BOURBONNAIS — It might have been the easiest question Bears coach Matt Nagy has faced so far: “Who is your best smack-talker?”
“Oh, it’s 15 for sure,” Nagy said without hesitation. “Bellamy — are you kidding me?”
In three full seasons with the Bears, wide receiver Josh Bellamy has made his mark as a dependable reserve and special-teams player but also as a trash-talking, live-wire character who livens up practice and energizes a locker room.
“He keeps it competitive and fun,” said new teammate Taylor Gabriel, whose group interview at training camp on Monday was briefly interrupted by Bellamy playfully playing reporter from the back of the media scrum. “You need that Josh Bellamy out there, always hyped. He’s the same guy every time you come out on the field.”
Bellamy, 29, is not only a team jester but a survivor. An undrafted free agent who spent most of his first three seasons in the NFL on the practice squad with the Chiefs (2012), Redskins (2013) and Bears (2014), Bellamy turned a special-teams role (10 tackles in 2015) into a relatively productive pass-catching role on bottom-10 offenses in 2015 (19 receptions, 224 yards, two touchdowns), 2016 (19-282, one touchdown) and 2017 (24-376, one touchdown).
But more than ever, Bellamy is going to not only have to talk a good game but play one. The Bears upgraded their receiving corps, adding Gabriel, Allen Robinson and Bennie Fowler in free agency and Anthony Miller in the draft. With holdover Kevin White looking good in early practices, Bellamy will be challenged to make the roster and could be back in a special-teams role if he does.
Of course, he’s unfazed by the situation.
“Hey, man — it’s the NFL; they make changes every year,” Bellamy said. “They’ve been making changes since I’ve been here. You can’t look to the side. You’ve got to stay focused and keep your foot on the gas and go straight. I’m just focusing on what I’ve got to do to make my team better.”
The 6-foot, 208-pound Bellamy can’t be counted out. He has a knack for surviving.
“Because I never let anybody outwork me,” he said. “I don’t care who they bring in here; they aren’t gonna outwork me. Every day I’m going hard. I won’t stop. That’s just the way I go.”
So far, his approach seems to be working because Bellamy has made a bigger impact in the early stages of training camp this year than in previous years with the Bears. He’s getting opportunities with starter Mitch Trubisky and making the most of it.
“I love it,” he said of the competition. “It’s always a challenge. I love challenges.”
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