdy fans from his four-year stint with the Oakland Raiders. But he never had to practice with a tornado siren wailing across Northern California.
“Nah,” Bush said. “No tornadoes. You’ve got to worry about earthquakes. That’s about it.”
That’s about it?
That’s a pretty huge it. But the Raiders never bothered with team earthquake drills.
“In Oakland, when you get earthquakes, you’re sitting at the house or something,” Bush said. “And you’re nervous.”
And you’re shaking. But not because you’re nervous.
One earthquake in particular caught Bush’s attention in a hurry.
“It shook the TV real good,” Bush said. “It shook me. But then it was over with real quick.”
Wootton doesn’t know much about earthquakes. He’s from New Jersey.
“Sandy was the biggest thing, and that was a rarity going through Sandy,” Wootton said. “Usually, when a hurricane comes, it usually stops around North Carolina or something. It doesn’t go all the way up to New Jersey.”
Hurricanes never make it to Illinois. Neither do sharknadoes.
But tornadoes do happen, unfortunately, and the Bears need to be ready.
Veteran guard Matt Slauson grew up in Oregon but now considers Nebraska home. He was confident that his new teammates on the Bears would be prepared for a twister.
“Absolutely,” Slauson said. “Just as long as we don’t think it’s a test.”
• Northwest Herald sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @tcmusick.