|Brown stands out in early going|
Undrafted offensive lineman makes solid impression at rookie minicamp
The Bears had only six draft picks this year after trading one in the Brandon Marshall deal and using another to move up to select Alshon Jeffery.
But they might just have a newcomer with a mid-round grade if James Brown, a rookie offensive lineman from Troy signed as a free agent, pans out. Two days into the rookie minicamp, he looks like he belongs.
"He has stood out in the drills," coach Lovie Smithsaid. "You notice him. He's slim, athletic, good size, smile on his face and he was a pretty good player in college. However (he went undrafted), we're just glad he's in our camp."
Brown got plenty of play during the draft, especially from ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., who had him listed as his 54th best player. Kiper talked about Brown repeatedly during the later rounds but the 6-foot-4, 306-pounder never had his name called.
"I try not to think about it because before the draft, I knew things could go either way," Brown said. "I just wanted to get picked up no matter what."
Scouts from three organizations told the Tribune that marijuana was an issue for Brown and that led their teams to remove his name from their draft boards.
When asked if he wanted to address the matter, Brown said, "Could be something to that.
"I don't really want to address it. I don't have any knowledge of exactly what went on (with other teams)."
The bottom line is he is in position to compete for a job and there are examples of players who have been knocked for drug use in college and had remarkable professional careers.
So far, Brown has been used at left tackle and left guard. Smith said the Bears don't want to pin him into any specific position yet and it will be "fun" to see where he fits best. Brown started 38 games at left tackle in college but struggled a little with quickness on the edge at the Senior Bowl. Some scouts suggest he might be best on the interior.
"I feel like I have a great chance here," he said. "It's what I do with my opportunity now."
Brown had multiple free agent offers and said he chose the Bears because he was born in Chicago at St. Bernard Hospital. The Bears also didn't draft a lineman.
"That too," he said. "But I wanted to play for Chicago. This has been my favorite team since I was a little boy."
Back in action: Jeffery, the second-round pick, was back at practice after missing the second half Friday with a muscle cramp.
He and the other skill position players have benefited from solid work by quarterbacks Matt Blanchard (Wisconsin-Whitewater) and Ronnie Fouch (Indiana State). Both are in camp on a tryout basis. Sometimes, tryout quarterbacks struggle to put passes in spots where receivers can make plays.