Mini Camp Report: Sunday

Rookie mini camp finished up on Sunday at Halas Hall, and it appears that one of the best performers of the weekend was a non-contract invitee. There were also a few minor injuries, but that's to be expected when players go through their first professional practice sessions. Editor in Chief John Crist had a front-row seat at Halas Hall and got to see all the action up close.

  • There were a few players that caught head coach Lovie Smith's attention during mini camp, but an unexpected one was tight end Fontel Mines. The former Virginia Cavalier caught only 68 passes in 30 games as a college wide receiver, but he's bulked himself up and made a ton of nice grabs over the weekend. Although he came to Lake Forest without a contract, he probably showed enough to earn a trip to Bourbonnais for training camp come July.

  • Another undrafted free agent, safety Jay Staggs from UNLV, helped himself tremendously and also might get an invitation to Olivet Nazarene University for training camp. He looked very quick during position drills and was barking out signals like a natural leader in the secondary. Although he only played two games as a senior due to injury, he obviously proved he was a playmaker by intercepting three passes.

  • Safety Kevin Payne certainly like he's going to be a good player one day, but he's still fairly raw as a defensive back. Remember, he was a tailback at Louisiana-Monroe for two years and only made the switch to defense after current Bear Chris Harris left for the NFL. Payne just dropped an interception in position drills and – as is standard in Chicago – punishes himself with 10 push-ups on the sideline. And just in case you're asking, no, he did not do any punting this weekend. He's a safety and a safety alone these days.

  • Defensive end Dan Bazuin seems to just be looking on as his fellow pass-rushers are hitting the sled and doing various other drills. A few moments later, Bazuin appears to be limping a little bit although he's obviously doing his best to hide the fact that he's banged up. Coach Smith would tell us after practice that he tweaked a quad or something like that, but nothing too severe.

  • The cornerbacks are instructed to line up four yards off the line of scrimmage when covering a receiver. Another trick they learn is to make sure they scrape some grass with their fingers when they get themselves into athletic position before each snap. This ensures that they're getting low enough and using their legs to drive in and out of breaks.

  • The linebackers are doing a drill right now that has them breaking right or left based on which direction the quarterback turns his shoulders before throwing. Third-rounder Michael Okwo looks to be the quickest of the group, and he better be considering he's the only draft pick of the bunch. His body frame is just about identical to last year's fourth-rounder, fellow Pac-10 alumnus Jamar Williams.

  • Someone get Ken Mrock, the head goundskeeper, on the phone because I actually saw a dandelion on the far sideline. Mrock is one of the best in the business, so this is a colossal upset. Imagine Picasso coloring outside the lines on his kids menu.

  • I don't think Devin Hester has to worry about keeping his job on special teams because undrafted free agent receiver Drisan James can't field a punt to save his life.

  • You know you're struggling material when you're jotting down notes about the third-string punt team on mini camp weekend.

  • Special teams coordinator Dave Toub is at it again. Payne is running in punt coverage but isn't getting wide enough as he attacks James on the return. "Devin will run right around you," Toub shouts at Payne. The rest of the NFL concurs.

Michael Okwo (62) showed more speed and agility than the other LBs in camp

OT Aaron Brant
On what his draft weekend experience was like:
"Draft day had to have been one of the longest days of my life. I was so relieved when I was finally chosen. For me, the best place I could possibly be is in Chicago. It's a great sports town. I'm from Wisconsin, so the tradition of the Bears as a team is something I've heard about all of my life. To actually be a part of that now is incredible."

CB Trumaine McBride
On making the move from Mississippi to Chicago:
"I'm a guy from Mississippi who's going to be in Chicago. Everything is so different for me here. I have a feeling that the weather here this winter will be somewhat of a shock. I'm going to have to ask some of the veterans who are also from the South just what that will be like. I suspect that my first purchase could be a coat."

Head coach Lovie Smith
On his initial reaction to mini camp and who impressed him the most:
"Camp-wise, we finished up the way we wanted to. We made a lot of progress these three practices where we had to get out. Greg Olsen is everything that was advertised. [I] really like what our tight ends did in camp. Not only Olsen but Fontel. He did a super job [and] came out of nowhere. [He] really got our attention."

On what he saw out of the draft picks these last three days:
"Our draft picks were all as advertised. It's always good to get this first camp out of the way so the players when they come back on May the 15th, they can blend in with the rest of our group and we can start making our run. But we like a lot of things the guys were able to do. We like the way Chris Leak threw the ball. We like the way Michael Okwo played. We like the way that Trumaine caught the football with the big interception he had out there today."

On how much of the offensive and defensive schemes they taught:
"We put in the basics. Just a few offensive things, concepts and things like that. Defensively, we put in about three coverages. So just the base of what we do [on] special teams, offense, and defense and went from there. You want the guys to be able to do the least amount of thinking and let them react on the field, and I think that's what they were able to do."

John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and Editor in Chief of To read him every day, visit and become a Chicago Bears insider.

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