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Training Camp Report

Mooney, Kmet flash big-play ability in Bears practice

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Bears receiver Darnell Mooney and tight end Cole Kmet both displayed their playmaking ability in Thursday's practice, hauling in downfield passes from quarterback Justin Fields while surrounded by defenders.

With a perfectly-timed leap, Mooney gracefully soared high and plucked the ball out of the air, drawing oohs from fans at the first training camp practice that was open to the public. The third-year pro stands just 5-foot-11, but he plays much bigger and takes pride in making contested catches.

"I just feel like wherever the ball is, I've got an opportunity to get it," Mooney said. "He's throwing it to me for a reason—because he trusts me—so I have to make that play for him regardless of where the ball is."

Kmet drew a similar reaction from the crowd when he snagged a deep pass.

"That's a throw we've been working on a lot this offseason," Kmet said. "So it was pretty cool to execute that today down the field. I knew exactly where he was going to throw that, and with the leverage I had on the guy, that was really cool to see. We'll definitely build on that."

Before the Bears' offseason program began in April, Fields welcomed Mooney and Kmet to Atlanta, where they worked out together, developing a closer bond on and off the field.

"I think that's a big deal," Kmet said. "That's the throw we end on every time we're in those workouts, routes versus air-type stuff. It was really cool to hit that in a practice setting. Obviously, we will want to progress and keep going with that."

With Fields operating the No. 1 offense since the start of offseason workouts, Mooney, Kmet and the rest of the starting unit have been able to create chemistry with the young quarterback. That wasn't the case last year, however, when Fields took second-team reps behind veteran Andy Dalton.

"A throw like today that happened down the middle, that doesn't happen last year," Kmet said. "We were working with another quarterback the whole offseason and Justin came in. It's tough on guys to get a rhythm and get going. It's difficult. But now we've had a full offseason with one guy, and you can really build upon things and kind of try some things out.

"With a quarterback, the more time you get with them and routes, feel, the better off you're going to be. It's just more time to grow with him, and we'll just continue to grow throughout this training camp."

Thursday marked 2022's first public workout at Halas Hall as the Bears took the fields in front of an enthusiastic crowd for another Enjoy Illinois Training Camp practice.

Back on the practice field for training camp, the Bears are continuing to learn a new offense that's being installed by first-year coordinator Luke Getsy.

"I wouldn't say that it has become fluent yet," Mooney said. "I still have things where I'm like, 'Hold on, what's this?' And then I go. I've picked it up faster than some guys, but I'm not there yet."

"We're getting more comfortable each day," Kmet added. "We've still got a long way to go, if I'm being honest, and that's not a bad thing; that's just where we're at. We've got a whole training camp ahead of us to get this thing right and to get things rolling. We've got a lot of work to do, but guys are willing to put the work in and willing to come in every day and get better each and every day."

The Bears are expecting both Mooney and Kmet to be key contributors this season. Following the departure of Allen Robinson, Mooney returns as the team's No. 1 receiver, looking to build on an excellent start to his NFL career. Since being selected in the fifth round of the 2020 draft from Tulane, Mooney has caught 142 passes—the most by a Bears player in his first two NFL seasons—for 1,686 yards and eight touchdowns.

"Darnell's an impressive guy," Getsy said. "I love his approach. I love his mindset. I love the way he attacks the classroom, and then on the field, he's all business, and then he does a good job of leading those guys.

"He's not like an outspoken guy by any means, but he does a great job leading by example, and then having those really good conversations on the side with guys and then bringing them along. He's someone that we're definitely going to be counting on this year, for sure."

Kmet returns for his third NFL season looking to build on last year, when he more than doubled his output as a rookie with 60 receptions for 612 yards. Since being chosen by the Bears in the second round of the 2020 draft out of Notre Dame, he has caught 88 passes for 855 yards and two TDs.

Getsy lauded Kmet for his flexibility and explosiveness.

"You saw him make a couple of plays today that show his capabilities in the pass game," Getsy said. "And the in the run game, I've been very impressed with how he's attacked the run game and how physical he's been, from spring and in these last couple of days.

"He can do a lot of different things. The thing I like about football players more than anything is the guys that can do a lot of different things, and that makes them more valuable to the offense and makes it more dangerous to the defense. Cole is one of those guys that has that flexibility."

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