By Adam Hoge-
LAKE FOREST (CBS) — A failed drug test may have cost Christian Jones the chance to be drafted, but it also may have given the Bears an extra linebacker.
The former Florida State linebacker appeared destined to be drafted this year, but after a failed drug test at the NFL Scouting Combine in February, Jones never heard his name called in last week’s draft.
“(The drug test) probably has something to do with it,” Jones admitted Friday.
The Bears quickly scooped Jones up as an undrafted free agent, however, and the linebacker seems to have a realistic chance to make the team.
Jones said Friday at the Bears’ rookie minicamp that he had a diluted urine sample at the Combine, which, by the NFL’s standards, counts as a failed drug test. He wouldn’t give up the full story, but seemed to understand why all 32 teams passed on him in the draft.
“This is a business,” he said. “They invest a lot of money in players. I’m not going to sit here and mope about it. Things happen and I’m fortunate enough and blessed to still get on a team and I’m just going to make the best of it.”
So where does Jones fit in with the Bears? He worked primarily at the strong side linebacker position Friday and according to him, that’s where they want him.
“I just need to focus on just one spot,” he said. “I’ve been moved around a lot my whole career and I feel like people really didn’t get to see all of what I can do. They just saw a little glimpse of it. I think it’s going to be a good opportunity just to see me at one spot and see what I do.”
Jones played both outside and middle linebacker at Florida State and was even used as a pass rusher this past season. That may be why the Bears want him at the SAM linebacker position, where he could backup Shea McClellin, who has a similar skill set.
So why did Jones pick the Bears after going drafted?
Credit new linebackers coach Reggie Herring, who played with Jones’ dad at Florida State.
“I knew I would get some good coaching from him,” Jones said.
The specifics of the Bears’ defensive scheme still won’t be known for a few months, but it’s becoming more and more apparent that they will line their defensive linemen up in multiple ways and ask them to play more than one technique.
“We’ll have the flexibility to line them up,” new defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni said Friday. “We train the guys in all the techniques and alignments up front.”
Doing so will allow the Bears to use more exotic formations and will also prepare the defensive line for sudden changes made by the opposing offense before the snap.
“If the offense shifts the formation or if they scheme you and they catch you on a play where now they’ve got you left-handed, for us, there won’t be such thing as left-handed,” Pasqualoni said. “We’re going to be able to handle both and handle both efficiently.”
Not Messing Around
Chances are maybe 10 of the 53 players at this weekend’s rookie minicamp will ever see the field for the Bears in a regular season game. And that’s being generous.
But that doesn’t mean the coaching staff didn’t take every moment of Friday’s practice seriously.
“It’s first impression day,” head coach Marc Trestman said.
And that goes both ways. Not only are the players looking to impress their new coaching staff, but the coaches are showing the players how it works at Halas Hall.
Trestman may have been coaching mostly strangers Friday, but he treated them just like his regular season roster. Twice during the practice, Trestman kicked an entire unit out of a team drill, costing all 11 players a rep. One time a few defensive players were guilty of loafing, while another time a full offensive unit was sent off after just one play jumped offsides.
“We had guys who missed a rep today because somebody jumped offsides,” Trestman said.
That may sound harsh, but it’s a familiar practice for Trestman, who did the same thing many times last year during training camp when his team was guilty of pre-snap penalties.
Speaking of first impressions, Herring made his presence known right away inside the Walter Payton Center. He’s a fiery assistant coach and a guy fans will love to watch up close at training camp this summer.
“Reggie is a no-nonsense, high-intensity, up-tempo, get-after-it, bend-your-knees ball coach,” defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said.
Meanwhile, at 64 years old, Pasqualoni brings a ton of experience to the Bears and when speaking with him, you can tell he’s been a head coach before. Pasqualoni, of course, was previously the head coach at both Syracuse and Connecticut.
So how did Tucker describe his new defensive line coach?
“He’s a high-energy, up-tempo, very intense, passionate, old-school, no-nonsense, get-after-it ball coach.”
At this point you might as well hear how Tucker described his third new assistant, assistant defensive line coach Clint Hurtt:
“Clint Hurtt is 6-5, 3-plus, high-intensity, get-after-it ball coach.”
So at least they’re slightly different.
Jordan Lynch went through his first full workout at running back Friday and Trestman said: “He didn’t look out of place today.”
That’s probably the perfect way of putting it. Considering the players are all wearing shorts, it’s hard to really evaluate their performances, but Lynch certainly didn’t do anything wrong Friday. It was a good start.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.