Chicago Bears: OTAs
"I'm excited about the switch," McClellin said. "They told me they wanted me to play linebacker and I was fine with it. I think it's a good fit for me, so I'm going to try to show what I can do."
McClellin said he "anticipated they probably would" ask him to move to linebacker.
"My first two years weren't the greatest, but I think linebacker is a natural fit for me," McClellin said. "I think it's what I should be doing. As a player, you're going to do what they tell you to, and I was fine with playing D-end. They wanted me to rush the passer, and I think one of my strengths is rushing the passer. I was fine with it."
Wearing jersey No. 50, McClellin participated in Tuesday's workout operating mostly from the Sam position because starting middle linebacker D.J. Williams didn't attend the OTA session. With Williams out, Jonathan Bostic was forced to play middle linebacker while McClellin slid outside to Sam.
McClellin took in a few repetitions at middle linebacker with the second team. But he's expected to compete with Bostic during training camp for the starting job on the strong side. For the most part, McClellin looked natural Tuesday as a linebacker, and teammates believe he can successfully transition into his new role.
"Trying to rush off the edge and then go back to linebacker, that's a transition guys have got to make," defensive end Jared Allen said. "You see that so much throughout this league, and the cool part is that he's athletic enough to do it. I've watched guys go from middle linebacker to fullback. It's one of those things: the more you can do in this league, the longer you'll be around. Obviously, they feel he has worth coming back off the edge. For me, if I had to go to linebacker, I'd be cut, that's not happening: I'm a one position type of guy."
In the meeting rooms, McClellin sits next to perennial Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs and has said the veteran players at the position have helped tremendously at easing the transition.
"He picks up things really fast. Being that he was in the defense before there's a lot of things and a lot of calls he's already familiar with," Briggs said. "He's an athletic linebacker and an athletic linebacker can play in this league. He's got speed. He's smart. Shea, size-wise, he could play Mike. Right now he's playing Sam. But I'm sure coach is probably going to move him around to see where his best fit is."
In preparation for the new role at linebacker, McClellin moved to California, where he spent 12 weeks in the offseason training with performance coach Scot Prohaska. McClellin lost 11 pounds and reduced his body fat by eight percent. When the team reported to Halas Hall for the start of the offseason program back in April, McClellin weighed 252 pounds and possessed 10 percent body fat.
The change prompted general manager Phil Emery to quip: "He looks like an extra from a Dolph Lundgren movie, doesn't he? He's looking good, looking trim and fit."
McClellin said the team wants him to stay between 245 and 250 pounds as a linebacker after playing last season at approximately 260 pounds as a defensive end. In a sense, for McClellin moving to linebacker is akin to returning home.
"Yeah, it's very natural," McClellin said. "The instincts are there and I've just got to work on the concepts, the routes, and it's good to have some guys out here to go against instead of just going against air. [I've] still got a lot to work on. I think I've got a lot to prove. I'm just gonna go out there and do the best I can."
"Evan is a very likeable guy," Emery said at the conclusion of Tuesday's OTA workout. "We have talked. Disappointed. I would use the word extremely. And we'll leave it at that.
"There are a lot of things we have to work through. All off-the-field incidents are subject to NFL policies and guidelines. We've got to work through these things."
Carimi missed OTA sessions on Monday and Tuesday, the first two workouts of 10 league-mandated OTAs, and was the only player on the team eligible to attend who did not.
"This is a voluntary situation, and every player has to make his own decisions," Emery told Sirius XM NFL Radio. "Gabe has made a decision. He wants to stay in Arizona and train. We respect that, and we'll welcome (him) with open arms when he comes back."
Forte called the team's new scheme "more challenging to me personally" because in addition to learning his own responsibilities, he has to know the jobs of others, not to mention the "why" behind what he's doing.
"It's easy to learn what you do, but to actually have to learn the concepts of what the receivers are doing and why I have to run this route to get that guy open ... it makes it more difficult, but also more intriguing as a player," Forte said Tuesday after the club's second workout of organized team activities. "I have to learn more than what the 'H' does. I've got to learn what the 'F' does, (and) where he lines up because I may have a situation where I line up as a receiver. I have to learn the receivers' routes as well."
He was the only one eligible to attend who did not, according to a source. Rookie first-round pick Kyle Long is among a handful of players who cannot participate in the remainder of the offseason program due to Oregon being on the quarter system and having final exams that run through June 14.
“I’ll say because of (offensive coordinator) Mike Tice. When a guy comes up to you and says, ‘If I can’t get the ball in your hands I don’t deserve to be a head coach.’ For a guy to say that and know what I’m capable of and honestly says he has a lot of faith in me, (that’s encouraging),” Hester said.
