By Chris Emma—
(670 The Score) What goes up must come down. For Bears tight end Adam Shaheen, it occurred during the pinnacle of his rookie season.
Shaheen went up to catch his third touchdown of the year but came down awkwardly on his right shoulder, which appeared to have been injured earlier in that game against the Bengals on Dec. 10. He landed on the injury report with what the team has called a chest injury, missing practices and the two games that followed. With one game remaining, Shaheen’s season may be over as a result.
Shaheen had finally earned the trust of his coaches and emerged into a key role – including that goal-line score in Cincinnati – before the injury occurred. Though Shaheen hopes to play in the season finale in Minneapolis on Sunday, he may be sidelined once again.
This offseason will be critical for Shaheen after an inconsistent rookie season. It will begin when his body “is telling you it’s good to go.” Once ready, Shaheen will work to become a more complete player.
“When I’ve had the opportunities, I’ve taken advantage of them,” Shaheen said assessing his rookie campaign.
Despite being a second-round pick, the 23-year-old Shaheen was drafted as a project player. He was a standout at Division-II Ashland University but had plenty of work ahead to become an NFL tight end. Shaheen hauled in 26 touchdowns in 31 college games. As a rookie, he has recorded 12 receptions for 127 yards and three touchdowns during 13 games.
Adjusting to the speed of the NFL game would be enough of a challenge for Shaheen. There would prove to be plenty more, too, like becoming a better blocker and improving his receiving routes. The Bears increased Shaheen’s reps over time, though it became clear early on that he would never work as an every-down tight end his rookie season.
“Probably a little bit ahead of where we thought he would be in the passing game,” Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said of Shaheen. “The adjustment of coming from a small school as a tight end, we anticipated the jump being the run game and we know that he’s going to be a good all-around tight end because of his size, speed, his athleticism. I think in the offseason that is the biggest jump he is going to have to take is in the run game.”
Shaheen could certainly use some time to recover. Like all rookies, he has been working since before the 2016 season, essentially going from that to pre-draft workouts and right into NFL camp. While quarterback Mitchell Trubisky said he could play another season right now, any rookie could use some rest.
“It’s been a grind,” Shaheen said.
Shaheen will inquire with veteran teammates about how to approach an NFL offseason — something he hasn’t encountered before. At some point, Trubisky and Shaheen plan to work together and take strides as a tandem. The Bears believe they could have a special connection between their two top picks from 2017.
There’s progress needed for Shaheen after a challenging rookie season.
“He can be as good as he wants to be,” Trubisky said. “So, it’s all about hard work and dedication.”