Chicago Sun-Times

Bears leave with pos­i­tive vibes

Fox’s squad falls, but coaches gain in­sight, re­spect

- MARK POTASH Fol­low me on Twit­ter @ MarkPo­tash. Email: mpotash@ suntimes. com

MO­BILE, Ala. — It’ll be three months or longer be­fore we know just how good of a week the Bears had at the Se­nior Bowl. But John Fox and his coach­ing staff at least im­pressed the play­ers who were try­ing to im­press them.

“I loved it. They were great. Coach Fox is un­be­liev­able,” said East Carolina wide re­ceiver Zay Jones, who had six re­cep­tions for 68 yards and a fourth- quar­ter touch­down for Fox’s North team in a 16- 15 loss to the South at Ladd- Peebles Sta­dium. “My wide re­ceiver coach [ Cur­tis] John­son and [ of­fen­sive as­sis­tant] Ben [ McDaniels], they’re two phe­nom­e­nal guys that I feel like I learned and im­proved my game just in three or four days. Re­ally proud [ of ] the Bears’ or­ga­ni­za­tion.”

Fox’s North team scored a late touch­down on Nate Peter­man’s six­yard pass to Jones with 1: 51 left. Fox went for the win, but Peter­man was un­der pres­sure im­me­di­ately on a roll- out and his pass for Jones in the end zone was in­ter­cepted.

But win­ning and los­ing was an af­ter­thought this week.

“I’d rather coach it — other than qual­ify for it — than [ watch] it,” Fox said. “It was a great ex­pe­ri­ence be­ing in the meet­ing rooms, be­ing around the guys, get­ting to know them. It gives you tremen­dous in­sight.”

That in­sight is sup­posed to be a big ad­van­tage for the Bears, who coached the North team and spent one day in meet­ings with the South team. The stand­outs in the game it­self were there for ev­ery­body to see.

California quar­ter­back Davis Webb was the game’s most valu­able player. He was 11- for- 16 for 165 yards, in­clud­ing an NFL- qual­ity 39- yard touch­down pass to Texas A& M wide re­ceiver Josh Reynolds ( six re­cep­tions, 96 yards).

Toledo run­ning back Ka­reem Hunt was the North’s out­stand­ing player, rush­ing for 118 yards on 15 car­ries, in­clud­ing a 43- yard gain. Kansas State de­fen­sive end Jor­dan Wil­lis, who had two sacks and two forced fum­bles, was the South’s out­stand­ing player.

“The Bears have some great coaches,” Hunt said. “They defi- nitely showed me some great knowl­edge, es­pe­cially in the pass [ pro­tec­tion] game. They taught me a new way how to keep my head up and just be strong in there.”

For some, it was a chance to prove they de­served to be here. North safety Lorenzo Jerome, who played for for­mer Bears guard Chris Vil­lar­rial at Saint Fran­cis Uni­ver­sity of Loretto, Pennsylvan­ia, had two in­ter­cep­tions, a tackle for loss and a forced fum­ble.

But Jones might have helped him­self as much as any­body. The 6- 2, 202- pound wide re­ceiver not only had the late touch­down that gave the North a chance to win, but he also had two ap­par­ent touch­downs that didn’t count but didn’t go un­no­ticed. He made a ter­rific catch of a Peter­man over­throw in the back of the end zone but only was able to get one foot in bounds. He also caught a 43- yard touch­down pass from Iowa’s C. J. Beathard that was nul­li­fied by a penalty.

“I feel the same [ as I did be­fore] be­cause I be­lieve I’ve had this in me all along,” Jones said. “It just took for peo­ple to see it. It may have so­lid­i­fied [ my draft sta­tus] to other peo­ple. But not to me. I knew I could play.”

Jones said he plans to make the most of what he learned from Fox’s coach­ing staff.

“There’s a lot they taught me, but I’m going to keep that un­der wraps,” Jones said with a wink. “I’m ex­cited to use that in the future at the [ scout­ing] com­bine and at the next level.”

Jones is pro­jected as a thir­dround pick. For now.

“Ul­ti­mately, it’s going to be up to the [ NFL teams],” Jones said. “Every­one has their job to do. I think I did mine.”

 ?? | AP ?? Re­ceiver Zay Jones ( East Carolina), who had six re­cep­tions for 68 yards and a touch­down for John Fox’s North team, says his game im­proved while be­ing with the Bears’ staff.
| AP Re­ceiver Zay Jones ( East Carolina), who had six re­cep­tions for 68 yards and a touch­down for John Fox’s North team, says his game im­proved while be­ing with the Bears’ staff.
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