Javon Wims lost his mind for a moment Tuesday — throwing a flurry of haymakers at cornerback Prince Amukamara in a practice altercation. But one bad day can’t obscure the reality that Wims has been one of the Bears’ best receivers in camp and one of their most improved players.
Wims, the 2018 seventh-round pick from Georgia, has responded to the roster challenge he faced when the Bears signed Cordarrelle Patterson, drafted Riley Ridley in the fourth round and signed prime undrafted free agent Emanuel Hall in the offseason.
“Competition brings out the best or worst in you,” the 6-4, 215-pound Wims said. “It’s healthy competition. We’re all cheering for each other. It’s bringing the best out of me.”
Teammates can see the difference.
“There was a play in OTAs where he ran past one of our DBs,” Amukamara said, “and I said, ‘Dude, Wims looks like he got faster.’ And then he did it to me. I said, ‘What is it?’ I guess he just got faster. I read Twitter. It seems like a lot of people want him to get in and start making plays — me, too. He looks great out there.”
Wims played only 30 snaps on offense as a rookie — 21 of them against the Vikings in Week 17, when he had four receptions for 32 yards, including third-down conversions of 16 and eight yards on a fourth-quarter touchdown drive that all but clinched a 24-10 victory.
That performance gave Wims a boost that he has carried into this season.
“It was good mentally because I know I can play in the NFL,” Wims said.
And that confidence is huge for a receiver who played only 22 games at Georgia.
“The biggest thing for Javon is acceptance,’’ wide receivers coach Mike Furrey said. ‘‘He finally understands he can play in this league. He started that toward the end of last year. So he was ready to [get] in the grind to come back, knowing that he can play in the NFL. Now it’s going to be knowing that he can be a No. 1, No. 2 guy when he goes in there. It’ll get there. It’s just continuing to grow.”
Though his athletic skills and size are obvious, Wims’ best attribute at this point of his NFL career is his willingness to learn. He admits he ‘‘honestly had to learn how to practice” at the NFL level. He studies his teammates — particularly Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel — and emulates them.
“Robinson more so on the field — his details to routes,’’ Wims said. ‘‘His releases. I see how he runs a route and how it got him wide-open. [With] Gabriel, more so things off the field — how to be a professional.”
The fight with Amukamara was an uncharacteristic blot on Wims’ Bears résumé. He loves being on this team.
“We’ve got a locker room full of good guys,’’ Wims said. ‘‘We don’t have any cancers. I’m lucky. I’m blessed. I came into a great culture, from the coaching staff to the general manager to the players to the equipment staff — it’s a top-notch organization. Everybody here. It’s a welcoming family environment.”
Every team likes to think that way. But Wims insists it’s real with the Bears.
“We’re not faking it,” he said. “You could see it. Guys out there, we joke around. We play with each other’s kids. We meet their family. We seriously care for one another and seriously want one another to succeed. Now, we get out here and compete, but we still love one another.”