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Bears eager to learn about Kyle Fuller: ‘What he is — or isn’t’

BOURBONNAIS — Kyle Fuller has Tim Duncan’s face.

That’s what Jerrell Freeman thought the first time he met the cornerback. Only in his third year, Fuller behaved like the now-retired Spurs star: professional, serious, quiet. The Bears’ new linebacker couldn’t read him.

“I don’t ever see him get too high, too low,” Freeman said.

Hearing the Duncan comparison, cornerback Tracy Porter smiled. It was perfect, he decided.

Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller is in his third season. (AP)

“You can never tell if he’s having a good day or bad day,” Porter said, “If he’s happy or sad.”

It was a compliment — and it has nothing to do with Duncan’s status as one of the 20 best NBA players ever. Cornerbacks are drilled to have short memories, to not show weakness, to act the same on every play.

Fuller, who is social and fun around his teammates, cracked a smile at the Duncan comparison — “I’m safe with that,” he said — and said he just wanted to get better.

“Just coming in and stacking good days,” he said. “Being consistent and just doing my job to the best way I can.”

Entering his third season, though, the Bears aren’t any more sure of Fuller’s ceiling than his teammates are what mood he’s in. He has the pedigree of a first-round draft pick, but not the NFL resume, yet.

“We got a guy that’s played a lot of football, played a lot of football for us last year, played a fair amount his rookie season,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “Now’s the year he should be ready to step up and become …. We’ll find out exactly what he is — or isn’t.”

Fuller needs to be more consistent with his technique, Fangio said. The coordinator, who early last season critiqued Fuller’s preparation, was asked if that should have been accomplished by now.

“It should be,” he said. “He’s working to get there.”

At 24, though Fuller is a year older and more comfortable in Fangio’s system than he was at last training camp.

“He’s much further along than he was at this time last year,” Porter said. “At this point last year, he was trying to learn the defense, he was still trying to get a feel for the NFL game. And now after playing a full season under the defense, looking at this point of where he was last year, it’s a night and day difference.”

Fuller is “more sure of what’s being asked of him,” defensive backs coach Ed Donatell said. That’s not — at least for now — to cover the team’s best receiver. After taking over that job in the middle of last season, Porter signed a three-year, $12 million contract to return.

Starting his ninth season, Porter helps Fuller by passing down veteran knowledge — from technique tweaks to strategy.

“Me covering the other (team’s) No. 1, that gives him more time to grow,” Porter said. “That’s not saying he can’t cover guys one-on-one, but like quarterback, you don’t wanna throw a guy into a fire. So you don’t wanna throw your young guy on the team’s No. 1 receiver who has experience who’s been doing it for a while.

“So once Kyle continues to grow, then we’ll get to a point where he’s taking the No. 1, or we don’t have to switch sides.”

If that happens, the Bears will have fixed one of last season’s big issues; only the Ravens had fewer than their eight interceptions last season.

“One of our goals is always takeaways,” Fuller said. “But it starts with doing your job well. If you’re doing your job well, you being where you’re supposed to be … those takeaways can come.

“We’ve had a good number (in camp). You can always have more. That’s definitely something worth striving for everyday.”

Freeman sees that in Fuller’s face.

“I think he just had that want-to, that demeanor,” Freeman said, “that he wants to do his job.”