The Bears kicked off their three-day rookie minicamp Friday with a 70-minute practice at Halas Hall. Here are five things that stood out:
(1) A total of 65 players took part in the workout. There were nine draft picks, 11 undrafted free agents, six first-year Bears and 39 unsigned prospects—32 rookies and seven veterans—participating on a tryout basis.
The fact that the Bears started five undrafted rookies last season should provide hope to every player on the practice field this weekend, regardless of their pedigree. Those rookies were Jonathan Anderson, Bryce Callahan, Harold Jones-Quartey, Khari Lee and John Timu.
"I've seen these guys come from all different places, whether it's high picks, low picks, not picked," said coach John Fox. "They understand they get an opportunity. They had one of those chairs in the [meeting] rooms last night, and they're being evaluated. So they've got albeit a short time to catch coaches' eyes, [but] they have that opportunity."
Bears DL Jonathan Bullard on the first day of rookie minicamp.
Bears coaches are evaluating everything the players do, from how they digest new schemes to how they warm up for practice, even how they line up for stretching drills.
"We're looking for consistency," said first-year offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. "We're looking for guys who understand what it means to be a Bear, to understand the expectations that coach Fox has set for this football team."
(2) Loggains addressed the media for the first time since being promoted from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator in January. He replaced Adam Gase, who left the Bears after one season to become Dolphins head coach.
Loggains revealed that the scheme would remain virtually unchanged, at least to begin with. "The shell of the offense will stay the same," he said. "It's been the same since coach Fox has been a head coach. The language and everything will be the same, but it will evolve like it would have if Adam would have been here."
Loggains joined the Bears in 2015 after one year as Browns quarterbacks coach. He spent the prior eight seasons with the Titans as an offensive assistant. Loggains was elevated from Tennessee's quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator for the final five games in 2012 and served in that role for the entire 2013 season.
Asked what the opportunity to become Bears offensive coordinator means to him, Loggains said: "It all starts with coach Fox. He's a guy that's a known winner; he's taken two teams to Super Bowls. It's an honor to be a Bear because it's one of the historic franchises in the National Football League, so that's where it's different.
"I'm excited about the opportunity because of my boss and the people above him and because of the locker room. We're building something here. We're building a roster that I'm happy with the direction it's going. We're not there yet, but we're getting a lot closer."
(3) Loggains and Gase were both praised for helping Jay Cutler post a career-high 92.3 passer rating last season and reducing his interceptions from 18 in 2014 to 11. But Loggains insists that the quarterback is the only one who should be applauded.
ChicagoBears.com takes you to the practice fields at Halas Hall for the first day of rookie minicamp.
"I don't think Adam or I should take the credit," Loggains said. "Jay made the choice to improve and work on the things we asked him to work on, and I hope that process continues."
Asked to explain why he has such an excellent rapport with Cutler, Loggains said: "I think it's mutual respect. I respect him and he respects me. When you have that mutual respect, then all dialogue is legal. So whatever I say to him, he knows where it's coming from, and vice versa."
(4) Running back Jordan Howard, a fifth-round pick from Indiana, was one of three players who addressed the media from behind a podium after Friday's practice.
Howard wears an Alabama-Birmingham bracelet that he said he hasn't taken off since the school abruptly disbanded its football program late in his junior season in 2014. The Blazers had just become bowl eligible when the administration pulled the plug.
"I already had a big chip on my shoulder because that was my only offer coming out of high school," Howard said. "It just made my chip even bigger. I definitely wanted to play well for UAB [last season at Indiana] and put on for UAB because the program shut down. They just took it from us like it was nothing."
Playing his first two collegiate seasons at Alabama-Birmingham, Howard rushed for 2,468 yards and 15 TDs on 451 carries. He ran for 1,213 yards and nine TDs on 196 carries last year at Indiana despite missing four games with ankle and knee injuries.
(5) Guard Cody Whitehair, a second-round pick from Kansas State, is known for his strong hands, an attribute he began to develop while working on his family's farm.
"I threw a lot of hay bales," said the 6-4, 301-pounder. "Once I went to college I didn't quite get to do it as much, but when I was in high school I was always out there at six in the morning. If we had a truck driver coming in at 11 o'clock at night, I had to be that guy to help out.
"I just like to be on a farm. I like the outdoors and I like to work hard. It's just what I am, it's who I am and what I like to do."