This afternoon, the Chicago Bears conducted the team's 10th and final practice of organized team activities (OTAs). Veteran minicamp will take place next week and then the players will be off for roughly six weeks until the start of training camp.
For those players fighting for a roster spot, this week is their last chance to leave a lasting impression on the coaching staff before the break. One player who has done just that is wide receiver Joseph Anderson (6-1, 196).
Anderson played in 34 games during three years at Texas Southern, picking up 154 catches for 2,010 yards and 13 touchdowns, yet he went undrafted in 2012. The Bears invited him to training camp last year and he earned a spot on the practice squad. That's where he stayed until Week 14, when he was signed to the active roster. He participated in special teams and picked up three tackles in the final three weeks.
This offseason, Anderson has been working with the second team and is a member of nearly all of the special teams units. When first-team wideout Alshon Jeffery needed a breather during practice this week, Anderson was inserted with the starters.
"Mentality-wise you grow. You learn from the vets," Anderson told Bear Report. "You've got guys like Brandon Marshall, you're fortunate to play with a guy like him. You just sit there and pick his brain. Being around those types of guys you just grow.
"Coming in as a rookie, you don't know much. You're trying to impress everybody and earn respect but being here for a whole year, you just learn how to practice and how to be a vet. So being around those guys helped me grow a whole lot."
While the passing game struggled last year, Marshall called out Anderson midseason as a hungry player that could produce if given the chance. His play in the final three games proved Marshall right but does Anderson still have that hunger coming into his second year?
"Yeah man. It's funny, I never lost that hunger," Anderson said. "Coming from a small school, I didn't really come from much, so all I know is work, work, work, work, work. Nothing has ever been given to me so I've always had that hunger."
On the field, that desire to succeed has been evident. Anderson has consistently found ways to get open during team drills and is currently backup quarterback Josh McCown's favorite target in the passing game.
"Me and Josh, we always hook up a lot, even outside of football," he said. "I'm just trying to build that type of chemistry, the trust and make guys want to be around you. I come to work every day. [The coaches] want to see receivers like that. You just want to put yourself in a position to get noticed. It's really based off of getting trust from guys. That's the only way you're going to be able to be put in a position [to make plays]. So once Jay [Cutler] or Josh says, ‘OK, I trust him. I think he's ready,' it gives you the upper hand."
Considering his improvement as a receiver and his value on special teams, if the season started today, Anderson would very likely be on Chicago's final 53-man roster. But that could all change during training camp, as the Bears have a number of young players that are just as hungry as he is, which means his work is far from over.
"It's all about making plays and knowing your assignments," Anderson said. "You make progress every day. You can never stay the same. You can either go up or go down. So I come out here and try to work every day and try to put myself in a position where my teammates can trust me and my coaches can trust me and give myself a chance."
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.