Bears rookie wide receiver Daniel Braverman was a training-camp star in Bourbonnais, but just another undersized, long-shot prospect in the preseason. He had six receptions for 40 yards in three games; his longest play was 10 yards.
That might have been a disappointment to some, but not to him.
“No, because it’s all part of the process,” said the 5-10, 185-pound Braverman, a seventh-round draft pick from Western Michigan. “I can’t come in the first day and be Antonio Brown. That’s what people don’t understand — you’ve got to start from the ground up.
“Every time I play, I try to help the team as much as possible. If that was my job to catch two [passes] and help the team move the ball, then I was happy.”
Braverman is almost always happy, always upbeat and always sure the next day will be better than the previous one. He has a Tim Tebow-like positivity that allows no room for negative thought. He even bristled at the notion that he might be anxious or nervous if he makes his NFL debut Sunday against the 49ers as expected.
“I don’t know why you use those negative terms — that’s weird,” he said. “You’d be excited. If you play football and don’t get excited, you probably shouldn’t be out there.”
Braverman has been the people’s choice since Bourbonnais and probably will be even moreso this week since being promoted from the practice squad to the 53-man roster. After Bears wide receivers had eight dropped passes in a 27-21 loss to the Titans at Soldier Field, simply catching the catchable pass is a premium —and that’s a Braverman specialty. He was second in the nation in receptions as a Western Michigan junior last season with 109 for 1,377 yards (12.6 avg.) and 13 touchdowns.
So while Braverman’s promotion coincides with slot receiver Eddie Royal’s toe injury, the timing couldn’t be better for the Bears to see what Braverman can do in a regular-season game.
“That’s why we brought him up to the active roster,” Bears coach John Fox said. “We’ll look at him this week in practice. We’ll see what the number count looks like going into the game. We make those decisions an hour-and-a-half before kickoff.”
Be that as it may, if Braverman is good enough to be on the 53-man roster, he should be active Sunday. The Bears think they have something in Braverman and have been waiting for the opportunity to get him on the field.
“I’d be excited to see it,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said in Week 6 when asked about getting Braverman on the field. “There’s something to the kid. At some point in his career he’s going to get an opportunity here and we’ll see when that is.”
With the Bears 2-9 and playing for the future, this is that time. As a scout team player for most of the season, Braverman already has a throw-and-catch rapport with quarterback Matt Barkley, who is expected to make his second consecutive start Sunday.
“We did some great scout-team stuff together,” Braverman said. “You just have more familiarity. Just more comfortable with him. The whole point of a team is becoming a family. And once guys are tight, you just start clicking.”
A dedicated practitioner, Braverman has been working on every nuance of his game in his 12 weeks on the practice squad. “Route-stems. Catching. Hands,” he said. “Using your hands to swipe down. Every aspect of receiver play I was drilled by the coaches.”
Now we’ll see how well the Bears teach. Because Braverman has the tools to succeed.
“In and out of breaks he’s really quick, getting separation,” Barkley said when asked what Braverman does well. “He’s a little smaller target but I think he plays big. And how he’s able to catch the ball. He’s got solid hands. Especially coming from the slot, whether it’s working a nickel or even some of the base backers that we’ll get this week, he can make guys miss.”
It remains to be seen if Braverman’s skills translate into production at the NFL level. For players like him, it’s a matter of being in the right place at the right time. Even the ever-positive Braverman has no idea how it will work out.
“I guess we’ll see Sunday,” he said.