Teammates Brandon Marshall and Jay Cutler have also consistently uttered similar glowing comments about Hester, with both saying he’s poised for a breakout 2012 season. Just last month, receivers coach Darryl Drake gave some insight as to how the team plans to use Hester.
“I’ll say this about Devin Hester, and I’ve always said it: all we’ve got to do is use him, and you’ll see what kind of player he is, period,” Drake said. “If he’s out there, put the ball in his hands. We need to have that package, and (offensive coordinator) Mike Tice -- I promise you -- he's gonna do it.”
Working with quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates, Tice has already tweaked the passing portion of Chicago’s offense to a system very similar to the Denver Broncos’ passing offense of 2001. That means Hester will run defined routes on most plays instead of trying to think through the system the way receivers did under former coordinator Mike Martz, who utilized a scheme heavy with hot routes and routes that had to be broken off based on the look shown by the defense.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears concluded Day 2 of their mandatory veteran minicamp Wednesday at Halas Hall.
Here are some quick observations from the workout:
• Former Bears cornerback Tom Carter (1997-99), now a player advocate with the NFLPA, attended Wednesday’s session to make sure the club continued to adhere to the rules in the new collective bargaining agreement regarding contact during workouts.
CBA rules state that contact work -- live blocking, tackling pass rushing, bump-and-run coverage -- or use of pads other than helmets is prohibited at minicamps. The NFL and NFLPA can’t monitor offseason work of all 32 teams, and typically investigates if it receives a complaint from a player or comes across a media report of a physical practices or fight. Investigators are then able to review video -- because every team is required to film every drill -- to determine whether a club committed a violation. Teams are reportedly required to keep video of offseason work on file until four weeks into the season, and that video can be reviewed if complaints are made.
The Bears currently utilize four cameras at Halas Hall to monitor offseason work.
• Although Chris Williams opened as the starting left tackle during Tuesday’s session, the club opened with J’Marcus Webb in that spot for Wednesday’s practice. Throughout the workout, both players alternated taking reps with the starters.
• Cornerback Jonathan Wilhite didn’t participate during Tuesday or Wednesday’s team sessions, but the club didn’t disclose a reason.
Tight end Matt Spaeth (hamstring), linebackers Patrick Trahan and Brian Urlacher (knee), and defensive end Thaddeus Gibson also didn’t participate. Rookie receiver Alshon Jeffery (lower leg) worked with the team during individual drills, but didn’t take part in team work.
Urlacher, meanwhile, continued to work with director of rehabilitation Bobby Slater away from the rest of the team performing drills. At one point, Urlacher also worked at pulling a sled.
• Second-year wideout Dane Sanzenbacher, who led the team in drops last season and dropped several passes during organized team activities in recent weeks, appears to have rebounded somewhat during the first two days of minicamp. Sanzenbacher didn’t drop any passes thrown his way during 7 on 7, but still might face long odds to make the team because of the arrival of free agent Devin Thomas, who gives the club value as a special teams player.
• Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Tillman continues to hone is strip technique. Tillman punched a ball out of the hands of tight end Kellen Davis during team drills, before recovering and pitching a lateral to linebacker Nick Roach.
“He’s always been able to strip the football as well as anybody I think I’ve seen in the league,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said. “Of course, he followed that up today, getting the ball out.”
• Veteran long snapper Patrick Mannelly appears almost fully recovered from a 2011 season ending knee injury. Mannelly returned to action near the end of OTAs and snapped with the first team the first two days of minicamp.
• First-year tight end Evan Rodriguez made several receptions downfield in both full-team and seven-on-seven drills. Rodriguez appears to have great strides since struggling at the club's rookie minicamp held in early May.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Although additions on defense seemed few compared to what the Chicago Bears did on the other side of the ball, coach Lovie Smith thinks the team’s new offensive weaponry can actually play a role in improving the defense.
“I love it,” Tillman said. “It’s making us a lot better with Earl (Bennett) in the slot, with Devin (Hester) in the slot, with Brandon. I think (quarterback) Jay (Cutler) has a pretty good arsenal, a pretty good selection (also with) adding Eric Weems. The one thing I can say about Brandon is it’s like game day every day. Every play, I feel like I’m getting that game-quality competition. He’s a competitor. I’m a competitor, and I need that. It makes me good and it pushes me, and I think it pushes him as well.”
Tight end Matt Spaeth, rookie receiver Alshon Jeffery (sore leg), wideout Johnny Knox and cornerback Jonathan Wilhite were present on Wednesday but did not participate. Pro Bowler Julius Peppers was held out of team drills which allowed Chauncey Davis to take first team reps at defensive end. Patrick Mannelly was also sidelined as he continues to rehab a knee injury.
