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To begin rookie minicamp, the Chicago Bears had 69 players listed on the Friday roster.
Before the newest members of the organization took the practice field inside the Walter Payton Center, Bears coach Matt Eberflus had a familiar face stop by Halas Hall the day before – Charles “Peanut” Tillman, the inventor of the “Peanut Punch.”
“It’s important for our staff and this, what we believe to understand the history and honor that tradition,” Bears coach Matt Eberflus said. “Because what has been done here before in the past, the greats of the past is just outstanding. And to bring those guys back and to relay that message, that foundational core that those guys put together for this franchise is second to none. And those guys? Our new players, young players have to recognize that.
And the message Tillman had was outstanding the other day. Just about being a pro, being a Chicago Bear and what that means to him and what it means to the fans and what it means to the city. To me, you can’t have enough of that. I told Charles, pass the word around. Talk to the guys. As you know, I texted a bunch of guys when I got the job. I’ve talked to several of them. They’re all welcome to come in. We would love to see them. And we’re excited about having guys like that around in the future.”
One of the players who was excited to hear from Tillman was second-round draft pick Kyler Gordon.
“Yeah, that was wild. … We watched him at U-Dub all the time,” Gordon said. “We always practiced the ‘Peanut Punch’ and then he walked behind us and I was like, ‘Damn, that’s him!’ That was cool. Just hearing what he said like it was cool to get the information he was talking about and, you know, it was happy to have him there. Yeah, thankful.”
Keeping Track of Kyler Gordon
With this being the first time seeing the rookies in action, I wanted to focus a lot of attention to Poles’ first draft pick: Gordon.
The No. 38 overall pick sported orange and white cleats and a blue long sleeve under his No. 6 practice jersey. In basic backpedaling drills, the former competitive dancer looked smooth in and out of his breaks. I also didn’t see him drop any passes that were thrown his way during the drills.
For the most part, Gordon had a good first practice. But he wasn’t able to finish Day 1 of rookie minicamp. During the 7-on-7 portion, Gordon was covering Velus Jones Jr. and ended up on the ground and looked down at his leg. The trainers looked at him and had him stretch off to the side.
Eberflus told the media that Gordon “just had cramps” and that he should be ready for tomorrow’s practice.
H.I.T.S Philosophy Sinking In
Trestan Ebner’s first carry as a Chicago Bear most likely didn’t end up how he envisioned it. As the sixth-round draft pick made his way into the middle of the defense, a swarm of fists came barreling down on the running back. Then all of a sudden, the ball ended up on the ground. Immediately one of the defenders picked it up and yelling from the defensive sideline ensued as the unit on the field looked to score.
Eberflus’ “H.I.T.S” philosophy is already being executed among the young players. In the defensive back and linebacker drills, coaches can be constantly heard preaching to “sprint all the way through” and to “finish every drill full speed.”
If a ball hit the ground – even on an incomplete pass – the defensive players knew to pick up the football and run as if it were a fumble.
The intensity of practice was also noticeable. There wasn’t much time for breaks for any of the units throughout the Walter Payton Center. Even though the operation of the practice looked smooth from my perspective, Eberflus did acknowledge he wants to work on that heading into tomorrow.
“The message to the team afterward was really, we just have to do a better job as we do with the rookies — the transition from drill to drill, that needs to be quicker,” Eberflus said. “The tempo of the practice in terms of getting in and out of the huddle, defense — ball’s ready, we’re ready, all the mechanics of that, and then really just the rudiments of the game: alignment, assignment, key and technique with the whole offense and defense was a little bit needed work today, but we’ll get better tomorrow, and that’s to be expected for the rookies.”
UDFAs Who Stood Out and Other Observations
These rookies, undrafted free agents and tryout players are taking a lot in as they begin their journeys in the NFL, which is exactly what the Bears’ coaching staff wanted to accomplish on Day 1 of rookie minicamp.
“Yeah, I mean, the rookies, we’re really just throwing everything at them in terms of what the simplicity of the installs are gonna be and then the next day and then we kind of slow down for the last day, just to see if they can retain it,” Eberflus said. “For us, it’s more about can you function as a pro. Mentally first. Can you get the schemes and then the formations the motions down and then can you operate and make the play? And then, can you listen to instructions? Can you practice the right way, because you’ve got to be able to stay on your feet and practice the right tempo and do the things the right way, and I think guys did a good job with that. But that’s really what we’re looking for for each rookie at this time.”
- Even though Eberflus needed to be reminded of what number Allie Green IV was wearing, the coaching staff has their eyes on the 6-foot-3, 203-pound cornerback out of Missouri. Green looked fluid in all of the defensive back drills. And he was the corner who got the first opportunity to start outside opposite of Gordon. He was someone I highlighted in my top players to watch heading into rookie minicamp.
- Liberty wide receiver Kevin Shaa had a nice catch down the right sideline. The 5-foot-10, 166-pound receiver went up and elevated over the cornerback to make the acrobatic catch.
- Sixth-round pick Zachary Thomas lined up at right guard in Friday’s practice. Thomas started 12 games at left tackle at San Diego State last season.
- Linebackers Jack Sanborn from Wisconsin and Jaylan Alexander from Purdue got the first shot at starting in the interior of the Bears’ defense.
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