The Chicago Bears have only been in Bourbonnais for a few days but an unlikely suspect has already grabbed the spotlight. Well, at least some of it.
Wide receiver Daniel Braverman has been a fan favorite through the first five practices of Bears 2016 camp. He was the talk of camp early on, making impressive play after impressive play, although those practices were un-padded affairs.
But this past weekend, when the Bears put pads on for the first time, Braverman continued to impress and he’s even noticed buzz from the fans.
“Yeah I notice it,” Braverman said. “That’s why after practice I try to sign as many autographs as I can. I remember being that kid watching an NFL practice and I know how that feels.”
Coming out of high school the Florida native received no offers from the big Division I schools, so he chose to attend Western Michigan. Despite being undersized for a receiver, Braverman was a big part of the Broncos offense in college. He finished second in the nation with 109 receptions in 2015.
Braverman played with a “chip on his shoulder” while in college, which he says helped him succeed. Now he’s carried that chip to the NFL with the Bears, who took him in the seventh round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
“I think it’s just my upbringing, having a chip on my shoulder,” Braverman said. “I’ve always been counted out and been doubted. I’ve always carried that with me. I’m glad the Chicago Bears took a chance on me.”
Braverman has been taking most of his reps with the third team but has worked with the second team as well. He continues to find ways to get open in offensive drills, catching nearly every ball thrown to him.
While he might be a spark on offense, Braverman also provides value no special teams, where he's currently competing for the club's starting punt returner position.
It wouldn’t be anything he hasn’t done before either. In college Braverman returned punts and even some kickoffs in his freshman year. Playing on special teams is something he'd be more than happy to do with the Bears.
“I wouldn’t be mad,” Braverman said. “But like I said, it’s not up to me. I’m just trying to do as much as I can with the opportunities I get and if the coaches put me there or they don’t put me there. If they put me at the gunner, then I have to be the gunner.”
So far in camp, Braverman has made plays nearly every time he's stepped on the field. Yet for Braverman, catching passes is just a means to an end.
“Having the ball is fun,” Braverman said. “But also winning is fun and helping your teammates get open is fun and making your coaches happy is fun also.”
With new coaches at the NFL level for Braverman, he’s soaking up advice from the Chicago's staff.
“You have to adapt to your coaches and figure out what they want,” Braverman said. “Coach C.J. (Curtis Johnson) is a great coach, OC, head coach, all of those guys are great. I’m trying to take in everything I can from those guys. Trying to digest everything and apply it to the field.”
As Braverman fights for a roster spot, he’s looking to develop chemistry and a rhythm with quarterback Jay Cutler. The two have been working together on the sidelines and Braverman has learned quickly what it takes to earn bonus points.
“Just catch whatever he throws to you and hopefully everything works out from there,” Braverman said. “I use my technique that I’ve been using my whole life. Cutler will help me with some tips. Anything I can learn from these guys, I just really take and then apply it.”
With a foot injury to Marquess Wilson and Eddie Royal going through concussion protocol, the competition at slot receiver has opened up. Braverman’s first shot at making an impression in a preseason game comes Aug. 11 at Solider Field against the Denver Broncos.
It will be the biggest stage of his short NFL career but that doesn’t seem to faze him.
“I’m just trying to play football and do whatever the coaches tell me to do,” Braverman said. “And focus on my job. You can’t worry about the outside influences.”