After a week off following their minicamp, Bears rookies returned to Halas Hall this week to work out with their veteran teammates for the first time.
“It’s been an eye-opener to learn what the vets know,” said receiver Riley Ridley, a fourth-round pick from Georgia, “to see them run the routes the way they run them and the knowledge they have and the details they have in the playbook. I’m just trying to pick all that up and put it in my own game.”
The veterans and rookies lifted weights, attended position meetings and worked out together on the field Monday through Thursday. The Bears are still in Phase 2 of their offseason program, which permits coaches on the field to work with players and run drills, but prohibits helmets and drills pitting the offense against the defense.
Bears rookie running backs David Montgomery, a third-round pick from Iowa State, and Kerrith Whyte Jr., a seventh-round choice from Florida Atlantic, have enjoyed working with their veteran teammates.
“It’s been great for me and Kerrith,” Montgomery said. “They’ve definitely been open-armed kind of guys, just making sure that we know what we need to know and just taking us in wholeheartedly, and that’s big.”
Ridley feels the same way about the veteran receivers.
“It’s a good group of guys,” Ridley said. “They try to help you with the playbook. If you don’t know your steps right, they try to get your steps right, so we all can work on the same page and get better.”
All-Pro safety Eddie Jackson, a third-year pro who has known Ridley since the receiver was in high school, has been impressed with the team’s rookie crop, which consists of five draft picks and 23 undrafted free agents.
“As a rookie, you’re going to always come in and your No. 1 goal is to learn from the older guys, especially the ones with a lot of success,” Jackson said. “You try to basically show everything on the field and try not to be one of those vocal guys just saying things and not really doing what you say.
“We’ve got a great set of rookies. Everybody’s quiet. They’re keeping their heads down. They’re working and they’re just trying to prove themselves to us, so we respect that a lot.”
Veteran receiver Allen Robinson II believes that it’s important to strike a balance between “being able to guide them in the right direction when it comes to on-the-field stuff and off-the-field stuff, and also leaving them alone and letting them figure out some things out on their own.”
While some veterans on other NFL teams have made it clear that they don’t intend to help mentor their potential replacement, that’s not the case with the Bears.
“It doesn’t matter about somebody taking your job,” Jackson said. “One thing about being in the NFL, you should always love competition. So if you can coach the guy up to be a great competitor, that’s making you better, giving you a push.
“We like competition. That’s one of the things coach [Matt] Nagy does a great job of, is keeping everybody humble and just knowing that you’ve got to compete because it can be taken at any moment.”
The Bears will begin the third and final phase of their offseason program on Tuesday when they conduct the first of 10 OTA practices. During Phase 3, players are allowed to wear helmets, but one-on-one drills involving the offense and defense are prohibited.
The OTA practices are slated for May 21-23, May 29-31 and June 4-7, with the team’s mandatory full-squad minicamp concluding the offseason program June 11-13.