The Bears aren't about to hand first-round pick Greg Olsen the starting job at tight end, especially with incumbent Desmond Clark coming off a season in which he finished third on the team with 45 catches and 626 yards for an impressive 13.9-yard average with six touchdowns, tying him for the team lead.
But it might be difficult to keep the 6-foot-5, 254-pound Olsen off the field for long. He runs a 4.51 40 and showed the movement skills, speed and hands of a top wide receiver in off-season practices. Olsen was impressive from Day One and got better as OTAs went on.
"I feel good," he said at the conclusion of the off-season practices. "These last 14 practices have really done a lot. They've been huge, just getting used to the offense and getting used to how everything goes. I feel like I've gotten better over the last 14 practices and (will) just continue to work hard and prepare myself for the season throughout training camp."
Olsen isn't expected to be much of a factor as a blocker, because he lacks bulk and strength compared to other NFL tight ends, but the Bears are still excited about the talents that he does bring to the table.
"Olsen (has been) just like he's been advertised," Bears coach Lovie Smith said after the final OTA. "He's a special athlete. We look for him to have an outstanding season."
Olsen signed a five-year, $10.7 million contract on July 3, becoming the first player drafted in the first two rounds to agree to terms, so he has nothing to detract from his learning process in the last couple weeks before the start of training camp.
"I'm very excited," he said. "I'm looking forward to training camp. Anytime you have a chance to go out and practice with the team and to continue to develop and get better is a great opportunity."
Even though the Bears won't immediately give Olsen a job with the first team, they will make sure he gets plenty of opportunities to be the difference maker they anticipate.
CAMP CALENDAR: The Bears report to Olivet Nazarene University in far south suburban Bourbonnais on July 26, and their first practice is at 3 p.m., Friday, July 27. Camp concludes after an 11 a.m. Practice on Saturday, Aug. 18. They will return to Chicago on Saturday, Aug. 4, for a 7 p.m. practice at Soldier Field.
Even though Devin Hester, a seldom-used backup at corner last season, has switched to wide receiver and backup safeties Cameron Worrell and Todd Johnson left via free agency, the Bears are deep in the secondary.
Starting corners Nate Vasher and Charles Tillman both played well last season, as did nickel corner Ricky Manning Jr. At safety, the Bears started Chris Harris and Danieal Manning in Super Bowl XLI, but both are expected to play behind veteran Adam Archuleta, who was picked up in a trade, and Mike Brown, a Pro Bowl player in 2005, who missed most of last season with a foot injury.
"I think this might be our best secondary since I've been here," said Vasher, who signed a five-year, $28 million contract on June 25 that included $14 million in guaranteed bonus money. "We have a lot of guys ready to play, a lot of athletic guys on the back end and some really smart guys with Adam and Mike, who's always been the leader of our secondary.
"Just to have those guys back on the field with some of the young guys is exciting. I'm excited to see what kind of identity we're going to have this year ...
If Lance Briggs is a no-show for the start of training camp, don't expect Bears coaches to pay much attention or show much concern.
"Jamar Williams had an outstanding off-season," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "I thought he stepped up and let us see some of his skills."
Williams is the presumptive starter on the weak side if Briggs sits out in continued protest over his designation as the Bears' franchise player. Williams was a fourth-round pick in 2006 that showed potential while playing special teams in the first three games of last season before suffering a season-ending chest injury ...
Drew Rosenhaus, the agent for malcontent linebacker Lance Briggs, had an opportunity to discuss his client's situation with Bears management recently. Rosenhaus was at Halas Hall July 3 to finalize the five-year, $10.7 million contract of first-round rookie tight end Greg Olsen, and he used the opportunity to begin a dialogue with Bears G.M. Jerry Angelo regarding Briggs, who is unhappy at being the Bears' franchise player.
Briggs, who would be paid $7.2 million this year, wants a long-term deal, but he and Rosenhaus rejected the Bears' six-year, $33 million offer prior to last season. The two-time Pro Bowler has threatened to sit out the first 10 weeks of the season. No progress in the stalemate was reported, but at least there was some talk ...
Quarterback Rex Grossman believes he'll benefit from the combination of added firepower – rookie tight end Greg Olsen, wide receiver Devin Hester, rookie running back Garrett Wolfe – and continuity. The only starter who won't be returning in 2007 is running back Thomas Jones, and the Bears consider his former backup, Cedric Benson, to be a better player.
"I'm just excited that we've got the 10 guys back, and we've got a few new guys that can spread the field out a little bit and make some things happen," Grossman said. "So it's a huge benefit for me."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Rex, does he have something to prove? Oh yeah, he wants to come back and have a great season. I want to come back and still prove that I'm that guy, so yeah, we all have a little chip on our shoulders." – Bears WR Muhsin Muhammad.