LAKE FOREST – When Justin Fields is on the football field, he’s there to work.
The 22-year-old Bears quarterback was laser focused during his first two days at Bears rookie minicamp, which continued Saturday at Halas Hall in Lake Forest. Asked about it prior to Saturday’s practice, Bears rookie running back Khalil Herbert couldn’t remember seeing Fields smile during their first practice together Friday.
“I’ll look for it today,” Herbert joked. “But when he was out there, he was all business. I know he was having fun.”
Saturday was the second of three rookie minicamp practices with 33 total players, including rookie draft picks, undrafted free agents, practice squad players from last season and veteran tryout players. Rookie minicamp concludes Sunday.
Bears head coach Matt Nagy once again watched practice virtually Saturday after someone in his family tested positive for COVID-19. If Nagy tests negative Sunday morning, he will return for Sunday’s practice.
Nagy, of course, is eager to work with Fields in person. But he couldn’t care less if his QB smiles or not.
“It’s amazing, too, how people change when they’re off the field versus when they’re on the field,” Nagy said. “We just want them to be who they are and his competitive nature and his competitive spirit, you can tell, is the way that it is. It’s kind of always been that way. You see that with him and that’s something that we’ll all get used to.”
Herbert thinks Fields’ serious demeanor is what draws players to him in the locker room. Rookie offensive tackle Larry Borom agreed.
“It’s not fun and games when we’re on the field,” Borom said. “It’s definitely 100 percent business and he wants to do the job at the highest level that he can. I try to echo that with my play.”
Rookie dazzle?: Now a second-year pro, receiver Darnell Mooney set the Bears rookie record for receptions last season. Mooney was a fifth-round draft pick in 2020 and, at 5-foot-10, 175 pounds, not a particularly big target.
Enter another undersized rookie selected on day three of the draft: Dazz Newsome. The 5-foot-10, 190-pound sixth-round draft pick, who celebrated his 22nd birthday Saturday, is already building a rapport with Fields.
“[It’s] really just trying to get a bond, honestly,” Newsome said. “Make sure he knows where I’m supposed to be and make sure I know what he’s thinking and what’s his progressions [are].”
Nagy said the Bears were impressed with Newsome’s production from the slot at North Carolina. Whether or not Newsome will produce as a rookie will come down to how he can progress from the mental reps in meetings to the physical reps on the field.
That will ramp up in OTAs and into training camp. With recent additions of Marquise Goodwin and Damiere Byrd, and with Anthony Miller and Riley Ridley still on the roster, the slot position is crowded.
“When you talk about Dazz, you understand that [slot receiver is] a position he plays where we feel like it’s probably some of the most depth that we have at a position,” Nagy said. “And we feel he’s just going to add to that.”
One-on-one time: With participation limited due to the pandemic, the Bears have only about half as many players in rookie minicamp as they normally might. That means more specialized one-on-one time with position coaches.
On the offensive line, the Bears have only six players in minicamp – draft picks Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom, undrafted rookies Gunnar Vogel, William Cervenka and Dareuan Parker, and returning practice squad player Dieter Eiselen. Those guys are spending some quality time with offensive line coach Juan Castillo.
“It’s been a lot more detailed,” Borom said. “He’s able to focus on, with it being a small group, really just focus on everything with us, and it’s been great.”