Can Dontrelle Inman turn around the Bears’ receiving corps?
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Safety Eric Weddle’s invitation was a challenge: Meet me here at 5:30 a.m.
He’d gather some of the Chargers’ best players at the team facility — quarterback Philip Rivers and running back Danny Woodhead, among others — to work out and study film before the sun came up.
In response to Weddle’s first such invitation in 2015, second-year receiver Dontrelle Inman arrived at 6. Weddle shook his head at him.
“You don’t want to be great,” Weddle said.
Inman moved his alarm clock up the next morning and walked in on time. He kept doing it during his four-year stint with the Chargers.
“That’s where you learn how to be a pro,” Inman said. “A lot of the stuff, from me being a rookie, I’m like, ‘Dang, I wish I would have known that when I was younger.’ ”
Inman has been the first player to walk into offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains’ office most days since the Bears traded a conditional seventh-round pick for him two weeks ago.
“He’s the guy who is in my office at 6:30 in the morning and wanting to go through plays,” Loggains said. “It’s nice to have that veteran guy that’s done that.”
Said Inman: “We both roll in before the coffee’s even made.”
Inman lined up at the wrong spot only once during his first week of learning the Bears’ playbook.
“A smart player — likes to study the game,” rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky said. “A really hard worker studying the offense. He’s picked up things really quickly around here. Bigger guy, so easier to throw to, uses his body well, great hands. And we’re just looking forward to adding him to the rest of the receiving corps.”
Inman’s goals with Trubisky will be simple when he makes his Bears debut Sunday: Be in the right place, and haul in everything.
“Even if it’s a bad ball, still catch it,” he said. “That gives [Trubisky] a ton of confidence.”
Inman hopes to help out the Bears’ young receivers — Tre McBride has started two games in three years, while Tanner Gentry was waived Saturday but could bounce back to the practice squad early next week — the way Weddle guided him.
But he knows he needs to play well before he can dream of doing that.
“It’s hard after you go through OTAs and training camp to have a new guy come in halfway through the season, and they’re like, ‘Well, I definitely don’t know you like that,’ ’’ said Inman, who had a career-high 58 catches for 810 yards last season. “I just feel the room out. When I need to say something, I say something.
“But honestly, the biggest thing that’s going to help me out is going out and performing on the field. That’s where you gain trust in your teammates, respect, all those things.”
The Bears hope that Inman (6-3, 205 pounds) and Markus Wheaton (finally healthy) can separate from cornerbacks. Teams have dared them to beat them off the line of scrimmage all year, causing the Bears to use stack and bunch formations to buy their receivers a head start. Inman is the Bears’ tallest healthy receiver; he and Gentry are the only two taller than 6 feet.
“It’ll be nice to have a guy with some length out there,” receivers coach Zach Azzanni said.
Inman can play both the slot and outside, giving the Bears matchups they can try to exploit. They have the faith to move him around, even in his first game, because of how he has prepared early in the mornings.
Even if the coffee were made when he walked into Loggains’ office, he wouldn’t need it. Years of routine have set his body clock.
“I don’t have to get coffee at 7:30 just to wake my body up,” he said. “My body’s already woken up.”
Follow me on Twitter @patrickfinley.