12 takeaways from first practice at Bears training camp

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The Chicago Bears hit the practice field for the first time during training camp on Wednesday, which kicked off a new era of Bears football under a new regime.

It was a closed, ramp-up practice for the team. But there was plenty of action at Halas Hall, including the monitoring of some important position battles on offense and defense.

There was plenty to digest from practice and press conferences with head coach Matt Eberflus, defensive end Robert Quinn, receiver N’Keal Harry and offensive linemen Riley Reiff and Michael Scofield.

Following Wednesday’s practice, here’s a look at what we learned from the first day of Bears training camp:

Robert Quinn doesn't want to be traded

AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps

There’s been plenty of speculation about Robert Quinn’s future with the Bears following reports that he wanted out of Chicago. Naturally, it was a popular topic of discussion when Quinn spoke with the media.

Quinn made it clear that he doesn’t want to be traded, and he’s preparing to play this season with the Bears. But he acknowledged the business nature of the NFL.

 “I expect to be here but if not that’s out of my control,” he said.

Quinn is coming off an impressive season where he set a franchise single-season sack record. Following the trade of Khalil Mack, Quinn is now the top option off the edge for Chicago.

Bears insist Roquan Smith is hurt

AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

The Bears placed star linebacker Roquan Smith on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list ahead of Wednesday’s practice. There was some speculation about it being a potential loophole for GM Ryan Poles while the two sides work towards a contract extension.

While that still might be the case, Eberflus insists that Smith is indeed hurt. Smith is still able to participate in team meetings but not practice. Eberflus said Smith took a physical on Tuesday but he didn’t participate in the conditioning drill.

As for Eberflus’ expectations for Smith while he’s on the PUP list?

“Stay involved, be a leader, be engaged – which he’s doing and will do,” Eberflus said. “He’s a pro. He’s been in the league long enough, he’s a really good player and we’re excited to have him as a Chicago Bear, and he’ll do that.”

All offensive line combinations remain open

AP Photo/David Banks

All eyes were on the starting offensive line as the Bears kicked off training camp. It was a familiar combination last seen during mandatory minicamp with Braxton Jones at left tackle, Cody Whitehair at left guard, Lucas Patrick at center, Sam Mustipher at right guard and Larry Borom at right tackle.

Luckily, starting lineups aren’t determined on the first day of training camp. The Bears added two likely starters in tackle Riley Reiff and guard Michael Schofield, both of whom were limited on Wednesday. Expect their reps to be upped as they get up to speed.

Eberflus didn’t rule out any offensive line combinations, and reiterated that all jobs are open. That could include moving players around. But the real evaluation begins when the pads go on later in camp.

O-line battles becoming clearer

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The Bears are preaching competition at multiple positions this summer, but the battle along the offensive line is becoming clearer following the first practice.

Both Riley Reiff and Braxton Jones saw reps at left tackle on Wednesday. Reiff, who was limited, worked with the starters during individual drills while Jones saw action during the team drills. Sam Mustipher worked at right guard with the first team as Schofield was also limited. Then there’s last year’s rookies Larry Borom and Teven Jenkins, who appear to be battling for that starting right tackle job. Borom worked with the starters on Wednesday while Jenkins is getting a look as a swing tackle.

But while the offensive line is far from settled, it’s easy to project what the starting combination will be: LT Riley Reiff; LG Cody Whitehair; C Lucas Patrick; RG Michael Schofield; RT Larry Borom/Teven Jenkins.

N'Keal Harry embracing fresh start with Bears

AP Photo/Zach Bolinger

New Bears wide receiver N’Keal Harry isn’t focusing on what went wrong in New England. Instead, he’s embracing his fresh start in Chicago, where he has a chance to prove himself and carve out a role for himself on offense.

“I got a real chip on my shoulder,” Harry said. “I’m looking to come in and prove that I can help this team win.”

Given the unproven nature of the receiving corp, Harry has a chance to impress and earn a coveted roster spot. But he’s not the only receiver looking to prove something. The Bears have a slew of veterans — including Dante Pettis, David Moore and Dazz Newsome — also looking to earn a roster spot.

“This is a golden opportunity for all of us,” Harry said. “It’s just, who’s going to grab it?”

Kyler Gordon, Al-Quadin Muhammad and Elijah Hicks were back at practice

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The Bears welcomed back three players who missed all or some of the team’s offseason program, including top rookie cornerback Kyler Gordon, defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad and seventh-round rookie safety Elijah Hicks.

