When the phone finally rang, Santonio Holmes was waiting for the call.
It came from the Bears late last week and reopened the career door for a former Super Bowl MVP and first-round draft choice. Holmes had spent the first part of his year rehabbing from foot surgery and wasn’t totally surprised that there weren’t more urgent calls for a one-time Pro Bowl wide receiver.
On Monday Holmes began practicing with his new team, his third after being drafted 25th overall in 2006 by the Pittsburgh Steelers and later being traded to the New York Jets. Ironically perhaps, he was working with a quarterback (Jay Cutler) from the 2006 draft and a wide receiver (Brandon Marshall) from the same class.
During practice, not insignificantly perhaps, Cutler spent some one-on-one time with the “new kid,” something No. 1 quarterbacks do not routinely do with every incoming wide receiver.
“He’s taken me under his wing,” Holmes said. “He’s talked to me and kept me close. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be exciting for us all.”
Exciting for the offense, ideally, but also for the defense: "I’ve always been a Santonio Holmes fan, since our Ohio State days," said defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, on the Ohio State coaching staff when Holmes was an All-American for the Buckeyes.
Holmes effectively has three weeks to convince coaches that he is back from a Lisfranc injury and able to help as the No. 3 receiver. He also spent some time fielding punts on Monday, an opportunity with the release of Eric Weems.
Besides fitting with his quarterbacks – Holmes stayed after practice to work with Jordan Palmer – he already has established a presence in the receivers’ room.
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“I mean, it’s huge for our receiving corps,” said Alshon Jeffery. “He’s a veteran, he's knows the game of football. Plus he’s Super Bowl MVP. I can learn a lot from a guy like him. We all can benefit from him.
"We talk, just in the meeting rooms. He’s telling us how to run routes, telling us his experiences"
Holmes debut with the Bears might begin Friday against the Seattle Seahawks, although he will not have had time to assimilate the entire offense. Head coach Marc Trestman held off on any decision on Holmes’ availability, if for no other reason than Holmes won’t know a lot of the offense.
But Holmes has been through systems in Pittsburgh and New York and has put himself on a speed-learning plan.
“I think it’s more so getting in the book and learning, meeting with all the guys and getting to know your teammates, and just learning from how these guys carry themselves around here,” Holmes said. “Just picking up on the transition and move. I’ve been in the league for nine years now so it’s not too bad of a transition.”