Bears rookies to get real wake-up call at first minicamp

This isn't college anymore; speed of practices to increase significantly

  • Pin It
You're not on scholarship anymore.

That's the advice I would give to Shea McClellin, Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Hardin and the rest of the Bears draft class. No more draft hype, high-fives or news conferences.

Those days are gone. You're just a rookie now.

Try not to get lost on your way to Halas Hall, don't bother the veterans and get ready for your first test in minicamp.

The goal is to get noticed this weekend. Do something. Anything. Give the coaches a reason to talk about you in the staff meeting after dinner.

Play under control, stay off the ground and don't be caught bent over at the knees, sucking air after four plays.

Most of these rooks are still in "workout" shape. They trained all winter and spring to run the 40-yard dash, three-cone drill and short shuttle. Great for the combine and your pro day, but that doesn't help when you get a taste of the speed in an NFL practice.

And if you are going to play for Lovie Smith, I recommend bringing your track shoes. His practices are fast and efficient. You can't take plays off, and forget about loafing on film. Let me tell you, that's not a good idea with the head coach in Chicago.

Remember, this isn't spring ball back in college. That's easy. Run over to practice after a morning schedule of elective classes, get on the grass for a couple of hours and coast through the afternoon. You can even get away with some sloppy technique when you are one of the top players in the nation.

Not in the pro game.

I've been there as a rookie with the Rams in 2000. You are handed a playbook the night before minicamp, one that is the size of a textbook, and are expected to be fundamentally sound in your assignments the next day. Your head spins and you can't sleep in the hotel room they give you.

Everything is foreign, from the terminology in the offensive and defensive schemes to the city you now live in as a pro. The transition from college to the NFL isn't easy without the comforts of campus life, your teammates or your college position coach.

In St. Louis, I knew I-55 would get me back home to Chicago, but that's about it. I lived in a Holiday Inn during the offseason and there was only one restaurant within walking distance — a Waffle House. Not the best menu there to stay in shape.

A car? No chance. I didn't think my 1986 Bronco II would make it there, nor would it fit with the type of luxury rides in the player's parking lot.

I was given a locker stall next to Marshall Faulk and I don't think I said anything to him for close to a month. What was I going to say to the best running back in the NFL? I was just a sixth-round pick trying to win a job on the roster.

That's life for most rookies when you first arrive on the scene. The offseason can be lonely and it doesn't matter where you were drafted. You haven't played a down yet in the NFL and you have plenty to prove in the eyes of the coaches and veterans.

But don't expect anyone to slow down for you. Learn the playbook, figure out how to practice at NFL speed and try to improve.

Good luck, rookie.

Special contributor Matt Bowen, who played at Glenbard West and Iowa, spent seven seasons in the NFL as a strong safety. You also can find his work at nationalfootballpost.com.
  • Pin It

Local & National Video