Turns out the private pre-draft workout the Bears put Tennessee tackle Darnell Wright through was unique in more ways than one.
Not only was the hour-long session April 8 in Knoxville unusually grueling, but offensive line coach Chris Morgan told reporters Saturday during rookie minicamp that it was the only workout he conducted with a draft prospect this year.
Bears general manager Ryan Poles revealed after the draft that the mental toughness, attitude and aptitude Wright displayed at the workout was "a really big piece" in the decision to select the 6-5, 333-pounder with the 10th pick in the first round.
Shortly after being drafted, Wright told reporters that Morgan "kicked my ass, if we're being honest. He wanted to see what I was made of. It was hard, but I didn't quit. I think he respected that. He put me through the wringer. He just wanted to see if I'd quit, and I wouldn't quit."
Morgan smiled Saturday when asked about the pre-draft workout.
"He handled it well," Morgan said. "We pushed him with the information and we pushed him with the tempo a little bit. You want to see how they handle it under stress, you want to see what kind of condition they are in and just kind of how they move. He did a really nice job."
Morgan was also impressed with how well Wright transferred what he learned from a classroom session onto the field.
"Anytime you go work these guys out, No. 1 you want to see the information they can take in and retain and then go apply on the field," Morgan said. "You can speed the tempo up with the snap count, you can speed the tempo up with how many reps you go, and he did a nice job with it mentally [and] physically."
Get an exclusive look at new Bears OL Darnell Wright visiting Halas Hall for the first time as a Bear after being drafted 10th overall.
Wright joins the Bears after starting 42 games over four seasons at Tennessee, opening 27 contests at right tackle, two at right guard and 13 at left tackle.
Last year Wright was a unanimous first-team all-SEC selection after starting all 13 games at right tackle. In 2021, he started all 13 contests at left tackle, blocking for a Tennessee offense that set school records with 511 points and 6,174 total yards. He did not allow a sack in his final 19 games with the Volunteers.
Last season Wright helped Tennessee record two impressive wins over SEC opponents by neutralizing top rushers Will Anderson of Alabama and B.J. Ojulari of LSU. Anderson, who was selected by the Texans with the No. 3 pick in the first round, said during the pre-draft process that Wright was the best tackle he faced in college.
"He has put some really good stuff on tape from college," Morgan said. "He knows what he's doing. The game is kind of slow for him. That's one of the things we really liked about him. Some guys, when the ball is snapped, they just play. Things look slow for him. He puts his hands where he wants to put them. He's very controlled in his sets. He's got good tempo. He does some really nice things."
After participating in rookie minicamp Thursday through Saturday, Wright will join Bears veterans for OTA practices May 22-June 8, followed by a mandatory full-squad minicamp June 13-15 that will mark the end of the offseason program.
Morgan said that over the next few months Wright will have to learn a multitude of things, including terminology, different snap counts, how to huddle and break the huddle—Tennessee's offense rarely huddled—where the quarterback sets up in the pocket and how the Bears fit blocks.
"I think he just needs to come in and get acclimated," Morgan said. "He's just got to come in and get better every day and just take a step every day. That's all we are focused on right now."
63 players, including the Bears' 2023 draft class, were on the fields at Halas Hall this weekend for a pair of rookie minicamp practices.