As an untested rookie starting opposite two-time Pro Bowler Kyle Fuller at cornerback, Jaylon Johnson knew that opponents would target him this season—and he's just fine with the attention.
"I definitely embrace it," said the second-round pick from Utah. "Everybody kind of figured that that was going to happen this year. So, at the end of the day, I'm stepping up and I've just got to keep making plays. Then even the ones I do give up, just forget about them and keep moving forward."
Despite not having offseason practices or preseason games to assimilate to the NFL, Johnson has excelled early in his career. The 21-year-old ranks third in the league with nine pass breakups, trailing only the Giants' James Bradberry (11) and the Buccaneers' Carlton Davis (10).
Two of Johnson's pass breakups came late in the Bears' season-opening comeback win over the Lions. One resulted in a Kyle Fuller interception that set up the go-ahead touchdown, and the second came in the end zone as time expired to preserve the victory. Another pass that Johnson broke up last Sunday against the Panthers was intercepted by Tashaun Gipson Sr.
"It was about keeping everything in front of me," Johnson said. "When [the receiver] broke, I just tried to make a good break on the ball and try to break it up, and then 'Gip' got it and got a good return and set the offense up."
After the game, Gipson, a nine-year NFL veteran, praised Johnson for making "a great play" and described his young teammate as "a phenomenal rookie, one of the best, if not the best, that I've ever been around."
No handshake: For the first time Thursday, Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady was asked why he didn't shake counterpart Nick Foles' hand after the Bears rallied for a 20-19 win over Tampa Bay Oct. 8 at Soldier Field.
"I didn't even think about that," Brady said. "I think Nick Foles is a hell of a player and a Super Bowl champ, and I don't know one reason or another why I wouldn't do that. Sometimes I've run off of the field, sometimes I haven't. Sometimes if I have a personal relationship like I have with Drew [Brees] and Justin [Herbert] and Aaron [Rodgers] over the years … I don't know. I don't think it's anything in particular, but I have great admiration for Nick and I think that he's a hell of a player. They're off to a great start."
Foles took the snub in stride—just as he did after Brady didn't shake his hand following their only previous meeting—the Eagles' 41-33 win over the Patriots in Super Bowl LII to cap the 2017 season.
"I'm sure that someday Tom and I will have a great conversation about it and probably just laugh at it," Foles said Thursday after being told that Brady had discussed the topic earlier in the day. "There's obviously history there from a big game we both played in once and the other day on Thursday night. But it is what it is, and I think he's a tremendous player. Someday we'll have a good conversation."
During a charity golf match in March in which Brady and Phil Mickelson faced Peyton Manning and Tiger Woods, Manning playfully mentioned that he should have selected either his brother, Eli Manning, or Foles—the two quarterbacks who have beaten Brady in the Super Bowl—as his caddie. After Manning said Foles' name, Brady turned and said, "that's a cheap shot."
"Thinking back to golf, Peyton was getting under his skin, and when he brought up my name, it got to him," Foles said. "I don't know why that is. We never had that conversation. But I think he's a great player and, obviously, one of the greatest of all time."
Kicking it: For most Bears players, football was ingrained in their lives throughout their childhoods. But that wasn't the case with kicker Cairo Santos, who grew up in Brazil playing soccer.
"When I was 15 years old, I was playing really competitive in some youth divisions of professional teams, but didn't get to star a lot because of how competitive soccer is down there," Santos said.
Hoping to earn a college scholarship, Santos traveled to Florida as a foreign exchange student to play soccer in the United States. One day, he was tossing a football around with friends and they discovered his rare talent.
"We're throwing the football through the basketball [hoop] outside our house," Santos said. "I couldn't throw the football as a spiral. [A friend] said just kick it. They held it down and I kicked it four houses down. They said it went 60 yards, approximately. I was like, 'Was that good? He said, 'Kickers usually don't do that in high school.'
"The next day after school, there was a football practice and they talked to the coach and said, 'We have this Brazilian kid that plays soccer and he can kick a ball.' They backed me up to 50 yards and I made a 50-yarder that first day. They said, 'You're on the team. You're playing Friday.'"
Santos was excited—but didn't know anything about American football.
"I went out and got the Madden game, I think it was a 2007 Madden game for Xbox," he said. "That's how I started learning the rules. The first couple games, I had a coach that held me by his arm and said, 'If we don't go past the sticks right there, it's fourth down and you have to kick the ball.' That's kind of how I learned the game. The video game helped me a lot.
"And then it started. The light bulb just went off. I was trying to come here and play soccer and be an athlete on the collegiate level. Football was a path where the door just started to open, so I was really excited to attack both paths and see which one was going to turn out. Football played out better."
Roster moves: The Bears on Friday made multiple moves involving their practice squad, activating offensive lineman Badara Traore from the reserve/COVID-19 list, signing defensive back Marqui Christian and releasing linebacker Sharif Finch.