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Chicago Bears OTAs recap: A better day for Caleb Williams and reaction to ‘Hard Knocks’ heading to Lake Forest

The Chicago Bears held their second week of organized team activities at Halas Hall and opened practice to the media Friday.

As the Bears continue their key offseason under rookie quarterback Caleb Williams, here are some highlights from the practice and interviews that followed.

Caleb Williams watch

Bears coach Matt Eberflus has stressed that the path to success for Williams will have plenty of peaks and valleys in his rookie season. A week after Williams and the Bears offense had a rocky performance at an OTAs practice open to the media, they were sharper Friday.

In 15 reps during a seven-on-seven period, Williams completed 13 passes, including a deep touchdown over the middle to DJ Moore that Williams celebrated with a dance. Williams had one incompletion, and one pass to Rome Odunze dropped but was flagged for pass interference. The Bears defense, however, was missing four starters from its secondary.

The defense gave the offense a bit more trouble in full-team periods, with Eberflus noting it’s hard to gauge defensive line pressure and offensive line protection without pads on. But in a two-minute drill, Williams moved the offense into field-goal range.

Eberflus said Williams’ week of practice hasn’t been perfect, but he sees progress.

“(It’s) just understanding the plays and how his feet are married to those plays, albeit if it’s just normal situations, if it’s play-action pass or in the red zone when it quickens up a little bit,” Eberflus said. “I think he really improved on that this week, and you could see the ball coming out of his hand pretty live when his feet were right.”

Eberflus stressed the Bears are doing a lot of “first-time things” with the offense but said experimentation with the offense and the players’ different skill sets are “vital for the process to understand who we have, what we have, how we’re going to operate, what’s going to be our formula for success going into training camp.”

News of the day

Eberflus was the defensive coordinator when the Indianapolis Colts were on “Hard Knocks: In Season” in 2021, so he was able to speak knowledgeably about the experience when he addressed the Bears players about their upcoming season on the HBO show, which will air during training camp.

Eberflus said he views the documentary series as a vehicle to showcase players and staff and their stories and wants the team to have a positive attitude about it. He said the Bears developed a plan to navigate the show and the attention that comes with it under the guidance of public relations leader Ted Crews, who joined the team as special advisor to Kevin Warren and chief administrative officer this offseason.

Photos: Inside Chicago Bears OTAs at Halas Hall

“No one changes how they act, no one changes what they do,” Eberflus said. “We just focus on our job, and they’re going to have special-interest stories that they do, which some of them are really good. And we have a lot of them here in our building, so I’m excited to see that.”

Eberflus said the biggest challenge with the show is the hard conversations that need to happen during training camp, and he believes some of those need to be done in private.

“What’s nice about it is we have a great plan in place for that,” Eberflus said. “Everybody who goes on ‘Hard Knocks’ has editing rights to what goes in and out and all those things, and that’s the standard.”

New Bears running back D’Andre Swift was on “Hard Knocks” with the Detroit Lions in 2022, and he made it known afterward he didn’t like the way his relationship with coach Duce Staley was portrayed. He said Friday he still thinks it was a cool experience and will try not to worry about the extra attention that comes with it.

“That’s what it is — it’s attention,” Swift said. “That’s a good outlook for the city, the team itself, as far as to bring eyes to the city and the team. For me personally, I don’t really worry about the cameras too much. I’ve got a job to do here every day, so I’m not really focused on it.”

The Bears were a prime candidate for the show because of Williams, and Eberflus said he thinks Williams has the tools to handle it.

“I do think he’s suited for that because he’s comfortable in his own skin, he knows who he is,” Eberflus said. “Again, he’s been out there for several years in terms of in the media, in the focus, the Heisman winner, all those things that he’s done. And he’ll be good.”

Player in the spotlight

As running back D’Andre Swift settles into offensive coordinator Shane Waldron’s new offense, he’s excited about the opportunities it will present for a variety of playmakers.

But he also is staying patient with it all coming together.

“It’s a complete offense, but it’s going to take work,” Swift said. “We’re all new here. Coaching staff is new, rookie quarterback. So it’s going to be a learning experience for everybody. I’m confident in the group that we have.”

After three seasons with the Lions and a career season with the Philadelphia Eagles in which he had 1,049 rushing yards in 2023, Swift joined the Bears this offseason on a three-year, $24 million contract. He comes in to lead a group that also includes Khalil Herbert and Roschon Johnson, but when asked what percentage of carries he’d like to get, he deferred to the team.

“Nowadays, you need that one-two, two-three (punch). You need multiple guys,” Swift said. “It’s a long season and there’s long games played. You need kind of a multi-back system for the season to keep guys fresh and that sort of thing.”

Eberflus said he thinks Swift has looked “really good” so far this offseason.

“He’s very quick,” Eberflus said. “He’s a weapon out of the backfield, which is outstanding for our passing game, and it’s going to create some mismatches for us. He can do a lot of things from the backfield. He can split them out wide and run the full route tree. He’s exciting to watch.”

Seen and heard

The Bears held a team-building event Thursday at The Club at Strawberry Creek golf course in Kenosha, Wis. Bears kicker Cairo Santos won the event in a playoff.

“Cairo Santos, Mr. Clutch, of course came through and made his par putt to win the championship,” Eberflus said. “It was a fun day overall. We’ve been really working on the guys just understanding mind, body and spirit during this whole offseason, and it’s really a way for us to interact outside of football and get closer together in our relationships and the bond that we have together.”

Eberflus said it was fun to see how far some players could hit the ball, including backup quarterback Brett Rypien, whom Eberflus said hit a drive 338 yards.

“That’s a looong distance,” Eberflus said. “So I was nowhere near that.”

Quote of note

“Man, just the talent jumps out at you. Somebody that’s willing to learn.” — Swift on his first impressions of Williams

Injury and participation watch

The Bears were missing multiple starters from practice Friday, though Eberflus again stressed the sessions were voluntary. He said some of the absent players were gone for personal and family reasons and noted the Bears are being extra cautious with injuries.

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Veteran wide receiver Keenan Allen and defensive end Montez Sweat remained away from the team after neither was present at the first open OTAs practice. Offensive linemen Nate Davis and Kiran Amegadjie were present but did not practice. Linebacker T.J. Edwards and defensive end DeMarcus Walker also were held out.

The Bears were missing multiple starters from their secondary: Jaylon Johnson, Kyler Gordon, Jaquan Brisker and Kevin Byard. Eberflus said they were gone for different reasons.

“It wasn’t a day off of school,” Eberflus said. “It’s just personal and different reasons.”

Eberflus expects full attendance next week at the mandatory minicamp.