Veterans and rookies practiced together for the first time Monday as the Bears conducted the first of nine voluntary OTA workouts at Halas Hall.
"It's exciting to have everyone in the building together," said third-year tight end Cole Kmet. "You can feel a little bit of the anxiety from the rookies. But they're ready to roll and you can see it out on the practice field. They'll learn from the older guys—guys who've been here and been in the league—how to practice and things like that. But we're looking forward to a lot of good energy and we're really excited about it."
After having a week off, the rookies returned to Halas Hall Monday for the first time since participating in rookie minicamp May 6-8.
"A lot of these guys are very athletic and very smart guys that fit the scheme," said seventh-year offensive lineman Cody Whitehair. "So, it's pretty cool to throw them in the fire and see what they've got."
"It's great seeing those guys around," added fifth-year linebacker Roquan Smith. "They're trying to learn everything they can and take it all in from the vets. It's good having more bodies out there. They're part of the team now, so we've got to welcome those guys the right way, and we have to all work together."
Interacting with the rookies reminded Smith, a 2018 first-round pick, about his transition into the NFL.
"It was definitely a little different because you're coming from college where you're 'the man,'" Smith said. "And then when you're here, it's a room full of a lot of guys that have done a lot of great things in the league. If I had any advice for the guys, it would be to just take everything in, and there's something you can learn from everybody. And just keep that mindset and never get complacent."
The rookies received a warm reception from their veteran teammates.
"They've been very good in talking to me and just helping out as much as they can," said cornerback Kyler Gordon, a second-round pick from Washington. "I'm excited to keep learning from them and getting to know them."
"It was fun to see them practice and see how they approach the game," said safety Elijah Hicks, a seventh-round selection from California. "The questions they ask in meetings, it's very cool to see that in person. I'm the type of person who's going to ask questions if I feel like I can learn something from you, and they were open to answering those questions."
Hicks and Gordon felt that they benefited from participating in the rookie minicamp before beginning OTAs.
"I think it helped a lot," Hicks said. "We're all learning a new defense. Being able to go through those days and install the basic defenses, we went out there today and knew what was going on. I wasn't confused or anything. It felt comfortable."
"It was definitely good to go through that," Gordon added, "just to know the plays and get a little jump to catch up to the vets because we're already behind. So just knowing the plays in advance was nice."
The Bears' remaining OTA practices will be held Tuesday, Thursday, May 23, 24, 26 and June 6, 7 and 9. The offseason program will then conclude with a mandatory full-squad minicamp June 14-16.