Warm Welcome

The three rookies on the defensive line DTs Tommie Harris and Terry "Tank" Johnson and DE Claude Harriott got their first taste of "Bears Weather" during Friday's mini camp at Halas Hall. Although all three players hail from more temperate zones, the adjustment to biting wind chills didn't seem to diminish either their enthusiasm or their on field speed.

‘This is what Chicago is like in May?" top draft pick Tommie Harris said. "I'm afraid to find out what will be in store for us in December. I'm from Texas. It doesn't get like this in Killeen. I think I heard that the wind chill out here today is in the 20s. My fingers are numb. But hey, I'm so happy to be here; I certainly am not about to complain.

Known for his blue-collar work ethic and a blue chip resume Harris was a dominant player at Oklahoma. The DE finished the 2003 season with 37 tackles (19 solos). His career total was 94 tackles (49 solos). Harris led the Sooners in 2003 with five sacks for minus 24 yards. His career total was nine sacks for minus 47 yards. Although his overall size at 6'3" 288 pounds is not overwhelming at his position, Harris embodies the agility and speed that new head coach Lovie Smith favors.

"Tommie will be a fine fit into our lineup," Smith said shortly after the Harris draft selection. "He is a person of fine character who was brought up right. I like his values. He definitely has leadership potential on this team. Tommie has an excellent work ethic. Physically, he fits the profile of what we want to see in our defensive lineman."

Harris found that most of his time during his first morning in Lake Forest was spent finding his way around the facility and meeting new teammates.

"There's a lot to learn here," Harris said. "But already, I have been impressed. The veterans are stopping and taking the time to work with us. That means a lot. I particularly appreciate the efforts of Bryan Robinson. He is explaining the schemes and helping me translate what I learned in college ball and converting this to the professional level."

As is always the case, the rookies are occupying the Halas Hall basement during these initial training sessions.

"Yes, we have been shown our place and it isn't upstairs just yet," Harris said. "There are about ten of us down there. We don't really see much of the other players unless we are at lunch or in a meeting. But that's OK. I understand that I'm not going to come in here and be the top dog. I have to earn respect. It's all a rite of passage."

"Tank" Johnson joined the Bears from the University of Washington. Although born in Gary, he and his family have been living in Chandler Arizona. Johnson's grandparents currently reside in Gary and are thrilled to have Tank back in the neighborhood.

"They just couldn't believe it when I was chosen by the Bears," Terry Johnson said. "The entire family has been Bears fans for as long as I can remember. The best thing is that now they'll be able to come and see me play. We're all really looking forward to that."

Johnson is a gifted athlete known for his ability to put pressure on the quarterback. He is a solid run stopper with well-honed instincts and excellent speed. During his college career, Johnson started every game and was defensive team captain during his senior year. He finished 2003 with 35 tackles and led the team with ten sacks for minus 80 yards.

At 6'2" 304-pounds he, like Harris, is an example of Smith's preference for the slightly smaller but faster defensive lineman.

"I think that this will be a very exciting system," Johnson said. "I'm enjoying the chance to meet some of the veteran players. They have been very patient in explaining things and showing us around. I understand that there is an enormous job ahead for the rookies. There's a lot to learn in a minimum of time, but that's part of the experience. I think that I can do well here and I can't wait for the chance to prove that I belong."

DE Claude Harriott knew LB Bryan Knight from shared experiences on the Pitt squad. The two players continued to keep [in touch father Knight suited up in Bears navy and orange.

"I've been sort of living Bryan's experiences vicariously since he came to Chicago," Harriott said. "It's great to be able to join him here right now. I feel that I already have some degree of familiarity with the system in Chicago just from what Bryan has told me. So far, that's been a big advantage for me in establishing a comfort zone."

Harriott typifies the newer breed of lean and fast defensive ends. At 6-foot-3, 271-pounds this native of Belle Glade Florida started every game except one during the 2003 Pitt season. Last year, he totaled 35 tackles, seven stops for losses of 20 yards, 17 quarterback pressures, and had two sacks for minus 11 yards. Harriott has always been known for his strong work ethic and his desire for measurable skill improvement.

What does Harriott think of being a Bear this season?

"It's everything I had hoped for and more," he says. "To be a part of a program like this is almost beyond belief. Right now, I haven't seen too much because, as Tommie said, they have all of us in the basement. Once we get our more we'll have a better idea of just what's happening at Halas Hall."

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