Adam Shaheen has gone two weeks without puking.
Starting a couple of weeks before the Bears’ bye, and up until the Packers game after it — he’d been so full of energy that he’d get sick on the field during individual pregame warmups.
“You get it out,” he said, “and you’re good to go.”
The rookie tight end is learning to manage his nerves and so much more. The next step for the Bears is giving him the stage to improve in game action. No Bears second-round pick in the last six years has played as sparingly as Shaheen, who has participated in just 28.6 percent of the offensive snaps. He was on the field for only nine downs in last Sunday’s loss to the 49ers. He has played more than half the snaps in only two games.
“You aren’t the starter, honestly,” he said. “You keep working. Keep grinding. Be the last one off the field.”
Rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky thinks it will make Shaheen great one day.
“He can be as good as he wants to be,” Trubisky said. “So it’s all about hard work and dedication. But the most important thing for me, looking at him, is that he loves the game, loves the work.”
When the Bears drafted Shaheen out of tiny Ashland University, they knew his adjustment to the NFL would take time. His position, coaches say, is the second-most complicated, behind quarterback.
The Bears hoped Trubisky and Shaheen would develop a connection that would last for years to come. They can look across the field in Cincinnati on Sunday and see perhaps the best current example of that; in 2011, the Bengals drafted receiver A.J. Green fourth overall and quarterback Andy Dalton with the third pick of the second round. Green has made the Pro Bowl in every season since, and Dalton in three of them.
“Me and [Shaheen], we stay after practice to throw, we’re out there before practice to throw, and we’re going to get a lot of work in the offseason,” Trubisky said. “But for now, it’s just what can you do each day to get better.”
Yet in nine games together, Trubisky has completed only seven passes to Shaheen, for 81 yards. Asked why Shaheen wasn’t playing more, offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said the Bears only had 37 offensive plays Sunday — “and you want to play Dion” Sims, too.
Pressed, Loggains had little answer as to why Shaheen couldn’t learn on the job over the final four meaningless games. Shaheen, he said, is still adjusting to the league. The Bears have six specific packages for him and would like to add more.
Other teams have figured it out. Chargers tight end Hunter Henry, drafted in the second round last year, played 53.8 percent of the snaps as a rookie while sharing the position with Antonio Gates.
“It’s really just a young player coming from a small school,” Loggains said. “Adam is a smart kid, and at some point in this league, he’s going to be a really solid football player. . . . He’s still working on some things in the run game and even just some technique stuff in the pass game.”
Shaheen, who described his play in the first preseason game as “running around with your head cut off,” said he’s making progress every week. That goes for the pregame butterflies, too.
Now, the Bears need to keep their end of the deal. Shaheen needs the snaps befitting a second-round pick.
“The more snaps you can see,” Trubisky said, “the better off you’re going to be.”
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No Bears second-round pick in the last six years has played a smaller percentage of snaps in his rookie year than tight end Adam Shaheen:
P Player Year Percent
C Cody Whitehair 2016 99.8
LB Jon Bostic 2013 58.1
DT Eddie Goldman 2015 49.9
WR Alshon Jeffery 2012 41.2
DT Ego Ferguson 2014 29.9
TE Adam Shaheen 2017 28.6