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Quick Hits: Fields, receivers shine in first practice

Bears quarterback Justin Fields
Bears quarterback Justin Fields

The work that Justin Fields and several of his receivers did together in Florida earlier this month paid dividends Wednesday in the Bears' first training camp practice.

In a session that was moved into the Walter Payton Center due to poor air quality, Fields threw pinpoint passes that were caught by DJ Moore, Darnell Mooney, Chase Claypool, Equanimeous St. Brown, Tyler Scott and Cole Kmet, among others.

"Some real nice throws out there from Justin," said coach Matt Eberflus. "Real good there in terms of the rhythm and timing of that. Looked good for the first day. Boy, you can tell they've been working together a little bit in the offseason together."

Fields' best throw may have been a dart down the right sideline for a touchdown to Moore, who beat tight coverage. The third-year quarterback also connected on accurate throws over the middle to Kmet and St. Brown on back-to-back snaps.

Stepping up: No defender made more plays in Wednesday's practice than reserve cornerback Greg Stroman Jr. The 5-11, 180-pounder intercepted a Nathan Peterman pass, forced a fumble and broke up a throw by rookie Tyson Bagent.

Stroman played the final two games of last season with the Bears, starting the finale against the Vikings and recording eight tackles, one interception and one pass breakup. He previously appeared in 20 games with three starts over three seasons with the Commanders from 2018-20, compiling 38 tackles, one interception and four pass breakups.

Comfort zone: Eberflus is seeing more consistency and confidence from receiver and return specialist Velus Jones Jr., a 2022 third-round pick from Tennessee.

"He's doing a really good job," Eberflus said. "The first thing that stands out to me is his returns, the punt returns and kick returns. He's really been consistent with that, much better. He's really worked his tail off. I would say that's the first thing that stands out.

"And then the ability to utilize him as a guy back there with the jet sweeps, the gadget plays and also being a receiver. I think he's got the comfort level now, second year. You can see that his function in terms of being able to be confident, know what he's doing, know how to do it, is really starting to show."

Last season as a rookie, Jones rebounded from two muffed punts early in the season to show his versatility and big-play ability. He had a 44-yard reception and a 40-yard kickoff return in a Week 16 game against the Bills. In the season finale versus the Vikings, Jones became the first Bears player since Walter Payton with a run, reception and kickoff return of at least 25 yards in a game.

The Bears headed into the Walter Payton Center Wednesday for the first full-squad practice of Enjoy Illinois Training Camp.

On the mend: Receiver Dante Pettis opened training camp on the active/non-football injury list, but he's not expected to remain there for a long period of time.

"I'm not going to give timelines or what specific injuries are at this time," Eberflus said. "It's going to be pretty close, pretty quick for that. He's in a good spot. Sometimes you injure something during training during the summer and we've just got to make sure we're going to be smart about where he is and how we go about getting him back in."

Ramping up: Eberflus likened Wednesday's non-contact practice to an OTA workout, saying: "We do a thing called 'up front' where they just rush but they're not allowed to have big collisions and those types of things." The Bears won't practice in pads until next week.

Roster move: Prior to Wednesday's practice, the Bears signed tackle Aviante Collins and waived undrafted rookie tackle Lorenz Metz. Collins has appeared in seven NFL games with one start for the Vikings (2017 and 2019) and Cowboys (2022). He has also spent time with the Steelers.

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