Not-so-great expectations: Kevin White eager to ‘play and have fun’
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Kevin White didn’t do much in the preseason except lower the bar. At this point, anything he does will be a bonus.
Expectations for the Bears’ 2015 first-round pick are at an all-time low heading into his third NFL season. Maybe that will be the impetus for White to jump-start a career that has been a series of disappointments.
“I’m ready to get out there, ready for the real thing,” White said. “Tired of all the preseason and the anticipation of the season and all the talk and whatever. It’s football. There’s going to be some good, there’s going to be some bad. Never will be satisfied. I just want to play and have fun. Do really well and get a good team win.”
An unimpressive training camp and preseason have further dampened even diluted expectations for White. He struggled to get open and rarely if ever showed off the burst to turn a short play into a big one. He couldn’t win the one-on-one battles for the ball that were a staple of Alshon Jeffery’s excellence. White caught four passes for 32 yards in three preseason games. There might not have been a single play that reminded you White once ran a 4.35 40-yard dash at the scouting combine.
When he got here, the question was whether White could become an NFL-level route runner. Now the question is much more basic: After two season-ending injuries, is he even the same athlete the Bears drafted?
“I believe he is; now he’s got a chance to showcase it,” general manager Ryan Pace said this week. “The good thing is that he’s strung together healthy practices — I think that was important for him. He has really had only one training camp. For him to be able to string together healthy practices and stack positive days, now we’re set for him to have a big year for us.”
The Bears need that now more than ever. With Jeffery gone and Cam Meredith out for the season with a knee injury, the Bears’ wide receiver corps is about as mundane as it gets in the NFL. It’s Kendall Wright, Markus Wheaton, White, Josh Bellamy, Deonte Thompson, Tre McBride and a lot of hope.
“We’re set for Kevin to have a big year,” Pace said. “Kendall’s here, Deonte, Bellamy — those guys are going to step up.”
White once was the most prominent hope to do that. Now he seems like just another candidate. You can’t even say all eyes are on him anymore because a lot of people have given up hope.
“I’ve been doubted my entire life,” White said. “From high school to juco, being in juco for three years to going D-I. From D-I to going to the league and now in the league. I mean, it’s the story of my life. That’s what I thrive on. It’s there. It’s normal. There’s no extra pressure. It’s just there. I’ve been used to it all my life.”
In the offseason, it seemed like the pressure and the criticism were getting to White. But with the regular season finally here, he appears more comfortable with his plight and his opportunity. That many have lost faith in him is part of the gig.
“No knock on anyone that’s thinking that,” White said. “I haven’t played in two years, so everybody’s entitled to their own opinion. There’s no hate. No [feeling of] betrayal or anything. I’m just going to play and enjoy the game. I’m happy I’m in the NFL, a starter for the Chicago Bears. I’m a big part of the puzzle, so there’s not a lot more I can ask for. I just want to play and have fun and get some good team wins.”
Follow me on Twitter @MarkPotash.