Hub Arkush: Absences at Bears OTAs likely much ado about nothing

No need to panic over Jaylon Johnson, Nate Davis yet

Chicago Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson lines up against the Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022, in Minneapolis.

Organized team activities – or OTAs as they are commonly referred to across the NFL – aren’t really about playing football, nor will they determine how many games the 2023 Bears are going to win.

They also aren’t going to tell us much about how good or bad the team’s new rookies and veteran free agents are going to be, or how much those additions can immediately improve the team.

What this portion of the offseason resembles the most, as the Bears wrap up their second of three weeks of OTAs, is going to school.

As Bears defensive coordinator Alan Williams described it Wednesday, “You know what? We’re in shorts and T-shirts. So I don’t know yet. Now, the caveat is, is that we don’t have pads on right now, and so you’ll never know until you know, but the arrow is still – for me – it’s pointing up and sky high.”

All Williams and the rest of the Bears coaching staff are focused on right now is teaching the newbies, veterans and rookies the new systems and schemes. Right now is the time for the rookies to learn how to become pros.

Special teams coordinator Richard Hightower echoed the same sentiment.

“I don’t fall in love with guys in helmets and shorts,” Hightower said.

OTAs are basically summer school for the players and student teaching for the coaches.

It’s also worth pointing out that OTAs are voluntary. Players are not obligated to show up.

I’ve never heard of a rookie who wants to make the team not participating, but every club almost always has a veteran – or three or four – who choose to take their summer off.

Much has been made about fourth-year veteran cornerback Jaylon Johnson not attending the first two weeks of OTAs. Many assume it’s because he is unhappy or concerned about not receiving a new contract yet.

Johnson said Thursday on ESPN radio’s “Keyshawn, JWill & Max” show that he plans to return next week for the third week of OTAs. Johnson noted that he has been spending time with his young daughter in California.

There also has been some talk about right guard Nate Davis’ absence right after signing a three-year, $30 million contract with his new team this offseason.

Safety Eddie Jackson and wide receiver Darnell Mooney also were absent Wednesday, but that is assumed to be because they are continuing to rehabilitate 2022 injuries.

Head coach Matt Eberflus has carefully pointed out whenever asked that these camps are voluntary, and veteran lineman Cody Whitehair downplayed Davis’ absence.

“I think he’ll be fine,” Whitehair said. “He’s a veteran guy. He’s played in this system for a long time, coming from Tennessee. A lot of the stuff is the same. Just seeing where he is in combinations and where I am, I don’t think it’ll be a very hard transition. It’ll be pretty smooth I think.”

Don’t forget, Davis most likely has a new house to buy and a big move to make, and all these players may have families to take care of and little time to spend with them from July through January.

At the end of the day expecting to learn too much too soon is really impatient and unwise, while the absence of veterans will most likely turn out to be much ado about nothing.

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush was the Senior Bears Analyst for Shaw Local News Network and