Bears News: Odunze: “I’m not where I want to be on a physicality standpoint”

Bears News: Odunze: “I’m not where I want to be on a physicality standpoint”

by - Correspondent -

CHICAGO — Typically, a receiver drafted in the top 10 of the NFL Draft is the team's No. 1 receiver. But Rome Odunze, who was drafted No. 9 overall, is coming into Chicago as the No. 3 receiver on the roster.

While some receivers want to become the top receiver immediately, Odunze values the ability to learn from elite receivers Keenan Allen and DJ Moore.

“It’s not even measurable the impact they’re able to make on my career, just being in the room with them … for four weeks or so. I’ve already learned so much,” Odunze said. “So, to be in a room with them throughout a whole season, learning from them in training camp, I think it’s going to just my game to the next level and something I’m super excited about because it’s not often that you get to come under the wing of a Hall of Famer and then soon to be Hall of Famer as well.”

During organized team activities (OTAs), Odunze missed a little time because of a hamstring injury. He did not come into OTAs in pique physical condition, and as a result, he says he is not where he wants to be physically right now.

However, the month-long break between now and training camp, which starts on Tuesday, July 23, will provide him ample time to be physically ready for training camp.

“I’m not where I want to be on a physicality standpoint, on a conditioning standpoint, on a who I am as a player standpoint. If training camp was tomorrow, mentally-wise, I’d be ready to go,” Odunze said. “I need this month to go get right and make sure this transition into the league is going to be (as) swift and smooth as it can be.”

Another benefit Odunze has that many top-10 receivers typically do not have is a fellow rookie first-rounder to develop with. Odunze gets to develop and transition into the NFL alongside rookie quarterback Caleb Williams.

Williams has already proved himself to be a leader and commanding presence in the huddle.

“He’s a leader, pure and simple. I think he leads (through) example. He leads vocally as well,” Odunze said. “So, to be around him, as rookie to rookie, we’re both learning the process of this thing and both learning to be in this environment in this new setting, which is unique to both of us, for him to be able to step in there with the veterans as well and command those guys and be a leader for the whole team in general is impressive to me and something that he’s been doing consistently. So, we follow him, and we go with him on whatever he wants to accomplish that day.”

For training camp, the Chicago Bears will be featured on Hard Knocks, where viewers will get a first-hand experience of how Williams, Odunze, and the rest of the offense fare against Chicago’s formidable defense, which was one of the best in the league last season.

“I think it’s a learning curve having to go against one of the best defenses in the league. Those guys are assignment sound and know exactly where they need to be when they need to be there,” Odunze said. “So, going against them, it’s just (sharpening) my skills and I feel tremendously best to be able to do that. But it is definitely a challenge but something that I feel I’m growing into, and it’s something that I feel okay. I’m here to do my thing and be able to compete at a high level.”

Odunze wants to make a positive impact on the Bears in any way he can, including on special teams.

Since Hall of Famer Devin Hester was his favorite player growing up, Odunze knows the value of special teams and the punt returner, particularly for Chicago.

“I had my fair share of punt returns in college. I practiced it every day. I didn’t get a ton of reps in actual (games), would have loved to get more of those. But, I think it’s just another opportunity for me to shine and me to add value to the team. I feel like I do it at a high level,” Odunze said. “So, I’m continuing to grow with that, continuing to find the technique of it, especially at this level with punters like (punter) Tory (Taylor) who, man, he’s got some unique ones. So, just learning those things.”

Chicago does not have a rich history of wide receivers. Johnny Morris holds the all-time franchise receiving record with 5,059 yards; he has not played in the NFL since 1967. Brandon Marshall holds the single-season franchise receiving record with 1,508 yards in 2012.

Odunze believes he is a player that can be relied on in big moments for the Bears and have his name on some of Chicago’s receiving records before his career is finished.

“I think my name can be called in those big moments. I feel confident in that, and I think I have the confidence and the ability to make those plays when they come up and when my name is called. But, again, I think it’s something that you just prepare for. It’s like Kobe always says. He never took a shot in the game that he hadn’t (taken) a thousand times in practice and I think that that’s really true. We go out there and we practice super hard and put ourselves in tough situations. So when we get in the game, it just kind of feels like you’re there in the present doing your job,” Odunze said. “Hopefully, I’ll leave the Bears organization better than I found it and if I have my name on some of those records, I feel like that’s just one facet of doing so.”

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