The emergence of Bears rookie receiver Darnell Mooney early this season hasn't surprised veteran teammate and fellow wideout Allen Robinson II.
Not after seeing how the speedy fifth-round draft pick from Tulane attacked the joint workouts that Robinson invited all Bears receivers to attend this offseason near his home in Florida.
"I knew that he for sure is a guy that can have a special career," Robinson said. "He's always trying to get better. Body-wise, nutrition-wise, he's one of those guys who truly wants to be the best player that he can be, and whenever you have guys like that, you know the sky is the limit for them and they'll always be able to find ways to have success."
Despite all offseason practices and preseason games being cancelled due to COVID-19, Mooney has made an immediate impact. After the first two weeks of the season, the 5-11, 174-pounder ranks second behind Robinson among Bears receivers with six catches (for 74 yards).
Mooney has also played the second-most snaps at the position (60), a total that increased from 21 to 39 from Week 1 to 2. In last Sunday's 17-13 win over the Giants, he made his first NFL start and scored his first pro touchdown on a 15-yard pass from Mitchell Trubisky.
It's clear that Mooney has quickly gained the trust of Trubisky as well as coach (and play-caller) Matt Nagy. In Mooney, Robinson sees a rookie who is "locked into details" and possesses the ability to "stretch the field, be moved around and adapt to the game very quickly."
A Bears legendary Hall of Famer who passed away Wednesday at the age of 77 was on Nagy's mind when the coach opened his video press conference.
"I want to start off by giving my sincerest condolences to Gale Sayers' family," Nagy said. "Obviously, it's a tough day. What an unbelievable human being, No. 1, player No. 2. It's just a big loss for our family. I was fortunate enough to be able to meet him for the first time last year at the 100-year celebration. Pretty special moment that I had."
Sayers was an electrifying runner and return specialist who was a threat to score a touchdown every time he touched the ball. His 22 touchdowns in 1965 remain an NFL rookie record, and he's still the top kickoff returner in league history with a 30.6-yard career average.
"You see just pure instincts," Nagy said. "It was just fluid, the way that he ran the football. You could just see that he could tell what he was going to do before the defender knew what he was going to do and just had a lot of nice, long runs. It was just pretty, pretty to watch."
Defensive tackle John Jenkins did not practice Wednesday due to a thumb injury. Tight end Jimmy Graham, receiver Ted Ginn Jr. and linebacker Danny Trevathan were all given veteran days off.
Outside linebacker Khalil Mack was limited due to a knee injury.
Receivers Robinson (knee), Mooney (quad) and Anthony Miller (calf) all worked out without restrictions, as did tight end Cole Kmet (shoulder) and outside linebacker Robert Quinn (ankle).
For the Falcons, nine players did not practice Wednesday, including star receiver Julio Jones (hamstring). The others were tackles Jake Matthews (knee) and Kaleb McGary (knee), defensive ends Dante Fowler Jr. (ankle) and Takkarist McKinley (groin), linebacker Foyesade Oluokun (hamstring), cornerback Kendall Sheffield (foot) and safeties Ricardo Allen (elbow) and Damontae Kazee (hip).
Tight end Luke Stocker (hip), defensive tackles Marlon Davidson (knee) and Tyeler Davison (ankle), and defensive end Charles Harris (ankle) were limited.