In revamping their tight end position during the offseason, the Bears made headlines by signing veteran Jimmy Graham in free agency and spending their top draft pick on Cole Kmet in the second round.
But a less-publicized transaction that occurred in February is already paying dividends. In inking Demetrius Harris, the Bears landed a versatile seven-year NFL veteran who is familiar with coach Matt Nagy and the offense.
Harris spent his first six NFL seasons with the Chiefs from 2013-18, including his first five working with Nagy, who served as Kansas City's quarterbacks coach (2013-15) and offensive coordinator (2016-17).
"He has experience, and he also has experience in this offense, which really helps him out," Nagy said Tuesday. "He's a great sounding board—along with Jimmy—to Cole and some of these other guys, just as to how some of the intricacies of this offense work."
Harris, who turned 29 last Friday, enjoyed helping Graham and Kmet learn the offense during the Bears' virtual offseason program. But the 6-7, 230-pounder downplays how much assistance he's provided.
"With Cole and Jimmy, they learned pretty fast," Harris said. "So it's just like, 'If you need help, if you forget the play, I'm there for you. I can help you with that.' But they adapted really quick. They really don't have any problems with the offense."
Coaches and teammates have raved about how rapidly Kmet has learned the offense. It started during the virtual offseason program and has continued in-person on the practice field in training camp.
"He picks up stuff real quick, and with this offense, the tight ends are used a lot," Harris said. "He picked up everything fast. You've seen it in the Zoom meetings and it's translating to the field."
While expectations are high for Kmet in his first NFL season, Harris spent his rookie year on the Chiefs practice squad not only digesting the offense, but reacquainting himself with the sport. He entered the league as a free agent after playing basketball at Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Harris joined the Bears having appeared in 86 games with 39 starts, catching 72 passes for 754 yards and nine touchdowns. He signed with the Browns as a free agent a year ago and caught 15 passes for 149 yards and three touchdowns while playing in 15 games with six starts for Cleveland.
"I really like his growth," Nagy said. "He was a guy that came in as a 'U' (pass-catching) tight end initially. He's developed into being able to play both. He has flexibility, he has versatility. He can help me out, too. I grew up with him in Kansas City and we're both able to really just understand how this thing goes. He can be like an extension of me and our coaches in the tight end room."
Although Harris was known more for his receiving than his blocking when he entered the NFL, the former college basketball player is eager to prove he can excel in both facets of the game in his first season with the Bears.
"Some players thought I was just a receiving tight end, but I can most definitely do both," Harris said. "I'm here to show it, and whenever I get the opportunity, just make the most of it."
Harris takes copious notes in an effort to accomplish that objective.
"I write down on every install, 'Catch everything and be you.' And that equals a dog," Harris said. "I write that on everything just to remind myself, especially in the passing game. And on the run game, I write down, 'Finish blocks and block to the best of your ability every time.' So I kind of keep that note every day. And then after practice I see on film, if I did it wrong, I make sure I do it the next practice and have a big point on that."