BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Bears rookie quarterback Dan LeFevour rang up the pick meter during Monday’s practice, throwing six interceptions on his first day of operating with an increased workload.
Given extra repetitions because of a shoulder injury to backup quarterback Caleb Hanie in the preseason opener, LeFevour, understandably, struggled, tossing two picks apiece to linebacker Brian Iwuh and reserve cornerback Corey Graham and one to Josh Bullocks.
“You can see there were a few mistakes out there,” LeFevour said after practice. “I’ve got plenty to learn. It’s challenging, obviously, as a rookie coming in learning a new offense, going under center; all those things. But those are excuses. I’ve just got to keep learning, take everything that coach [Mike] Martz, and [quarterbacks] coach [Shane] Day say, and just try to put it to work and take advantage of my reps.”
As it was, Chicago’s defensive players took advantage Monday of LeFevour’s extra reps. As practice broke for the day, Bears coach Lovie Smith walked over to offer the rookie some words of encouragement.
“He just said, ‘Keep getting better every day. You just can’t get down about mistakes. Just keep coming back, keep fighting, because that’s what this is all about,’” LeFevour said. “I’m gonna make mistakes, I know that. I’m not gonna be perfect right away. I’ve just got to keep going at it.”
Despite LeFevour passing for just 21 yards on 2-of-10 completions for a 39.6 passer rating (Bears receivers dropped three of his passes) in the club’s preseason opener at San Diego, Smith expressed optimism about the rookie quarterback’s prospects.
“He’s like most rookies. Right now he’s getting a little bit better every rep he gets,” Smith said. “I thought he did some good things in the game. For your first action in the NFL, that’s a tough situation to be in. The guy gets a little bit better each day.”
A record-setting quarterback at Central Michigan, LeFevour said he knew his rookie year would “be humbling.”
“[It’s] a little frustrating, obviously,” he said. “But I’ve got to keep my head up. I’m getting some good opportunities. It’s a different game. It’s a notch up. It’s a different speed; new terminology, new routes. All those things kind of go in together. So this isn’t my fifth year in a system like I was in college. I’ve got to do as well as I can and just keep learning.”
Temperature: 78 degrees
Heat index: 77 degrees.
Camp battle focus: reserve linebacker
If the Bears decide to keep the best 53 players, then seven linebackers should make the final roster.
That list includes newcomer Brian Iwuh, who returned to practice Monday for the first time in nearly two weeks, after suffering a knee injury and ankle sprain on the fifth day of training camp.
"It felt good, but I still got to trust myself more out there," Iwuh said. "I got to trust [my knee] and try to play hard on it. A couple more practices of me playing well, and getting in shape, it will help my confidence and my knee will get back to football shape."
Iwuh appeared strong Monday, intercepting two passes in team drills from the weak-side linebacker spot.
Smith took notice, adding that he’s been pleased with Iwuh’s production for quite some time.
“It was good,” Smith said of Iwuh’s return on Monday. “He was making those types of plays before he went down with an injury. Brian’s a good football player. You want guys to perform and make plays. He made a couple [of interceptions] today.”
Iwuh's real value is on special teams though, where he’ll be needed to bolster a unit that struggled on kickoff coverage in the preseason opener. Over the course of four seasons in Jacksonville, Iwuh recorded 61 special-teams tackles, and is considered a potential four-phase contributor with the Bears.
"I always feel like I can help out on special teams because I have a lot of experience and came from a good special-teams group down in Jacksonville," Iwuh said. "I take a lot of pride in my special teams. I did in Jacksonville, and I know they do here in Chicago. I think I can bring some of that pride here and help make this a better special teams unit.
You always feel the urgency in training camp. I'm new to the team, trying to make a statement because I want to be here and I love the organization. I just want to prove myself, go out there and earn a spot on this team."
Starting right guard Lance Louis had his right leg worked on by the Bears training staff and sat out a few individual drills, which allowed James Marten to take a few reps with the first team. Louis later returned for full-team activities and reclaimed his customary spot with the starters.
Right tackle Frank Omiyale and tight end Greg Olsen each jumped offsides on consecutive plays during the inside run drill. Omiyale later atoned for his mistake, easily handling defensive end Mark Anderson in a one-on-one situation.
Tight end Brandon Manumaleuna worked his way back onto the field after missing almost all of last week.
Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher flashed quick hands by deflecting a pass during full-team.
Graham made the two most acrobatic interceptions of the day on LeFevour. Rookie cornerback Joshua Moore knocked a pass out of the hands of Eric Peterman with Graham snatching the deflection for an interception. Graham made another interception later in practice on a diving fingertip grab.
Patrick Mannelly (burner), Jarron Gilbert, Earl Bennett (hamstring), Hunter Hillenmeyer (foot), and Matt Mayberry were also held out of practice, along with Hanie (shoulder), Craig Steltz (ankle) and Major Wright (finger), who suffered injuries in Saturday’s game.