Times have changed for Wade

When Bobby Wade dropped a punt on his first NFL touch he was banished to the bench for five games before getting a second chance. Nearly a year later, the receiver is primed to be a factor in Terry Shea's new offense.

"He's a piece of the puzzle that you have to fit in," receivers coach Daryl Drake said of Wade. "He has a feel for the game."

When Wade was drafted in the fifth-round of the 2003 draft the Bears saw him as a punt returner that could work his way into the receiver rotation. He won the punt return job out of training camp, but fumbled his first attempt against the 49ers. He wouldn't handle another punt after the 49-7 debacle to open the season at San Francisco.

"I can't let mistakes like that happen, but they're bound to come," Wade said. "It's just about bouncing up and making sure you're confident in yourself and understanding it's still a game and everybody makes them. When you're isolated back there it's a bigger deal then it is if you drop a ball when you're getting 15-20 looks a game."

Wade was inactive for the next five games before getting back on the field in Week 7, against Seattle. While a 12-reception campaign won't wow anyone, as a rookie Wade built a reputation for being a reliable third down target because of his route running skills.

"The quarterbacks have the utmost confidence in him because he's going to catch the ball and be where he needs to be," Drake said.

At 5-foot-10, 192 pounds and without track speed, Wade had to become a precision route runner.

"Because of lack of size and even lack of just blazing speed you have to be a technician," Wade said. "You've got to be a guy that's in spots when you're supposed to be there and just making the right plays at the right time."

Now in his second year, Wade is ready to take on more responsibility in Shea's pass friendly offense.

"I'm being incorporated in the offense a little bit more then last year. Obviously the more plays you get the more comfortable you become out here," Wade said.

With aspect of the offense won't be foreign to Wade and that's quarterback Rex Grossman. The two worked together on the scout team as rookies and have built a relationship.

"Coming in with him last year I think we have a little chemistry going together," Wade said. "That plays a play role, the more you're able to work with a guy the more you're able to feel confident in him and he's confident in you, and knowing where you're going to be on the field the easier it becomes.

"Just from one year in the NFL you can tell the quarterback is your key player. He's the champion on the team; he's the guy that's going to win the games for you. As good as Rex plays, he picks up the level of play for everybody."

Shea's offense gives each individual a role to play in the offense. Wade is a slot receiver, but in this scheme he moves inside and outside on occasion.

"I like the fact that like coach Shea says ‘We might not call the same play in a game.' Just the opportunity to be able to mix it up, move guys around," Wade said.

The Bears have been working on a play during the first week of training camp that appears designed specifically for Wade. A fake handoff to the tailback as he cuts across the field for a reverse, which allows him to utilize his instincts for the game to find the hole.

As a four-year starter at Arizona, Wade was used to getting the ball. He finished as the Wildcats leading receiver with 230 catches for 3,351 yards and is third all-time with 23 touchdowns.

Still as the fourth receiver on the depth chart, Wade realizes his touches will be reduced and he'll have to work within the framework of the offense.

"I don't want to be a guy that's coming out here saying I need this many catches," Wade said. "If it comes to me catching five or six balls a game, if it comes to me getting one grab a game, so beat it as long as we're winning and getting the job done I'm satisfied."


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