Life (with apologies to Mike Ditka) only affords one chance to make a first impression. That chance is at hand for Bears rookies.
The Bears’ rookie minicamp begins Friday, runs through Sunday and provides three practices for draft choices and free agents to make an impression on a new coaching staff. The sessions are closed to the public, which will have its chance to assess the rookies when training camp commences at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais in late July.
Kyle Long’s time at Bears rookie minicamp this Friday-Saturday-Sunday will be more of an offseason cameo for the No. 1 draft pick. NFL rules enjoin players from participating in more than just the rookie camp until their college class finishes its final exams, which for Oregon will be on June 14 – one day after the Bears conclude the pre-Bourbonnais portion of their offseason. Organized team activities begin next Monday and run through June 8 – also off limits to Long.
Not that Long won’t be working at his craft. He’ll resume working with former Bears and Cowboys offensive line guru Tony Wise as he did prior to the draft.
“He’s great,” Long said. “He’s old school. No B.S. Very knowledgeable in the game of football. And he was quick to point out the fact that I was very raw. But I made strides from a football standpoint with him and the six days we worked together that were really unmatched. It was tremendous learning experience for me.”
[More: Bowen breaks down Bears' draft picks]
Long is projected as the starting left guard this season but he is not being given that job with the No. 1 offense just yet.
“We would expect Kyle to come in and compete,”said coach Marc Trestman. “He doesn’t expect anything to be handed to him, and we as coaches expect him to play. But he’s got to earn it.”
Long, tackle Jordan Mills (fifth round) and defensive end Cornelius Washington (sixth round) will have to wait until pads come on in July to really start earning anything. Linemen need to be able to knock people down to make full impressions.
Linebackers Jonathan Bostic (second round) and Khaseem Greene (fourth) will have their first chances to demonstrate that they are the future in a position group defined by perennial Pro Bowlers Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher.
“Over the last few months, I’ve gotten to know Jonathan and Khaseem through interviews and watching tape with Phil [Emery, general manager], and we’re excited about Jonathan coming in and starting out, a guy that’s smart enough and has a great background at Florida to play the middle linebacker position, make the calls and do those things,” Trestman said. “Khaseem has the flexibility to play the outside linebackers, to create more competition with the guys that we have, certainly. We’re excited about that. Really excited about what they bring to the table, both as linebackers and as special-teams players.”
Rookie minicamps are orientation sessions for draft choices and also for lesser lights in the persons of undrafted free agents and others being given chances on a tryout basis. For that matter, just about all of the young players at Halas Hall this weekend will be on some form of “tryout basis.”
They are all working both to assimilate the Bears’ schemes and also playing for a chance to be brought to training camp in July.
[More: NFC North draft recap]
And the undrafteds and tryout players can be more than simple practice fodder. Offensive lineman James Brown went undrafted last year and eventually finished the season starting the final three games at left guard. Anthony Walters, undrafted in 2011, was the Bears’ starting free safety for game 16 last season.
Quarterback Matt Blanchard was undrafted in 2012, signed with the Bears and was impressive enough through preseason to make the team’s practice squad. He did not make it onto the regular roster during the season but currently stands as the No. 3 quarterback this offseason after the Bears were not able to draft a quarterback last month.
And John Randle was an undrafted, undersized defensive tackle who couldn’t make the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1990 and went to the Minnesota Vikings. And to the Hall of Fame.