Marcus Freeman hasn't gotten to know Lance Briggs yet but they already have something in common besides both being listed at weak side linebacker.
Freeman is a guy who most thought would go much higher in the draft than he did, falling to fifth round and 154th overall where the Bears deemed him a "value pick'' as finding a backup for their perennial Pro Bowl performer wasn't a priority. Briggs used his draft snub--he went in the third round and felt he should have been a first-round pick--as motivation to prove to those who passed on him they were wrong all en route to the riches of a second NFL contract.
"My first interview was with the Bears at the Senior Bowl,'' Freeman said after practice Saturday afternoon. "The scout Jeff [Shiver] told me I reminded him of Briggs. That's just a huge compliment to me putting me in the same mold as an All-Pro like him.''
Had Freeman come out last year after his junior season, he might have been a second-round selection. Ankle injuries marred his senior season but the Bears focused on the player he was as a healthy underclassman.
"I enjoyed my time last season and I am enjoying my time in the NFL now,'' he said. "The money comes, the money goes. As long as you're happy, everything is good.''
Asked if he was overshadowed by Buckeyes teammate James Laurinaitis, Freeman turns it around the other way.
"He's a heck of a football player,'' Freeman said. "I'm not taking anything away from him. If teams put a double team on him, that left me free. I used that to my advantage. You don't get the recognition he did, but when people watch on film they're going to have their own judgments.''
The Bears are working Freeman at weak side this weekend in the rookie minicamp but he expects to learn all of the positions at some point. He was a personal protector on the punt team at Ohio State and will be expected to make his mark initially on special teams.
"That is the No. 1 priority to play special teams and make this team,'' he said. "I'm not going to go in there and be a Lance Briggs or Brian Urlacher or a Hunter Hillenmeyer, I'm just going to try to make it on special teams and be the best player I can be.''
And as far as carrying a chip on his shoulder because of his draft status, that's not going to be an issue.
"If you concentrate too much on, `I have to prove I am better than what people think,' you mess up,'' he said. "I just want to go out there and play the football I know how to play. I'm just excited to be here. I'll use whatever motivation I need to get me going. I think being in this Bears' uniform is enough."
*** Quarterbacks Jay Cutler and Caleb Hanie took in some of practice on Friday and wide receiver Devin Hester stopped by to watch some of their new teammates for a bit Saturday. Veterans are not permitted to take part in the rookie minicamp.
"Of course the door's always open for them to stop by,'' coach Lovie Smith said. "Jay is blending in and has become one of the guys, just showing support as much as anything for some of the guys, and Devin's a gym rat. Got a good workout in on his own. This is a day that the players are off, and he's out here working out trying to get better.''
*** Marquis Hundley, a cornerback from Arizona in on a tryout, made a great break on a pass by C.J. Bacher to make an interception. He showed a real burst of speed. He has good size and could be in the mix if the Bears work to sign any tryout players.
*** Guard Lance Louis, a seventh-round pick, was sidelined with a minor ankle injury. Tight end Adam McDowell, a tryout player from Fresno State, sat out with a left knee injury.
*** The Bears will wrap up the rookie minicamp Sunday morning with a 90-minute practice.