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Quick Hits: Bears' top picks, veterans developing chemistry during offseason program


The Bears on Friday kicked off the first of two rookie minicamp practices at Halas Hall, giving the team's draft picks and undrafted free agents as well as unsigned rookies and veterans an opportunity to prove themselves and build a foundation together.

For the Bears' pair of first-round draft picks, though, Friday wasn't the first time their chemistry was on display. Since being drafted No. 1 and No. 9 overall, respectively, quarterback Caleb Williams and receiver Rome Odunze have spent ample time together – some of which has been with their veteran teammates.

Williams, Odunze and Pro Bowl receiver Keenan Allen — who Bears acquired in a trade with the Chargers March 14 — attended a Chicago Sky game together Tuesday. The three offensive weapons also attended a Chicago Cubs game last weekend alongside a larger group of players that included tight end Cole Kmet, running back Roschon Johnson and offensive lineman Braxton Jones.

"It's been good," Odunze told reporters Friday morning. "We've gotten dinner a couple times and people have congratulated us. The community has been rallying behind us, which we appreciate, and we look to be able to pay that respect back with our on-the-field contributions. It's been awesome. Chicago has welcomed us with welcoming arms. We're doing well."

Odunze was also excited to see fellow rookie stars Angel Reese and Kamilla Cardoso compete for the Sky.

"We got to watch the rookies go," Odunze said. "I think it provides a great stage. All of us coming to the city, I think people are excited about it. And looking from the sideline and watching them play, it seems like they play hard, and they have the determination to be great as well. Hopefully me and all the rookies in our respective sports can continue to have the city back us, continue to have that success. You know, the sky's the limit at the end of the day."

Head coach Matt Eberflus also spoke to the media Thursday and expressed the value in Williams and Odunze already developing a friendship as well as spending time with the team's core pieces.

"It's been awesome," Eberflus said. "The first part of building a team is relationships, building that bond with each other. Certainly excited about those guys doing that outside the building and having that rapport with each other and being comfortable around each other outside of the football building. That was cool to see."

Between free agency and the NFL Draft, the Bears have garnered attention from nearly every national outlet. Upon selecting Williams and Odunze April 25, that publicity has only increased.

While Eberflus understands attention and excitement will continue to grow throughout the offseason program, he knows the team will be able to keep their focus on the work ahead.

"Most [important] thing is the energy," Eberflus said. "We've always had positive energy in the building, but now I think it's enhanced even more. We're excited about that. But we also understand it's always going to be about hard work and it's always going to be about passion for the game. We're going to be rooted in those two things."

Take a look at Bears players, including rookies Caleb Williams and Rome Odunze, walking into Halas Hall for the start of rookie minicamp.

As far as the Bears' Day 2 pick, third-round offensive lineman Kiran Amegadjie, Eberflus told reporters the Yale product will not be available to practice most of the offseason due to a quad injury.

"We knew about this injury, this quad injury that he had at his college," Eberflus said, "and we want to get that process [going] in terms of the whole rehab and everything so he's healthy for training camp, so that's where he's going to be."

The team's remaining two draft picks — Iowa punter Tory Taylor and Kansas defensive end Austin Booker — did participate in their first NFL practice Friday. Before practice, Eberflus said Taylor would be "hitting some punts" and told reporters he was excited to see the All-American work on his craft.

Eberflus also discussed the coaching staff's eagerness to see Booker's NFL development begin, highlighting the Indiana native's high motor and movement skills as traits to watch.

"We feel great about Austin," Eberflus said. "He's obviously very young. He's got a lot of developing to do in terms of his physical side of it. I'm going to be excited to see him move around today, for sure."

While non-contact practices started Friday, the rookies were welcomed into Halas Hall Thursday afternoon for their first round of meetings.

The group of 43 prospects also met with former Bears All-Pro cornerback Charles "Peanut" Tillman, who spoke to the group about the journey they're embarking upon.

"[Tillman] is always here at the opening ceremony for the rookie minicamp," Eberflus said. "He did an awesome job. He just talked about a champion's mindset, being able to have a long career. It's all about doing the work and being where your feet are."

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