Defensive tackle Terry Williams felt defeated. The Bears were the only team to show interest in him as an undrafted rookie out of East Carolina, and it was on a tryout basis.
Seated in Halas Hall’s lobby after the Bears’ rookie minicamp, Williams, who is nicknamed the “Swamp Monster,” watched three players get called up to general manager Ryan Pace’s office.
“We were waiting to see who goes through and who is going to go,” said Williams, who 6-0 and 329 pounds. “They went upstairs and I got my head down a little bit. I was like, ‘I probably didn’t make the team.’ ”
That wasn’t the case.
Williams was called up, too.
“They said, ‘Don’t worry this is a good thing,’ ” Williams said. “I want upstairs, and they told me I made the team.”
Williams hopes to receive similar news after Thursday’s final exhibition against the Browns. The Bears have to cut their roster from 75 to 53 players by Saturday.
As an undrafted free agent, Williams faces tough odds. The Bears didn’t invest a pick in him. He’s not an experienced veteran with a contract to consider.
“[Coach John Fox] basically just tells us to give it your all,” Williams said, “because you never know what can happen.”
The Bears’ current situation and having Fox helps. The Bears are team that needs to get younger, and Fox isn’t afraid of selecting undrafted rookies for his team – or starting them.
The Bears valued tight end Khari Lee, who went undrafted out of Bowie State, enough to part with a sixth-round pick in 2017 in a trade with the Texans on Wednesday. Lee became the 14th undrafted rookie on the Bears’ roster.
Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. is the best and most recent example of Fox’s work with undrafted players . Harris wasn’t selected out of Kansas in 2011, Fox’s first year in Denver. Harris started as rookie and became a Pro Bowl player in 2014.
From quarterback Jake Delhomme to offensive tackle Chris Clark, Fox has turned to undrafted players at various times in their careers, too.
With the Bears having hole many areas to address, Thursday’s exhibition is important for all their young players.
Williams has a chance because Jeremiah Ratliff is suspended and has a serious ankle injury and second-round pick Eddie Goldman is going through the league’s concussion protocol.
Inside linebacker John Timu, who played at Washington, has an opportunity because Jon Bostic can’t stay healthy and Mason Foster needs to be more consistent.
Playmakers are desperately needed in the secondary, too.
“Football’s football,” Fox said. “[Chris Harris] was a college free agent. You don’t know with these guys, from all different places, whether drafted or free agents. You just watch them compete and see how they execute.”
Timu did that in the Bears’ first preseason game against the Dolphins when he made an impressive interception.
“You can be glorious one week, and then the next week, it looks ugly,” said Timu, who played on three special-teams units Saturday against the Bengals.
“You have to take advantage of the little opportunities that you get. … Our coach has been emphasizing that this league, it doesn’t give you many opportunities for certain people, especially me being undrafted.
Fox is eager for a final look at his undrafted rookies.
“I’ve only seen them in three preseason games and a little bit of offseason work,” Fox said. “We’ve still got one more game to evaluate — what you’d call a practice game — and then we get the tough task of picking the 53 guys.”
There are 14 undrafted rookies on the Bears’ 75-man roster. They figure to get plenty of playing time Thursday night against the Browns.
ILB Jonathan Anderson TCU
CB Qumain Black East Central
CB Bryce Callahan Rice
WR/KR A.J. Cruz Brown
CB Jacoby Glenn Central Florida
WR Ify Umodu Northern Arizona
S Anthony Jefferson UCLA
TE Khari Lee Bowie State
WR Cameron Meredith Illinois State
G Tyler Moore Florida
TE Gannon Sinclair Missouri State
ILB john Timu Washington
DT Terry Williams East Carolina
OLB Kyle Woestmann Vanderbilt
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