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Rookie's booming punts fire up fans

Posted Jul 27, 2014

Enthusiastic Bears fans serenaded Pat O'Donnell with chants of "megapunt" as the rookie punter boomed the ball off his right foot Sunday in Bourbonnais.

An NFL coach since 1989, Bears special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis had never heard fans chant for a punter during a training camp practice until Sunday.

Many in the estimated crowd of 9,500 in Bourbonnais serenaded sixth-round pick Pat O'Donnell with chants of "mega-punt" as he boomed the ball high and deep into the sky off his right foot.

Pat O'Donnell
"That's obviously a first," DeCamillis said. "I was thinking, ‘You've got to be kidding me over there.' It was ridiculous. Let's keep the kid's feet on the ground so far."

Asked if O'Donnell won the punting job with his performance Sunday, DeCamillis said: "I don't know about that yet. That's jumping the gun a little bit. It was one practice. But I thought he did some good things today and we've just got to keep working and hopefully he keeps continuing stacking good days on good days."

O'Donnell set a school-record at Miami last season with a 47.1-yard gross average. He spent the previous four years at Cincinnati, redshirting after suffering an injury as a true freshman in 2009.

Asked if he heard the fans chanting for O'Donnell Sunday at practice, Bears coach Marc Trestman joked: "I sure did. Those Miami alums, they're an enthusiastic bunch."

The only punter selected in the 2014 draft, O'Donnell is competing in training camp with first-year pro Tress Way. The Bears are determined to improve their punt game this year after ranking last in the NFL with a 40.0-yard gross average last season.

Doubling up: For the first time since he joined the Bears in 2009, quarterback Jay Cutler is taking some reps in training camp with the second team offense as well as the starting unit.

"We're doing the same thing as we did in the spring," Trestman said. "A year ago we might've had different guys taking reps, but Jay is taking probably another three-to-four reps per period.

"We did that to give him more work, and as you saw today and as you have [before], he's not only working with Alshon [Jeffery], Brandon [Marshall] and Marquess [Wilson] but the other guys who are in this competition to make our team at wide receiver."

Injury update: After sitting out Saturday's practice with a sore quad, cornerback Tim Jennings suited up Sunday. But after racing downfield alongside Wilson early, Jennings exited.

"He was working and he felt he wasn't quite ready yet, and he did the right thing and took himself out," Trestman said. "We want to be very careful with Tim. He's had a really good spring and we want to make sure that he's fully healed. He gave it a shot today. He really wanted to get out there and work and got the go-ahead and he went down the field on that first go route and was as competitive as you could possibly be but just didn't feel right so we left him out."

Other players who sat out Sunday were right guard Kyle Long (viral infection), safeties Craig Steltz (groin) and Chris Conte (shoulder) and receiver Terrence Toliver (toe).

Real football: The Bears practiced in pads for the first time Sunday on the first hot and humid day in Bourbonnais since players reported to camp last Thursday.

"Overall, pretty typical first day in pads, guys getting used to carrying their pads and working in the heat," Trestman said. "As I told them, it was a good time for them to really assess their own personal conditioning and just to continue to do that as we move along."

News and notes: Defensive tackle Nate Collins, working his way back from a torn ACL last season, excelled in one-on-one pass rush drills. … The Bears waived guard James Dunbar, an undrafted rookie from TCU. … Receiver Chris Williams made several nice catches Sunday.

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