The Chicago Bears selected Evan Rodriguez in the fourth round of this year’s draft to fill the role of the team’s F-back, a hybrid tight end and fullback. It was the position Rodriguez played at Temple.
So far this offseason, he has demonstrated very good hands, arguably the best of any tight end on the team. He’s been lined up at almost every location on the field, out wide, in bunch sets, in the slot, at fullback, on the edge and in the wing. He’s demonstrated good ability to exploit matchups with linebackers, while also showing very well as a lead blocker.
Bear Report correspondent Beth Gorr caught up with Rodriguez to discuss with him his first ever NFL training camp.
“Things are going real well so far in camp. There’s a lot of stuff to learn still but I think I am progressing at the right pace.
“Days here are busier than you’d ever believe. We are up early and going until late at night. Any downtime we’re either taking a nap or learning the playbook. I understand that this is only the beginning so I’m trying to preserve my body as best I can. I eat well and pay attention to the conditioning. So far so good.
“It’s quite an experience playing with guys you’ve only seen on TV before. You are definitely dazzled at first. That fades eventually but the awe is definitely a factor in the beginning.
TE Evan Rodriguez
“I’ve been working in a variety of positions so far. The coaches are trying to determine how and where to use me to the best advantage. It’s been a learning experience but I feel that I’ve adjusted rapidly and have been able to do what they ask me to do.
“I’ve had reps with the first team and that’s been a blast. It’s added pressure as you definitely don’t want to mess things up around those guys, but the challenge is great. The harder you have to work the better a player you’ll be, or at least that is what I’ve always told myself.
“My main goal so far is to get as much playing time as possible. As a rookie you need to impress the coaches. That’s difficult to do if you are standing on the sidelines. But I realize that as a new player everything is one step at a time. I want to take advantage of any situation I am placed in and learn to contribute to this team as quickly as possible.
“I’ve enjoyed adjusting to the styles of the quarterbacks. That’s a very different situation from what you would find in college where you tend to work with one quarterback most of the time. I’ll do whatever they ask me to. I like the challenges that the coaches are giving me right now. Anything that helps me fit in and learn faster is fine.
“I find that breaking things down physically in terms of what to do when, then following that with a series of faster reps is a good way to understand how to play in the NFL. I like to work on something until I feel I have perfected it. In football, I do something so often that it becomes second nature. It’s to the point where you respond without thinking too much about things. There’s nothing wrong with thinking but in football that can tend to slow you down.
“And if I feel stuck on something, I’ll ask a coach or another player. There’s no shame in doing that. I also spend considerable time studying the playbook. If you are moved around on the field in terms of where you are lining up, you have to understand how every position functions.
“It’s all about knowing your assignment, then executing. If you are confused, or even if you understand but look confused, people are not going to have a very good impression of you.
“I’ve been asked what I thought about the practice downtown last Friday. My answer? I was overcome with emotion. Coming out of the tunnel at Soldier Field in front of the fans was the most amazing feeling. In all the college games I played, there was never anything like it. Nothing even came close to the experience. You catch yourself thinking ‘my dreams just came true.’ It’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 12 years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.