Bears linebacker Tremaine Edmunds ‘excited about what’s to come’

The Bears’ marquee free agent made a leaping interception of a pass by PJ Walker for a virtual pick-six in an OTA practice Tuesday at Halas Hall. It was only a non-contact practice in May, but Edmunds hopes it’s a harbinger.

SHARE Bears linebacker Tremaine Edmunds ‘excited about what’s to come’
Tremaine Edmunds (49) takes it all in during stretching prior to the Bears’ OTA practice Tuesday at Halas Hall.

Tremaine Edmunds (49) takes it all in during stretching prior to the Bears’ OTA practice Tuesday at Halas Hall.

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

It was only an interception in a non-padded, non-contact offseason practice in May. But with the Bears coming off a 3-14 season, any hint of a playmaker is big news. At the very least, linebacker Tremaine Edmunds made a good first impression.

Edmunds, the Bears’ marquee free agent after signing a four-year, $72 million contract in March, capped off the media viewing portion of practice Tuesday by leaping to intercept a pass from backup quarterback PJ Walker in the end zone and returning it for a virtual pick-six, with a hearty celebration by the defensive teammates who escorted him to the end zone.

‘‘Just trusting what I saw,’’ Edmunds said. ‘‘Coach got a good call, and I was able to make a play on the ball. Everybody was pretty much doing their assignment, and I was able to make a play.’’

Edmunds, a two-time Pro Bowl linebacker with the Bills, already can see his potential as a playmaker in coach Matt Eberflus’ defense.

‘‘I’m excited, just because I feel like I’m going to be in a position to make a lot of plays,’’ he said. ‘‘Obviously, because of his background on defense, he has a great understanding of it, putting guys in position. As a player, that’s all you can really ask for is to be in a position, and now it’s up to me to make the play. So I’m excited about what’s to come.’’

New kickoff rule

NFL owners adopted a rule change on kickoffs (and safety free kicks) that will put the ball on the 25-yard line after a fair catch inside the 25.

It was done at the behest of commissioner Roger Goodell as a safety measure to avoid kickoff collisions that have led to concussions. But many special-teams coaches have said it will lead to adjustments, such as pooch kicks inside the 20 to force a returner to make a quick decision, that still will lead to collisions.

‘‘I think it will change tactically what teams are going to do,’’ Eberflus said. ‘‘I think we’ll get more squib kicks and those types of things and make guys return it. I suspect you’ll see more returns than less. We’ll see what happens.’’

The rule change could affect the Bears, depending on how it plays out. The Bears were tied for fifth in the NFL in average drive start on kickoff returns last season (26.4 yards). They were tied for 17th as the kicking team (25.3).

Mooney, Jackson out

As expected, wide receiver Darnell Mooney and safety Eddie Jackson haven’t been medically cleared to participate in organized team activities after suffering season-ending injuries in Week 12 against the Jets last season.

Mooney is recovering from surgery to repair a broken left ankle. Jackson is recovering from a Lisfranc injury that didn’t require surgery.

Eberflus didn’t offer a timetable for either player.

‘‘We just don’t have the answers right now,’’ Eberflus said. ‘‘All I can say is they’re progressing where they’re supposed to be, it’s all positive and we expect them back soon.’’

Marked absent

Though participation in the offseason program officially is voluntary until mandatory minicamp in June, the absences of cornerback Jaylon Johnson and guard Nate Davis raised eyebrows.

Johnson’s absence is likely contract-related, given that he’s due for an extension in his fourth season. Davis’ is a little perplexing, however, given that he just signed a three-year, $30 million contract in free agency ($19.25 million guaranteed).

Such players usually are the first in the door to get acclimated to a new system, especially on the offensive line.

‘‘I’ll just share that this is a voluntary time for all the players,’’ Eberflus said. ‘‘Some players have certain things going on. It’s their right to be in here or not, but we’ll coach the guys that are. That’s really all I can say.’’

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