By Chris Emma—
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. (CBS) – A smile and laugh came from Bears rookie tight end Adam Shaheen as a familiar phrase was placed before him.
Shaheen never invited this, nor has he ever uttered it of himself. But that’s the nickname that followed him at Division-II Ashland University. Bears fans have grasped it with optimism since he was drafted in the second round this past April.
“I don’t know how to respond to it,” Shaheen said Friday at Olivet Nazarene. “(Rob Gronkowski) is one of the best ever to do it. I’m just trying to day-by-day get better and do what I can do.”
The first major test for Shaheen comes Saturday, when the Bears suit up in full pads for their first full-speed, high-energy practice.
Shaheen has only taken part in light offseason practices and now two workouts with the veterans in Bourbonnais. Work will be different Saturday when there are accomplished NFL players moving at 100 percent.
That’s when the adjustment from Ashland could seem like a major step. It’s a great difference for any rookie, but Alabama product Eddie Jackson, a safety, will have a better feel for the practice pace than somebody like Shaheen.
“It’s a great learning experience,” Jackson said of his football education with Nick Saban. “You learn a lot about things, on and off the field. So I appreciate it and just take that with me every day.”
Shaheen has certainly looked the part on the field. He towers over many at 6-foot-6 and 270 pounds, an imposing force breaking from the huddle. But the key now will be reacting to a different speed.
The Bears selected Shaheen with the 45th overall selection in the draft with the belief that his size and athleticism would naturally translate to the next level. Of course, great work will be required to ease that adjustment. The team believed that Shaheen’s potential was worth the risk that comes with drafting a Division-II product.
“He’s a great player,” fellow tight end Zach Miller said of Shaheen. “He’ll continue to get better as he sees the game. You jump up a level. I’ve done that before — Division-II, switch positions, hop up in some competition — so I know he can do that. I’m willing to help him in any way I can. He’s got great range, he can move. So hopefully he’ll help us.”
Days like Friday will be helpful for Shaheen. The Bears conducted a light walk-through, a practice that not only intends to preserve bodies but also allows young players to gain a better grasp for their schemes. Coach John Fox hopes that more frequent walk-through practices can allow his Bears to go at full speed without having to hesitate.
Saturday will be the first sample of what Shaheen is up against at this next level.
“I’m just excited to go out there and get better day by day,” Shaheen said. “Especially now that we have the pads on.”