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Lewis bringing valuable veteran leadership to Bears

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Cole Kmet was seven years old when new Bears teammate and fellow tight end Marcedes Lewis entered the NFL in 2006.

"I was telling him that me and my brother used to collect cards when we were younger and he was our first football jersey card," Kmet said. "I think it's somewhere in the boxes at home. We just thought that was funny. We have a Jaguars Marcedes Lewis jersey card at home."

Having signed with the Bears last Friday, Lewis is entering his 18th NFL season, which would be the most by a tight end in league history, breaking a deadlock with Tony Gonzalez and Jason Witten.

Lewis has appeared in 251 games with the Jaguars (2006-17) and Packers (2018-22), catching 432 passes for 5,084 yards and 39 touchdowns. The 39-year-old is also considered one of the league's best blocking tight ends.

Asked for his first impressions of the 6-6, 267-pounder, Kmet said: "Big guy. Yeah, big guy. Played a lot of football. I actually had breakfast with him [Tuesday] morning, picking his brain during meetings.

"It's always fun having those vets who have played as long as he has and just kind of gaining knowledge from those guys," Kmet added. "Really just lucky and fortunate to have a guy like that in our room and looking to gain all the knowledge I can from him."

Lewis is the second former Packers tight end to sign with the Bears this year. He reunites with Robert Tonyan, his teammate in Green Bay the last five years. Tonyan joined the Packers practice squad late in his rookie season in 2017 and Lewis signed with Green Bay May 24, 2018.

A quarterback and receiver at Indiana State, Tonyan credits Lewis with teaching him how to play tight end. Asked what he learned from Lewis, Tonyan said: "Everything. Seriously, everything."

"I was new to the position," Tonyan said. "I didn't know how to play tight end. That was the person that took me under his wing. Seriously, everything; everything I know about tight end, and him encouraging me in the pass game to be myself, obviously with my receiver background."

Tonyan is excited to once again be mentored by Lewis.

"He just brings an attitude," Tonyan said. "Yes, he's a run blocker, but the presence … you see him walk into a building, you can see his presence. Just that vocal leadership, this is a young team and 18 yearsthis dude has been in the NFL, almost half his life. He's seen about every single game, every single look, every single team, every single coordinator."

Kmet understands the importance of having seasoned veterans on the roster.

"It's a big value for the team, because those [younger players] want to know how to practice," Kmet said. "[Veterans] know how to go to meetings and how to operate in meetings, and I feel like that's good for everybody to see.

"I still consider myself very fortunate that I had [veteran tight end] Jimmy Graham my rookie year and second year to learn from that and see what his process was. A lot of guys didn't have that last year. We were really young. But when you can point to guys who are very successful in this league and have been doing it a long time, and you can see how they operate and how they just go about themselves in the building, that's a really good thing and guys soak that stuff in.

"Those are the guys who have been successful, and we can all strive to have careers like that. So when you bring those guys in, you kind of shut up, listen and see how they do things."

While serving as a Packers assistant coach, Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy worked with Lewis for three seasons from 2019-21.The two stayed in touch after Getsy left to join the Bears in 2022.

"He's just a guy who I leaned on a lot and hopefully he was able to lean on me a little as well," Getsy said. "His ability to kind of slow the situation down—whether it was a rough practice, whether it was a rough game—he's the guy who was kind of the stability. He just stands up and goes, 'Guys, this is the National Football League, we can't do this. We've got to stick together.' He's just a solid rock; as much as he is as a player, he is that as a person as well."

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