For the Chicago Bears, healthy receivers are a scarcity.
As a result, the door opened wide for the club’s secondary group of receivers during the preseason.
It was just the opportunity Cameron Meredith, an undrafted free agent from Illinois State, needed. Meredith led all receivers in the preseason with 9 catches for 86 yards and earned a spot on the final 53-man roster.
“I can’t even put that into words," Meredith said. "I spent some nervous time during cut-down days but once I knew I would stay here at Halas Hall, I felt a tremendous sense of relief. Now my job is to get in there when I’m called on, and spend the rest of my time watching, learning and perfecting my skills.
Meredith has very good size (6-3, 215) and fluid athleticism, which surely caught the eye of Chicago’s coaching staff.
“I’m not sure [what I showed the coaching staff] but I assume I demonstrated that I have a strong work ethic, I am a good player, and I have skills that can be built on and developed going forward.”
We sat down with Meredith this week to discuss what it means to be on the roster after growing up a Bears fan, how he can contribute this year and more.
“Looking ahead to the Green Bay game is definitely exciting for me. I’m from the Chicago area. I grew up here and I’ve lived with this rivalry for as long as I can remember. To be out there on the field? Wow, that’s beyond my wildest dreams. My family and quite a few friends will be in Soldier Field, so that will definitely add to my excitement.
“Looking back just a few months I can’t say enough about how valuable training camp was for me. Just that chance to live football 24/7 was such a great learning opportunity. It’s very different when football is your job. No college classes to go to, just time to concentrate on your skills.
“At the same time, there is this new kind of pressure. Every now and then I step back mentally and think ‘whoa football is now my job. I need to be really good, really fast.’ There is no sense of job security in the NFL. You produce or you’re gone. I’ll do my best to produce.
“This week with the beginning of the regular season, there is a shift in focus. In camp it was just meetings and skills, learning the playbook, that kind of thing. Now it is assumed that all the rookies understand the playbook. From here on we work on strategy. You are devising the moves you will make against players you have never faced before. That’s quite different from lining up against teammates.
“I’m spending a lot of time on film study. It’s also working with the vets, watching what they do, asking them questions when I don’t understand something. It’s a close team and everybody helps the new guys like me whenever possible.
“I’ve been in Soldier Field before for preseason games but I’ve heard from the guys that the regular season is a whole other level of intensity. Add to that the fact that this is the Bears’ biggest rivalry game and I’m expecting things to be crazy. It'll be a very emotional game played at high speed. If I’m called in, I’ll work hard to contribute.
“The most important part for any rookie is to keep that same level of confidence when you are out there making plays. You can’t think about the people watching you in the stands, but just concentrate on the plays that are unfolding right in front of you. I want to show the coaches that I am dependable and that they can lean on me in certain situations. I’m a team player. I want to show that I am capable of doing things that will help us win.
“Now that camp is over I’m still working hard making sure I get better every day. Any chance I get to practice with the first team is something I definitely soak up. You’ve got to take advantage of every learning opportunity here to be successful ultimately.
“My main goal since I first walked into Halas Hall was to make the 53-man roster. I’ve done that so it’s time to reset my goals. Now I have to get a lot more skilled, a lot faster. It’s up to me to improve. We have great coaches but nobody can do that hard work for me.
“I’m excited to go out on Sunday and make some plays with my teammates. The Packers are a good defense. We respect them just as we would respect any other opponent. We’re going to try to stick to our game plan and hopefully come out with a win.”
Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 17 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.