How Velus Jones Jr. is elevating game to get back on field for Bears

'Be ready:' How Velus is working to get back on field for Bears originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Velus Jones Jr. has been trying to find positivity in his current situation with the Bears, hoping that will help him find a way to help his team on Sundays.

The third-round rookie receiver has been a healthy scratch in consecutive games as the trade for Chase Claypool and return of Byron Pringle have pushed him down the depth chart. The good news for Jones is that he is in a locker room with several receivers who have faced adversity early in their career. He has tried to lean on them for advice to get back on the field.

“Dante [Pettis] gave me some talks before,” Jones said Thursday at Halas Hall. “He gave me some examples of his rookie season and what was difficult, giving me some advice being a rookie. You just learning how to become a pro. Your work habits and how you approach every day.

“I definitely feel like it starts off with a positive mentality. That’s why I come in the building, I’m ready to work, be a sponge, learn more and more, and fix the things that need to be fixed. That just shows the coaches that you want to learn and that you’re trying to get better.”

Jones missed a large chunk of the preseason due to a hamstring injury, and he made critical mistakes as a punt returner in early-season losses to the New York Giants and Washington Commanders. The Bears took Jones’ punt return duties away after the loss to Washington.

With his special teams value diminished, Jones was an easy choice to be inactive once Claypool arrived and Pringle returned.

The Bears now have a full wide receiver room with seven guys fighting for snaps on Sundays. N’Keal Harry joined Jones on the inactive list in Week 10 despite his solid play in the previous three games. Harry will be inactive Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons due to an illness.

The increased competition in the receiver room and inactive Sundays could wind up benefitting Jones in the long run. The Bears have already seen him elevate his work on the practice field since being a two-time healthy scratch.

“When you see people getting uniforms and you not getting a uniform, it makes you take it to another level,” wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert said. “At least, it should. He’s been doing that, especially the last couple weeks. Taking it to another level as far as his preparation, as far as his details, all of that. Extra work after practice. All of that.

“If you want that uniform you got to do something extra. I saw a saying one time, ‘If you doing the same amount of work as the guy in front of you, he’s staying in front of you.’ He’s doing some extra stuff so he can step it up a little bit.”

Darnell Mooney is the same age as Jones, but as the established No. 1 in the Bears’ receiver room, Mooney has tried to guide Jones as the rookie works to find his footing in the NFL.

"Just keep working,” Mooney told NBC Sports Chicago about his advice to Jones. “Don’t think about anything bad or negative. Just be ready. It’s your rookie year, but you honestly just have to be ready at any moment. Anytime you can be called back up and you have to be ready when your number is called. Don’t be down on it. Don’t be down on yourself. Don’t doubt yourself. Because when you can come back up and the ball is in the air and it’s your chance, you got to be able to make the most of it.”

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Head coach Matt Eberflus has said that special teams are the determining factor when it comes to end-of-roster decisions on game day. Jones’ early-season mistakes as punt returner bumped him behind Pettis, Khalil Herbert, and Trestan Ebner on the returner depth chart.

But with Herbert now on injured reserve, Jones should have a good chance to get a jersey Sunday when the Bears face the Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Even if Jones gets back on the field on teams Sunday, the rookie knows he still has a lot of work to do to prove his value on offense.

That’s all about consistency in everything he does during the week at Halas Hall.

“Everything that happens in life, including football, it’s a lesson you can take from everything,” Jones said. “I just look at it as reflecting on what I can do better to help my team. Whether it’s some work habits or stuff that need to change. Just take a lesson from it and let it motivate you.

“It’s really nothing I need to fix. It’s just your work habits. You can get better at every part of your game. Even your strengths, you can get better at that as well. Not just your weaknesses. Just overall, I would say the position I’m in, control what you can control and just keep pushing.”

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