Chicago Bears

Tanner Gentry still has much to learn — and earn — with Bears

Tanner Gentry still has much to learn — and earn — with Bears

It only took one week for Tanner Gentry to go from a training camp standout stashed on the practice squad to a member of the Bears’ 53-man roster.

But while Gentry turned heads in Bourbonnais and was on the receiving end of an impressive 45-yard touchdown from Mitchell Trubisky against the Tennessee Titans, he didn’t work much with Mike Glennon. And the Bears continue to talk up Tre McBride, the waiver claim from the Baltimore Ravens who was inactive in Week 1 but could factor into the team’s receiver equation as he learns the team’s offense.  

The point here: Gentry, after earning his way on to the 53-man roster, still has to earn his way into being active on Sunday. Quickly growing his rapport with Glennon is, more narrowly, Gentry’s next step.

“He had a good preseason,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “We just gotta kinda figure out how the numbers are gonna be this week and who's up, who's down. We are excited about what Tanner brings and hopefully we can create a role for him if he's active and playing this week.”

The Bears hope to get Markus Wheaton back soon (he was listed as a limited participant on Wednesday’s injury report, which isn’t a change from last week), and when the speedy former Pittsburgh Steeler does return, he’ll likely join Deonte Thompson, Josh Bellamy and Kendall Wright on the active gameday roster. The Bears could consider making five receivers active on gameday, though they only had four against Atlanta (Thompson, Bellamy, Wright and Kevin White).

The Bears like Gentry’s skillset, particularly his ability to track the ball in the air and his football instincts. "Sometimes there are guys that have a knack for the football, (and) we kinda feel like Tanner could be that kinda guy,” Loggains said. But he still has an uphill climb to make an impact on Sundays, needing to prove to coaches that his pass-catching skills and special teams ability warrant an active spot.

The thing with Gentry, though: He’s constantly fought those uphill battles ever since he was a lightly-recruited athlete in high school (Gentry, according to Rivals.com, only received scholarship offers from Wyoming and Air Force). So this next challenge is more of the same for him.

“I’ll continue to play with that (chip on my shoulder) and always have something to prove out there on the field,” Gentry said. “… It’s a great opportunity. It really sucks to see two great players like that go down and so early in the season as well. I’m just going to prepare and just work hard in practice and continue to better my game and listen to the coaches and do what I’m told.”

What Mitchell Trubisky learned in that pre-draft workout with Ben Roethlisberger

What Mitchell Trubisky learned in that pre-draft workout with Ben Roethlisberger

Ben Roethlisberger came away from his pre-draft workout with Mitchell Trubisky — the two share the same agent — impressed, an opinion which the longtime Pittsburgh Steelers detailed on Wednesday. The feeling was mutual for Trubisky. 

“Yeah, Big Ben’s awesome,” Trubisky said. “It was really special and really a privilege to learn from him. … “I’ve really looked up to him ever since he came out because he’s an Ohio guy as well. He came from Miami, Ohio. And it’s unique he was able to have success early on in his career and that’s what you try to duplicate as a quarterback coming into this league, and just how he carries himself, how competitive he is. I just try to take those things and hopefully add them into my own game as well.”

Roethlisberger — who went to high school in Findlay, Ohio, which is about two and a half hour west of Trubisky’s hometown of Mentor — won every game he started his rookie year and won his first of two Super Bowls a year later. Beyond his success quarterbacking the Steelers over these last 14 years, though, Trubisky felt he could learn something from how Roethlisberger has been a leader in Pittsburgh’s locker room. 

“(He) owns the locker room, no matter where you’re at,” Trubisky said. “I think it’s just the type of person you are. You’re competitive. You’re an alpha. You know how things are supposed to be done and you won’t settle for anything less than what has to be done. You’re settling for nothing less than excellence. That’s what he strives he for and, I mean, that’s what we’re all striving for.”

Eventually, the Bears expect Trubisky to command the locker room in the same fashion (he certainly has the self-belief and confidence to do so). And perhaps he'll have the same kind of trophy-driven success over a long period of time enjoyed by Roethlisberger, too. While Trubisky isn't in control of his career just yet, that was another lesson he took away from Roethlisberger.

"One of the big pieces of advice he gave me was really take control of your career," Trubisky said. "And I think that's kind of how he instills how he carries himself in the locker room, on the practice field, at the line of scrimmage. The play is going to go how he wants it and that's really how I want my career to go. Just exactly what you dream of, and take control and get everyone to buy into the same plan. I think that's how you create a winning culture -- really taking control, really taking ownership and hopefully that trickles down through the rest of the team."

Bears: Kyle Long looks set for 2017 debut while Josh Sitton doubtful for Week 3

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USA TODAY

Bears: Kyle Long looks set for 2017 debut while Josh Sitton doubtful for Week 3

Kyle Long was a full participant in back-to-back practices Thursday and Friday, and wasn't listed on the team's injury report Friday, clearing the path for the three-time Pro Bowler to make his 2017 debut Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers. It’s been a lengthy, grueling process for Long to get to this point, with significant muscle atrophy in his ankle and a setback during training camp further delaying his return to the field. 

Where Long plays in his 2017 debut will be interesting to watch. The Bears have planned on moving him from right guard to left guard, though with Josh Sitton doubtful with a rib injury, Long — who didn’t get many full-team reps at left guard during training camp anyway — could start on the right side Sunday. 

Part of the equation, too, is that Cody Whitehair has more experience with the Bears at left guard, where he played until Sitton was signed before the beginning of the 2016 season. If Tom Compton (hip, questionable?) can’t play on Sunday, Whitehair presumably will move to guard while Hroniss Grasu will start at center. Whitehair did play both left and right guard in Week 2 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers due to the injuries to Sitton and Compton. 

No matter where Long starts, though, his return will provide a boost to an offensive line that’s been flooded with extra defenders against the run so far this year. The Steelers would be smart to take the same stack-the-box approach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did, which led to Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen being limited to 20 yards on 16 carries. 

Fox said Long won't be on a concrete snap count, but the Bears will evaluate him throughout the game. But even if Long isn’t 100 percent, or doesn’t play 100 percent of the snaps, he can be a difference-maker for an offense that’s needed difference-makers in 2017. 

“I mean, the expectations are where they left off when I left. I always have high expectations,” Long said. “If you play the game you change the game. If you’re out there doing anything other than that then you’re just witnessing it, you’re watching. It’s not a spectator sport.”