Tashaun Gipson Sr. has been in the NFL long enough for the shine to wear off.
Gipson has spent seven seasons in the NFL, even earning a Pro Bowl selection in 2014 while playing for the Cleveland Browns. The veteran safety has started more games than any other Bears player except tight end Jimmy Graham and linebacker Robert Quinn.
However, Gipson was still in awe of the quality of the defense around him when he arrived in Chicago.
"Elite," said Gipson. "I think that's the first word that comes to mind when you think about joining a defense like that. Obviously, you see the names on the paper. You see the statistics behind each individual guy and things like that, but being able to see these guys up close and personal and just seeing behind that. I mean, it's crazy."
Gipson is still learning the system, though he points out that at this stage of his career, it's more a matter of learning terminology than anything. He credits communication with fellow safety Eddie Jackson for helping him get up to speed.
His early interactions with his new teammates have led him to have big expectations for the defense this season.
"Being able to see a guy like Kyle Fuller up close and personal," said Gipson, "how he approaches the game, seeing a guy like (linebacker Khalil) Mack and some of the d-linemen, interior guys, (Akiem) Hicks and those guys, how those guys move and how nimble they are. It's one of those things where you say there's no reason this defense shouldn't be the top defense in the National Football League."
After running red zone drills against the team's tight ends, Gipson expressed optimism about that unit and the challenge that they present to him during practice. He considers Graham "the most dangerous guy on the field in the red zone" and believes rookie Cole Kmet is "going to be a star in this league."
"I've made my bones being able to guard teams' best tight ends for years now," said Gipson, "and this is a challenging group. So obviously it's good on good, iron sharpens iron, so those matchups are intense, and it just brings the best out of everybody."
Training camp is an opportunity for Gipson to prove himself. After being a full-time starter since his second season, Gipson is battling with Deon Bush for a starting spot. Gipson speaks highly of Bush but remains confident in his abilities.
"I'm just going out there perfecting my craft and doing what I do," said Gipson, "showing the staff my skill set and how well I can mesh into this defense. And hopefully, when it's all said and done, I do enough. I make no bones about it. I understand my talents and the things I can bring to the game and being able to do within this defense."
Gipson said the competition with Bush has been healthy, and Gipson has been happy to give advice to Bush, who is entering his fifth season with the Bears. However, Gipson doesn't see mentorship as the primary reason he came to Chicago.
"I absolutely believe that I'm still a starting safety in this league," said Gipson, "that I'm a productive starter in this league, so I would like to always bet on myself vs. anybody, no matter who I'm in competition with."
While remaining diplomatic, Gipson is blunt about how he sees the competition playing out.
"I obviously feel like I'm a Week 1 starter," said Gipson, "and I hope that Deon feels the same way. That's what happens when you're competing with somebody. You let everything else happen the way it should be, and that's out of my control. I just go out here and take advantage of the reps and take advantage of the plays when I'm in there, and that's exactly what I plan on continuing to do."