Bears rookie minicamp: Return man competition brewing

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Why Trestan Ebner embraces return man competition originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The Bears are hitting reset on their return game. Jakeem Grant and Tarik Cohen are gone. Khalil Herbert is still around, but he only returned 27 kicks last year, and never went back for a punt. Dazz Newsome got a few cracks, but there wasn’t enough of a sample size to see if he could get the job done long term.

So Ryan Poles addressed the need in the draft, not once, but twice. Third-round pick Velus Jones, Jr. and sixth-round pick Trestan Ebner will both get a chance to make an impact on offense, but they’ll each get a big opportunity to contribute on special teams, too.

Most guys don’t dream about being special teams stars, but that wasn’t the case for Jones. He realized as early as his Pop Warner days that the return game was an opportunity for him to shine. Jones’ team was taking on one of the best in the park leagueー we’re talking an opponent that had only lost one game from the time they were four years old until they were 10 years oldー and he managed to take a return to the house.

“The ball was just rolling on the ground and I picked it up,” Jones said. “But I remember at a point that I was slow picking it up so I could bring them in a little more, and then I picked it up and I knew I could get away with speed. Then I just followed my blocks. But I remember that like it was yesterday. That’s been so long ago, like 12 years ago.

“I’ll say then I realized the sky's the limit when it came to that. Ever since then, I’ve just been perfecting my craft.”

Then there’s Ebner, a jack-of-all-trades offensive weapon who’s also a two-time Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year. He says he’s able to succeed due to his vision to find the hole, and the speed to hit it. Ebner also says he’s looking forward to a friendly competition with his rookie classmate to win the starting return job.

“I love it, it's nice,” Ebner said. “We'll be able to push each other. I watched some of his tape too and he's really good. So I think it's fine, I've never been afraid of competition so it’s good.”

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