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Stevenson undeterred by battle for starting job

Bears rookie cornerback Tyrique Stevenson
Bears rookie cornerback Tyrique Stevenson

Tyrique Stevenson doesn't need to see an official depth chart to know that he's battling for a starting cornerback job with fellow rookie Terell Smith.

A second-round pick from Miami, Stevenson was taking most of the first-team reps opposite veteran Jaylon Johnson until late last week when he began splitting them with Smith, a fifth-round choice from Minnesota.

"It's a competition until the end," Stevenson said. "We both got drafted. For opportunities, it really doesn't matter where you got drafted at. He comes in every day with his head down willing to work, just as I am.

"I've had a couple slip-ups as a rookie. They didn't tell me anything, but they made it real clear that it's going to be a competition. I didn't earn anything. I have no stripes in the league. Every day we come in we smile at each other. We also know that we're both working for the same position."

Coach Matt Eberflus acknowledged that Smith earned first-team reps by making plays with the second unit. Stevenson, however, is undeterred by the competition.

"I've been through a lot in life," he said, "so just to be able to make it here and make a dream that I had when I was 13 come true, I feel like nothing in the world can stop me now. So just losing a couple reps is not going to bring me down. All I know is I've got to go out there, prepare harder and be able to put my foot on the gas and make sure that I earn. Nothing is ever given."

Stevenson doesn't plan to ask coaches or management where he stands in the competition. He instead intends to let his performance on the field speak for itself.

"There's definitely an opportunity open and [Smith] is doing his best to be able to be the CB2 and I'm doing my best," Stevenson said, "so there's no reason for me to go upstairs and ask questions. I feel like preparation and going out there and battling and competing is just going to bring the best man out on top for the job."

Both rookie cornerbacks have displayed their ball skills this week in practice. Stevenson registered an interception Monday, while Smith broke up two passes Tuesday, including one that was picked off by safety Eddie Jackson.

"As with any rookies, you're going to have some ups and downs during training camp because they're learning the position, they're learning themselves," Eberflus said. "This is a different game up here because you're playing against DJ Moore and [Darnell] Mooney and some different dudes, which is a little bit different from college, and they're learning how to do that. They're getting better every day."

Check out Tuesday's action from the fields at Halas Hall during the Bears' first padded practice of the 2023 season, which featured notable appearances by former head coach Dave Wannstedt and personal trainer Tim Grover.

Stevenson told reporters that the one thing he needs to improve is gaining a better understanding of each receiver he's covering. 

"Chase Claypool is totally different than DJ Moore," Stevenson said. "I don't want to say I struggle with it, but [the objective is] having that mental capacity to be able to switch in and out instead of going out there like I'm in college and just playing everybody the same way."

Stevenson conceded that he's still in the process of learning the defense and isn't playing as fast as he will when he completes the assimilation process. 

"I will say these last few days have kind of been better," Stevenson said. "I said that today on the sideline. I was like, 'It's kind of slowing down for me.' But I'm still at that moment. Still being a rookie having outside things going in, trying to get settled down in a new city, get everything settled but also being able to come in and try to be a professional and lock in on what I really need to do. 

"There's a lot of things going on, but I'm starting to get better with it, starting to really understand the playbook and understand what these coaches and this entire organization wants from me."

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