LAKE FOREST, Ill. — An up-and-down day for the Chicago Bears’ offense during the third practice of OTAs ended with an encouraging message for rookie quarterback Caleb Williams.

Nine-year safety Kevin Byard, who joined the Bears in free agency, approached Williams at the end of Thursday’s session with feedback after a stretch of inconsistency during the red zone period.

“I said something to him at the end of practice like, ‘Keep it going. We’re going to keep making you better,'” Byard said. “And not necessarily saying he had a terrible day, but days like this are going to make you better.”

The Bears’ defense, which has operated the same system since 2022, got the better end of an offense that is learning a new scheme under first-year offensive coordinator Shane Waldron.

“We had a good day,” Byard said. “I’m not going to sit here and lie about that. But to be honest, it’s to be expected. You have a returning top-15, top-10 defense, obviously going against a younger rookie quarterback who’s getting acclimated and learning things. That’s what it is supposed to look like.”

Wide receiver DJ Moore noted the expectation of “growing pains” for Williams, whom the Bears drafted No. 1 overall, and the entire Chicago offense. During several instances in 11-on-11, Williams was late on throws or held onto the ball too long. With the incompletions and plays that would have resulted in sacks came frustrations over the offense not being able to execute.

“It’s frustrating, but we also know that we’re learning a new system,” Moore said.

Moore said he felt he needed to relay that reality to Williams.

‘Yeah, you’ve got to because our defense can get pretty rowdy, as you all know out there,” Moore said. “Just calming everybody down in the huddle and just refocusing is the best thing.”

Byard noted that the offense “kind of got after us a little bit” during the first practice of the week and came away impressed by several of Williams’ throws.

“Every week is not going to be great,” Byard said. “Some weeks we’re going to have to be on two-minute drill, he’s going to have to go win us a game. Some weeks we’re going to blow people out. Sometimes it’s not going to be like that. So I would just kind of tell him like, hey, days, like this just keep fighting, keep going, watch the film, get better. And that’s for everyone on the team. Everything is not going to be peaches and cream. You know what I’m saying? But like I like his confidence and he kind of just looked me straight in the eye and said ‘of course I will,’ and that was good to see.”

Coach Matt Eberflus emphasized the growth he saw Williams make during his first week of true practices against NFL competition.

“This is the first time going against a pro defense, and a pretty good one,” coach Matt Eberflus said. “It’s going to be learning for everybody. They’re getting everything together. It was progress. I saw progress from the first day to the second, the second to the third. So it’s good.”

Williams’ ability to process the information given to him from Bears coaches and execute it during practice has been “very impressive,” according to Eberflus. As the Bears gauge Williams’ development through the spring, easing him into the offense isn’t part of the plan.

“We’re not holding back,” Eberflus said. “We’re giving him a lot of information. We’re giving him the offense and you want to be able to go through the whole offense before the off-season gets done, primarily most of it, and work it into the summer.”


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