Chicago Bears: Jonathan Wilhite

Day 2 minicamp observations

June, 13, 2012

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.

Devin Hester continued to line up as the deep man on punt returns, but free-agent addition Eric Weems and rookie Greg McCoy also lined up in that position.

• 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.

• Hester made a leaping grab during 7-on-7 drills between D.J. Moore and Chris Conte.

• 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.

[+] EnlargeJonathan Wilhite
Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesJonathan Wilhite said the transition from Denver has been made easier by his teammates.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Bears' signing of free agent cornerback Jonathan Wilhite flew under the radar back in April, but the fifth-year defensive back has stood out in both OTAs open to the media at Halas Hall. With Tim Jennings sidelined Wednesday due to undisclosed reasons, Wilhite handled the first-team reps at cornerback, and intercepted an underthrown Jay Cutler pass at the start of team drills.

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."