Bradley Gets 1st TD But No Starting Job

CHICAGO - Mark Bradley won't start on opening day as a rookie in the NFL, but the former Oklahoma wide receiver attained something else in Thursday's 16-6 Bears loss to the Cleveland Browns that he's pursued all preseason.

He scored his first touchdown.

Bradley's first Bears touchdown catch was the Bears' lone score and it capped off a preseason when he led the team in receiving and probably the NFL.

"Man, it felt great to get into the end zone for the first time in an NFL game," said Bradley, after laying out for a diving catch of Kurt Kittner's touchdown pass of 45 yards with 9:26 left in the game. "Kurt couldn't put it in a better spot out on the field, which was the corner of the end zone. The safety was playing over the top (in the center of the field) so he put it in the perfect position."

Kittner lofted the ball out toward the right pylon and Bradley made the catch, turning a somersault into the end zone. He finished preseason with 17 catches for 331 yards, which likely will wind up being tops in the NFL.

"As of right now I feel like I've made enough plays and shown enough poise out there on the field to be in the starting rotation," Bradley said.

He won't be, though. Justin Gage made three catches for 27 yards in preseason but was declared the second starting wide receiver by coach Lovie Smith after the game.

"He's our starter until someone really takes it from him,"Smith said. "And I can't tell you that anybody has taken it from him. We play a lot of guys, so some games we'll start off with three receivers, maybe four.

"So as long as you're in the rotation you're in pretty good shape. "

Smith is impressed with Bradley, though.

"Mark Bradley, you look at his stuff in preseason and I know he's a rookie, but he has some special talents and we will use those throughout the year."

Bradley was diplomatic and focused after hearing this.

"It just shows that I need to move forward from there and work hard more in practice and in the games," he said. "So I'm just going to press forward from there and get better and better every day."

Bradley put all his talents on display in a short span of the fourth quarter. He was on the bench before coming into the game to return the kickoff on that series. He brought it back 40 yards. Then he caught an 11-yard pass from Kittner. Finally, he capped it with the TD catch.

"You're ecstatic out on the field," he said. "Right before all that took place, coach (Darryl) Drake (receivers) came over and he was like, "OK, it's time for you to step up and start making plays. So I took that into consideration and played play after play after play after play.

"Once I got comfortable out there it was just fast forward from that point."

Bradley said his dropped pass on a slant route stuck out in his mind as much as the good plays.

"So I've got to go work on that slant route some more," he said. "It could have been a turning point in the game."

Bradley had been criticized in the media for having bad hands when he was dropping passes in rookie camp, but doesn't care about that situation now.

"A catch is a catch," he said. "If you're making plays out there on the field it doesn't matter if you catch with your hands or with your body as long as you're doing the job."

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