untung99.biz: Chicago Bears rookie cornerbacks embrace their competition

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Tyrique Stevenson had just completed one of the biggest defensive plays of practice Tuesday morning at Halas Hall. The cornerback jumped in front of quarterback Justin Fields’ deep shot to Darnell Mooney down the left sideline to snare an interception.

When Stevenson returned to the sideline, cornerback Terell Smith was waiting to offer congratulations, and the pair walked back to their spots wearing wide smiles.

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The first two weeks of training camp have put Stevenson and Smith in an interesting position — rookies trying to help each other adjust to the NFL while also competing for a starting spot alongside outside cornerback Jaylon Johnson and nickel Kyler Gordon.

“Rookies, I’m not sure they know any better,” defensive coordinator Alan Williams said. “It’s, ‘Hey, Coach said do this, so I’m going to do this.’

“They embrace it. They look after each other. They are good teammates. … Not one iota of, ‘Hey, I should be in here,’ or, ’Why is this?’ They are just fine.”

The Bears doubled down on their need for a cornerback in this year’s draft. They liked Stevenson, a Miami product, enough that they traded up to draft him at No. 56 in the second round, then took Smith out of Minnesota 109 picks later in the fifth round.

Given his draft position, Stevenson seems like the obvious front-runner for the starting position. But coach Matt Eberflus said Smith has made enough plays with the backups that the Bears also want to give him first-team reps.

So Stevenson and Smith have been splitting time with the first team. Smith sat out practice Tuesday with an undisclosed injury, and it remains to be seen if that will affect the competition. In the first depth chart released Tuesday, the Bears listed Johnson and Gordon as the starting cornerbacks and Stevenson and Smith as the backups, though they’ll play with three on the field more often than not.

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“It’s a competition until the end,” Stevenson said last week. “For opportunities, it really doesn’t matter where you got drafted. He comes in every day with his head down willing to work just as I am. … Every day we come in, we smile at each other. We also know that we’re both working for the same position.”

Smith said it “doesn’t feel weird” for the pair to be in competition, noting they often talk about what they see on the field and what they need to work on. He has been struck by “how much of a competitor” Stevenson is.

“His willingness to go out there and compete and win on the field,” Smith said.