It happens every year in training camp without fail: Every wide receiver unflinchingly proclaims himself the fastest of the group.
But that nonsense won’t be taking place at Halas Hall this year. That banter doesn’t fly when there’s a former Olympian in the room.
As impressive as Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney are, they know they’re not outracing Marquise Goodwin.
He finished 10th in the long jump at the 2012 Games and in late June was still vying for a spot on the U.S. team for Tokyo. He used to be an elite sprinter, too, and clocked a 6.69 in the 60 meters before blazing through his 40-yard dash in 4.27 seconds while preparing for the NFL Draft.
Goodwin has bigger ambitions than merely being the fastest man in Lake Forest, however.
“I’m just glad to still be the fastest in the league,” he said Saturday after another practice in which the Bears’ secondary struggled to keep up with him.
The day before, he scorched No. 1 cornerback Jaylon Johnson, who later claimed he didn’t remember the play.
Goodwin’s pure speed is as clear as can be, but his potential role in coach Matt Nagy’s offense isn’t. He’s the biggest mystery on the Bears.
Goodwin, 30, is three years removed from his best season but still looks capable of being one of the Bears’ most dangerous playmakers. He caught 56 passes for 962 yards and two touchdowns in 2017, then played only 20 games over the next two seasons and opted out of 2020 because of coronavirus concerns.
Nagy said the Bears felt some apprehension with any player who stepped away last season — they signed running back Damien Williams and drafted cornerback Thomas Graham and had defensive tackle Eddie Goldman and defensive back Jordan Lucas opt out — but were reassured by Goodwin’s Olympic training.
“Anytime you have an Olympic mentality, you are different,” Nagy said. “That’s a minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour regimen [to keep] your body in shape.”
His speed is holding steady even at his age, and Goodwin said he feels even faster than his pre-draft 40 time. This is a lot different than when the Bears brought in Ted Ginn at 35 a year ago.
Goodwin’s ability to outrun a defense — “I really don’t get hit that much,” he said — is one reason the Bears believe they have undoubtedly upgraded the position. Robinson at the top is a given. Mooney already was ahead of Anthony Miller early last season and doesn’t sound crazy when he says he’s targeting 1,000 yards in Year 2. With Goodwin and Damiere Byrd — 47 catches, 604 yards and a touchdown for the Patriots last season — next in line, the Bears don’t have to keep waiting on a breakthrough by Javon Wims or Riley Ridley.
Assuming running back Tarik Cohen is fully back from his torn anterior cruciate ligament by the start of the season, the Bears would be sending out a fleet of receiving targets as fast as any in the NFL for quarterback Andy Dalton.
“A lot of us see what speed can do in this league,” Nagy said. “It can definitely scare a lot of defensive coordinators when you have that because it can open up the run game, too, because you’ve got to play deeper.”
The Bears haven’t struck fear in a defensive coordinator in a long time, but this group could do it.