While the NFL player’s union and owners battle it out in the bargaining room, players are not allowed to train at team facilities such as Halas Hall. High school fields were an option, but after Greg Olsen was kicked off a local high school field, the Bears had to turn to their last resort: children’s playgrounds.

“I try to go through the slide as many times as possible in five minutes,” said an exhausted Brian Urlacher after reaching the bottom of the tube slide. “It’s one of the most difficult workouts I’ve ever done. I don’t know why we didn’t think of this earlier.”

Julius Peppers agrees. He’s just another of the many members of the Bears who can’t say enough about the benefits of training in a jungle gym.

“The monkey bars have been a wonder on my arms, while the see saw has already added strength to my legs,” said Peppers, struggling to make it all the way across the bars. “I’m in the best shape of my career!”

While the defense sticks mostly to the equipment, the offense can be seen every day rallying around Jay Cutler as he draws out plays in the sand box and executes them in a nearby field. Players are even hyping up the other aspects of their game that has improved, such as how arguing with the moms about how they’re not letting the children go ahead of them because they got there first will no doubt help when arguing with referees on game day. Even Cutler’s fiancee, Kristin Cavallari, is getting into the action by organizing games of tag.

Still, as much as the Bears seem to think this is actually helping, some are skeptical and admit there are drawbacks.

“The biggest problem is waiting for kids to get off certain pieces of equipment,” said Devin Hester, who was upset because he had to wait for a group of girls to get off the balance beam. “They may think this playground was built for fun and games, but if we’re gonna take down the Packers this season, we need this to practice.”

By Michael Kloempken. Photoshop by George Ellis

Michael Kloempken