Right tackle Gabe Carimi, tight end Kellen Davis and cornerback Kelvin Hayden all worked out for the first time this offseason when reporters were present. Carimi returned to his starting right tackle spot while Hayden and Tim Jennings worked with the starters at cornerback.
With Spaeth sidelined, second-year tight end Kyle Adams made a couple of nice grabs working at the No. 2 tight end spot.
Dom DeCicco lined up at middle linebacker on Wednesday as Nick Roach slid back over to strong side linebacker. Roach filled in at MLB last week when the media were in attendance.
The Bears final organized team activity is scheduled for Thursday with the veteran minicamp slated to run from June 12-14.
“I still have a lot to prove for this defense, and I do want to show that I am the guy of the future for this defense. We’re really just sitting back. I’m not going to let it be a distraction or be a distraction to the team or anything. We’re just letting it go.”
Scheduled to earn $565,000 this season in the final year of his contract signed in 2009, Melton finally in 2011 lived up to the high expectations placed on him by the coaching staff. Going into the 2011 season, Bears coach Lovie Smith consistently pointed to Melton as a player poised for a breakout year.
Melton responded with seven sacks in 15 starts, which tied for third in the NFL in sacks among defensive tackles.
This offseason, the club’s decision to not bring back veteran defensive tackles Anthony Adams and free agent Amobi Okoye provided further evidence of its confidence in Melton paired next to Matt Toeaina, with second-year man Stephen Paea adding to the rotation.
Melton likes what he’s seen so far from the defensive line during offseason workouts.
“Of course you can always get better,” Melton said. “Unless you finish first in total defense, you always can get better. Right now, we’re really just having to know where everyone needs to be and we’re going into some serious detail, a lot more technique. It’s looking good. We’ve got a lot of veterans, a lot of studs. We’ve got a big rotation. Pretty much whoever steps in can get the job done.”
Melton would prefer to continue to work his trade in Chicago, which in 2009 selected him with a fourth-round pick. Still, he won’t let the prospect of potentially departing derail what he’s expecting to be an even better campaign in 2012 than his breakout season of 2011.
“I love the city, the fans are great. I’ve got a lot of close friends on the team, and I love being out here,” Melton said. “I’d love to be here. I’d love to be the motor for the defense.”
Wilhite also picked off a pass last week when the media was in attendance.
"The transition (from Denver to the Bears) has been really good," Wilhite said. "There are some great players and great coaches here who are willing to help. They have really accepted me in and been willing to help me out. It's been wonderful so far being around guys like Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings.'
"Anytime you go to a new team you have to learn their specifics and terminology, but so far I've been catching. But I've also got guys around me who are making my transition easier."
Selected by the New England Patriots in the fourth round of the 2008 draft out of Auburn, Wilhite is accustomed to seeing occasional time with the first team. He made 13 career starts for the Pats before playing last season in Denver where he cracked the Broncos' starting lineup twice.
"The reps have been good," Wilhite said. "I've had a chance to go out there and make calls and go against great receivers every single day. It's been really good for me."
Only time will tell if Wilhite will be given a chance to seriously challenge Jennings or one of the other cornerbacks on the roster for a starting job. Although Jennings was a spectator on Wednesday, the returning starter has by all accounts had a solid offseason program. The Bears also signed free agent cornerback Kelvin Hayden who is still working his way back from a variety of injuries the past few years.
"Right now that's (winning a starting job) not my main focus," Wilhite said. "It's learning the defense, doing the things I need to do to help the team anyway I can. Whatever happens, happens ... my thing is to come (here), know what I'm doing, know my assignment and execute it. Whatever the coaches decide to do they decide to do."
While it's no surprise the receiver Johnny Knox (back), linebacker Brian Urlacher (knee), offensive tackle Gabe Carimi (knee), cornerback Kelvin Hayden (toe), and long snapper Patrick Mannelly (knee) were unable to practice because of injuries dating back to last season, it's unknown why tight end Kellen Davis and Tim Jennings didn't participate.
Carimi took repetitions in a limited capacity on Tuesday, and the team held him out of Wednesday's sessions as he continues to recover from December knee surgery. Mannelly worked off to the side of the field rehabilitating with one of the team's athletic trainers.
Davis and Jennings participated in the last OTA workouts open to the media earlier in June.
The team makes players available to the media after OTA sessions, but coaches remain off limits. So there was no official word on why Davis and Jennings didn't participate. Both were starters last season.