Gordon impressed throughout the offseason program, but he suffered a minor injury that forced him to miss the entirety of mandatory minicamp. But the good news is he’s back on the field and getting plenty of looks at cornerback.

Muhammad, who played with Eberflus in Indianapolis, skipped the voluntary portion of the offseason program. Meanwhile, Hicks was recovering from a foot injury suffered before the NFL draft.

Riley Reiff sees some of Joe Burrow in Justin Fields

AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

Riley Reiff is expected to play a huge role in protecting quarterback Justin Fields this season. But before joining Chicago, Reiff was doing the same for another young QB in Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow.

Reiff heaped praise Fields’ way by explaining how he already sees some of Burrow in Fields.

“Joe Burrow is an awesome guy,” Reiff said. “Tough, smart. I see a lot of that in Justin.”

That’s certainly high praise from Reiff, considering Burrow is one of the best young quarterbacks in the league. If Fields winds up being anything like Burrow, it’s safe to say the Bears will finally have found a franchise quarterback.

Eddie Jackson was returning punts

AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

Safety Eddie Jackson has a fresh start under this new regime, and he’ll be looking to get back to his ballhawking ways. And perhaps a little something more.

Jackson was getting some punt return work during Wednesday’s practice, and Eberflus explained that they’re trying multiple players in that position.

The Bears might’ve found a secret weapon in Jackson, who returned punts during his senior season at Alabama. He returned 11 punts for 253 yards and two touchdowns. It might not be such a bad idea to put Jackson back there and see what he’s got.

Velus Jones Jr., Dante Pettis and Chris Finke also got looks at returning punts on Wednesday.

Kyler Gordon saw reps at nickel cornerback

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago’s top draft selection Kyler Gordon is a versatile player with the ability to play both outside and inside. Defensive coordinator Alan Williams noted during the offseason that Gordon was sticking outside, for now, as to not overwhelm him as a rookie.

But Gordon saw some reps at nickel cornerback on Wednesday. Eberflus explained that they want to get a look at players in different positions, where applicable, and see what they can handle.

At this point, it’s still a safe bet that Gordon will be starting outside opposite Jaylon Johnson. But there’s a battle brewing in the slot between veteran Tavon Young and Thomas Graham Jr.

Top rookies Jaquan Brisker, Velus Jones Jr. made plays

AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

The Bears have an intriguing class of rookies, including several who are expected to contribute immediately as starters. During Wednesday’s practice, it was second-round safety Jaquan Brisker and third-round wideout Velus Jones Jr. who were making plays.

Brisker garnered a reputation as a ballhawk during the offseason program, and that continued in training camp. He came away with an interception during 1-on-1 red zone drills.

Then there was Jones, who bested fellow rookie Kyler Gordon for a touchdown during a 1-on-1 red zone drill. As CHGO Bears reported, Jones “broke Kyler Gordon’s ankles” to break free for a wide-open score.

Early contenders at nickel cornerback, strong side linebacker

AP Photo/Terrance Williams

The Bears are preaching competition this summer, and there are no shortage of battles to watch. While the offensive line and wide receiver are big ones to watch, there are some big ones on defense, as well.

That starts in the slot, where Tavon Young and Thomas Graham Jr. are battling for the starting nickel cornerback job. Young is the favorite to win the job, and it wasn’t a surprise to see him take most of the reps with the starters on Wednesday. Graham is going to need a strong camp and preseason if he hopes to push for the job.

Eberflus confirmed that Roquan Smith will be starting at weak side linebacker with Nicholas Morrow serving as the middle linebacker. But that leaves the strong side job up for grabs. As expected, it was Matt Adams getting the start alongside Morrow on Wednesday. Barring an upset, those should be your starting linebackers.

OG Michael Schofield calls it "a dream come true" to play for Bears

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New Bears offensive guard Michael Schofield grew up in Orland Park, IL, just over 30 minutes outside the city of Chicago. Naturally, he was a fan of the Bears growing up. So it was “a dream come true” to sign with the Bears.

Listening to Schofield, he sounded like a true fan. Schofield’s favorite Bears memory is Devin Hester returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown in Super Bowl XLI. Heck, his first jersey was Marty Booker (“back when I wanted to be a receiver”) and he also had a Kyle Orton jersey.

Schofield said “it was like I got drafted all over again” for his family when they learned the news.

Now, Schofield joins the Bears with the task of protecting hopeful franchise quarterback Justin Fields. Schofield has played guard mostly in his career, and that’s where he ultimately expects to land. But he’s open to playing wherever the team needs him.

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