Something about Mitch Trubisky seemed different at Halas Hall Wednesday, and if what I sensed is accurate, it was a change for the better.
Perhaps it was just the rest he’s gotten with not playing and barely practicing since the first quarter of the Vikings game almost three weeks ago and being totally away from the game last week?
Or perhaps it’s a new and improved Mitch, more relaxed, more thoughtful and more his own man?
What seemed clear is his rapid fire, staccato responses to questions was slowed, and his tendency to fire off what sounded like scripted answers was replaced by a more thoughtful approach in which he seemed to be stopping and considering the question and trying to offer his own measured response rather than what often sounds like something he’s been coached to repeat.
You may recall the heat Trubisky took a few weeks ago after he was asked a question about the Packers game and replied that he wasn’t supposed to talk about that anymore.
Trubisky was asked Wednesday if his dislocated shoulder suffered during the Minnesota game was popped back into place on the field. He paused for a moment, looking to the media relations folks for guidance before answering, “Um. Can I ... Can I ... It went back in. Yeah, it went back in. It's a weird feeling. It's not good. Yeah.”
Unlike a few weeks ago, when it appeared Trubisky was asking permission to speak, this time he was clearly seeking clarification of what players are allowed to share about team medical practices on the sidelines and he turned another potentially embarrassing moment into a relaxed and entertaining quip that he and the media both were able to laugh about.
Trubisky was also comfortable with a minor contradiction of his head coach when he was asked if it’s true there are advantages to the young QB being able to watch from the sidelines, saying, “Yeah it helps, but not really that much," he said laughing.
"It's a lot better playing — it helps playing. So, I mean, you try to make a positive out of a negative by, like, you can't play and you try to make it positive by saying, 'it helps being on the sidelines and supporting your guys.'
But I really think the best experience is obviously getting out there and getting the reps."
As for Trubisky’s potential return to action Sunday, while nothing is official yet or most likely will be before Friday at the earliest, both Matt Nagy and the young QB were relatively open and comfortable talking about how close it appears to be to happening.
Nagy echoed earlier comments about it mostly coming down to pain tolerance.
“It’s obviously pain and then you listen to what the doctors are saying, what the trainers are saying, what he’s saying.
“But if Mitch is able to play and able to go out there and play, then that means to me that physically he’s ‘passed.’ He can play.”
I asked Trubisky about what seemed to me to be the most limiting factor for him if he is going to play with pain — does it hurt every time you throw the ball, even though it’s your non-throwing shoulder?
He again paused for a moment before responding, “Um, that's a good question.
“Obviously I haven't gotten hit since then and there always is some pain tolerance involved. I mean, this is football. So you've just got to figure out throughout the course of the week, I guess.
While that obviously wasn’t an answer to the question, I got no sense he was trying to dodge it, so I asked again, "OK, but does it hurt each time you throw the football?"
“It's pretty good when I'm throwing, yeah," he responded.
My playing amateur psychologist is no way to accurately analyze where a player is at, but a lot of this job is exactly that, listening and comparing what you hear to what you’ve heard before.
Having covered almost every press conference Trubisky has done since arriving in Chicago, I can tell you what I saw today really felt like a more relaxed and, more importantly, more confident Mitch Trubisky.
Whether that’s real or translates to the field Sunday remains to be seen.