Chicago Bears first-rounder Shea McClellin has been inconsistent throughout training camp. The rookie defensive end has looked very blockable at times, yet his speed and quickness have helped him progress as a pass rusher.
As such, it was hard to predict how McClellin would look last night in his first live NFL action. During Chicago's preseason opener against the Denver Broncos, McClellin showed he's ready for prime time.
He tied for third on the team in total tackles (3) and picked up a sack, which came on an inside where McClellin was able to change direction and chase down Caleb Hanie from behind.
It was a great start for the Bears player that arguably has the most to prove this year. McClellin talked with Bear Report correspondent Beth Gorr about his first live action at Soldier Field.
"It was great getting thrown right in there last night. I guess my first reaction to the game would be to say I have a lot of learning still to do. As a rookie sometimes you try to do too much too soon, or you aren't doing enough at all. It's a matter of finding that balance where you are effective for the team.
DE Shea McClellin
"I was somewhat concerned initially about what the condition of the turf would be after the monsoons that his Soldier Field shortly before the game began, but I was very impressed. The drainage worked well and we all had pretty good traction.
"I'm sure once I see the game films when we are back in Bourbonnais, I'll find a lot that I was not doing as well as I could have. My job is to learn every time that I am out there. I am working hard to accomplish that but I do realize I have a long way to go.
"Physically I felt good. There were a few nerves before the game began but once I got out there I was fine. I think if you have played football for most of your life, it becomes automatic. You are busy thinking about what you are going to do, not how you feel about it.
"The speed and intensity of the play was much greater than anything I'd seen so far in training camp. I enjoyed the different tempo playing against guys who are not on my team. You have to pay very close attention to what's going on, as you can't anticipate what they are going to do. I went along with it and felt good pretty quickly. I tried to go on my instinct and not think about things too much. Over thinking can slow you down.
"When I was not on the field, I watched the guys at my position and tried to pick up the fine points of what they do.
"I've been asked if I feel added pressure to succeed right away since I was a No. 1 draft pick. I guess my answer would be that I don't feel any more pressure than any other rookie. We all need to show the coaches what we can do and how we can contribute in a positive way to this team. I figure they saw something in me that they liked and felt would be a good fit for the Bears, or they wouldn't have drafted me.
"Getting a sack felt really good. It's always nice to get one of those early in a game as it builds your confidence going forward. After that, I felt myself relaxing and I felt I could just go out and play.
"My penalty was unfortunate. The quarterback just got thrown around and I was there in the wrong place. I was right there when he landed. It was not something I would have planned but it happened and I can't do anything about it right now. I'll learn from it, though.
"It's good to get the first game under my belt. I can learn from it and improve. I understand I have a lot to work on but there is still time to get better. I had good things and bad things. My speed and reaction time were OK but some moves I need to refine. It's a work in progress."
Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 12 years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.