Bears

Hub Arkush: Bears open rookie minicamp with a lot of new faces

Chicago Bears safety Jaquan Brisker warms up with teammates during the team's rookie minicamp, Friday, May 6, 2022, at Halas Hall in Lake Forest.

Change often can be a good thing. When instituted properly, it usually is.

We’ve known significant changes were coming to Halas Hall for months since Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy were pink-slipped.

But it still didn’t really hit home how much change we’re talking about until the first day of rookie minicamp and how many different directions it will come from.

Step one really came into focus Friday.

With the decision to rebuild the Bears’ roster practically from the ground up, most of the replacements for the dear departed will be bright-eyed kids fresh out of college.

Meeting many of them in person for the first time, they immediately reminded me of each of my kids the day we dropped them off for their first day of college and how exciting but daunting and stressful it was for them.

I was enlightened when I asked sixth-round pick Trestan Ebner how all of this compared to the things he experienced at Baylor.

“The coaching staff and just everybody around has been so welcoming, making me feel comfortable and at home because it’s a new environment, and I’ve never been this far away from home, to tell you the truth,” the rookie running back said. “It’s just nice to get to see some friendly faces. Everybody is smiling, laughing, having a good time, so I’m comfortable here now.”

He’s already performed in front of thousands of people weekly on national TV over the past three years, yet he’s never been this far from home.

Others are star-struck and simply in awe of their surroundings.

Cornerback Kyler Gordon couldn’t believe he got to meet Charles “Peanut” Tillman, a Bears legend who University of Washington defensive backs watched on tape.

“We always practiced the Peanut punch, and then he walked behind us, and I was like, ‘Damn, that’s him!’ That was cool,’” Gordon said.

Wide receiver Velus Jones was equally awed by Tillman, even from the other side of the line of scrimmage.

“Man, it just shows the passion, especially the passion he played with,” Jones said. “And it goes for even the offensive [side of the] ball, the passion you play with, the greatness, the determination. That definitely fired me up as a receiver.”

Working in the house that Hester helped build had a similar impact on return specialists Jones and Ebner.

“Man, when I think of Devin Hester, I think of greatness. Fearless,” Jones said. “I was watching him ever since I was young. He was a huge impact on my return game as a kid, but when his name comes up, I think of greatness.”

Ebner was even more impressed. He even joked with the Bears equipment staff about buying the No. 23 jersey currently occupied by defensive back Lamar Jackson.

“I’m like, ‘I hope he’ll let me buy it from him!’ That would be nice to put that number on,” Ebner said. “I just hope I can be half of what he was.”

After meeting a number of the new kids on the block, I asked head coach Matt Eberflus how long it will take for all the change to settle in for the youngsters.

“The ones that are really good that are going to be starters in the league, I don’t feel like it takes very long. I really don’t,” he said. “I think it takes a couple practices. And ... once they get with the vets, they’ll be like, ‘OK, I can do this,’ and then they just go.”

Safety Jaquan Brisker isn’t there yet but said he’s trying and taking it one day at a time.

As another one of those kids expected to start early, I think Jones summed up his first day as a pro best.

“Man, exciting, a true blessing,” Jones said. “Coming in, it still doesn’t feel real yet, so we’ll see when I put on the helmet.”

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush is the Senior Bears Analyst for Shaw Local News Network and ShawLocal.com.