By Robert Zeglinski
BOURBANNIS — Kevin White was once a highly touted first-round pick, fully expected to inject excitement into the Bears offense. Then a shin injury in the 2015 offseason program robbed him of the entire season.
Finally, he recovered and was ready to make his mark as NFL sophomore last year, until he broke his leg four games in.
Now, amidst a Bears’ receiving core with questions galore, it’s time for the third-year White to put up or shut up.
To his credit, none of White’s trials or extensive pressure to produce have changed his perspective as a professional in any way. In his mind, they’ve actually strengthened him as he’s taken away one important lesson: to enjoy the moment.
“I’m not taking the game for granted, taking care of my body, but mostly not taking the game for granted,” White said in an earnest assessment of his Bears career so far.
Given what he’s been through, no one would have blamed White for throwing the towel in. A lot of mental fortitude is required to succeed as an NFL player; magnify that times 100 for a high draft pick whose had his career flash through his eyes so far. White admitted as much to seeing full well what he was missing on the field, and it didn’t help.
“Probably the hardest thing I’ve had to do … staying away from the game for basically two years, not being able to produce.”
Playmakers want to be on the field. It couldn’t have been easy for a guy like White to have it snatched out of his hands in consecutive years. A lesser player likely isn’t standing on the podium of the Bears’ first practice of 2017.
“Just stay the course,” quipped White on what he’s done while previously sidelined, never wavering. As the summer rolls on, it’s up to White to maintain that course, all while patiently working for his long-awaited moment to arrive.
Be assured that White’s current primary concern isn’t his solely his performance. He has his mind set on greater aspirations as to what the 2017 season needs to become to be successful.
“We win a lot of games.”
Trevathan a surprise participant
After suffering a torn patellar tendon last November, the general expectation was that linebacker Danny Trevathan would begin the season on the physically-unable-to-perform list. Not many players have successfully come back from this specific injury.
Lo and behold, a familiar and very welcome No. 59 strolled out onto the practice field for Bears practice Thursday morning, as the team received a bit of good fortune in regards to injury for once.
“I’m grateful for it, I’m gonna work,” said a calmed Trevathan on the obstacles ahead. A limited participant on Wednesday, he still has a ways to go to be 100 percent.
Trevathan has no doubts that he can return to the same caliber of dominant linebacker he once was with the Denver Broncos as a former Super Bowl champion.
“No doubts, can’t have any doubts. The world’s against us. That’s the way I like it. Let’s come out swinging.”
To aid in that proverbial swinging, Trevathan won’t be basking in the afterglow of a Super Bowl victory this year. The veteran linebacker admitted he “partied too much” in the month following the Broncos’ win over the Carolina Panthers two February’s ago—right before he signed with the Bears. It’s something he believes played a part in his disappointing 2016 season.
Trevathan’s focus is realigned for a second season on the lakefront, the way he prefers.
Long ready for position switch
Another Bear who many were unclear on his status going into this camp was stalwart guard Kyle Long, who underwent extensive ankle surgery that required months of rehabilitation this off-season. Once mini-camp and OTA’s rolled around, Long was still limited in practice participation.
So how was he logistically going to be ready for camp? By staying active.
“Being on the lazy sack isn’t what I’m good at. Being back with the team, working … it helps, it’s what I’m good at,” said an appreciative Long.
Long has yet to taste the postseason in his four-year career. The energy to come back healthy and amend that blemish was palpable from the 28-year-old. Especially with an entirely new stable of quarterbacks, outside of Connor Shaw. It’s an injection of fresh enthusiasm, one Long is thankful for upon proper evaluation.
“I love Jay Cutler (former Bears QB) but it’s 2017 and we have Mike, Mitch, Mark, and Connor and sometimes change is good.”
Indeed, the Bears will work to tinker around with the rest of their roster, and none of it will matter as much as their dynamic quarterback situation. A situation that Long understands will permeate through every aspect of the team. His own potentially-beneficial, now-confirmed switch to left guard with last year’s Pro Bowler Josh Sitton moving over to the right side looming large as one of those other moves.
A player like Long, who’s still recovering from an ankle injury that severely limited his mobility, won’t have the easiest of times in such an adjustment. He knows it’s a process and knows that this is what it means to be a professional, whatever the cost it takes for him to be comfortable with the timetable.
“Be patient, but also understand that every rep is an opportunity to learn.”
Sometimes, change is very good.
Demps and leadership
Free agent signing safety Quintin Demps has been around the NFL long enough – nine seasons to be exact – to where nothing catches him off guard.
He’s been successful enough in most of his football playing endeavors to the point where joining a Bears secondary with a litany of question marks and inexperience has him embracing being the old soul counted on to hold the ship together. A role he relishes.
“You love it. You earn it,” said Demps of his leadership status in Chicago. “Ain’t about years in the league, it’s about how you play.”
No one in the Bears secondary can attest to that statement more than Demps, who enjoyed a career-high six interceptions with the Houston Texans last season. That’s only five fewer takeaways than the 2016 Bears had as an entire team.
Still, the 32-year-old has been around the block with an elite defense and can always learn a thing or two about improving in his own right. You can definitely teach an old dog new tricks as Demps attested to secondary coach Ed Donatell offering him a quality helping hand.
“He’s helping me be a better hitter and playmaker,” said Demps of aspects of his game he’s working on so far. Time will tell whether he truly rounds into a complete player.
Demps’ addition to the Bears by default, without any fine-tuning, stands alone as a significant upgrade. The silver ballhawk has a knack for being around the apex of a play, which is ultimately an aspect of football he knows you can’t teach or put into words.
Proper articulation aside, the Bears are certainly hoping he can spread some of his wisdom to younger players such as 2017 fourth-round pick, Eddie Jackson. Demps, in his own way, will try his best in something so fluid, and plug away at the best part of his craft until his number finally isn’t called.
“Some guys are just ballhawks. Can’t explain it.”
Robert is your guy for all things Bears and he’ll be with the team all through training camp. Find him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.