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McClellin needs to listen, focus

1 day he looks over-matched; next he's making spectacular plays

Fred Mitchell

8:00 PM CDT, August 3, 2012

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Shea McClellin is hearing voices.

So are most NFL rookies during this point of training camp.

From their position coaches, coordinators, veteran teammates, friends, media, fans — everyone offers well-intended advice on how best to transition from the college game to the NFL.

"My head is in all different directions because I am getting advice from the players, the coaches," McClellin said. "… But I just have to focus in, do what they're teaching me and hone in on those things."

Expectations are high for McClellin, the Bears' first-round draft pick from Boise State. One day the 260-pound defensive end looks overmatched in drills trying to shed a 320-pound offensive tackle to rush the passer. The next day he is making spectacular plays, snatching a pass in the backfield, recovering a fumble or dropping back in coverage to break up a pass.

"It's just a work in progress right now," Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said of McClellin. "He just has to keep coming. The work is there. The effort is there. Now it's just about … being comfortable from really coming off every down. Sometimes he's kind of looking around a little bit instead of just going."

One unlikely advocate for McClellin is veteran defensive lineman Israel Idonije, whom the rookie is battling for playing time.

"Using his God-given gifts and abilities: Speed, agility … understanding how to read the offense and understanding what's going to happen to him. … When you understand and put all of those things together, that's going to help," Idonije said.

Marinelli says he is trying to unclog McClellin's mind so he doesn't think too much.

"It's the words I choose," Marinelli said. "I keep talking about, 'Make sure you're getting off the ball, I'll clean you up.' So as long as he keeps coming off the ball then we can clean this up. He's kind of thinking, 'Am I going to get punched this way.' We have to create on the go."

Rookie safety Brandon Hardin out of Oregon State can empathize with McClellin. He's hearing a lot of voices as well.

"It's really just trying to take in everything they all say," said the third-round pick. ""Really think about it and then show it on the field."

In the end, the rookies have to keep in mind what it was that got them drafted into the NFL.

"Definitely my athleticism," Hardin said. "The size, speed combination and the athleticism … right now that's what I'm using. I am looking forward to eventually getting my mind in it as a safety. And I think once I do that I will be a great safety here."

Bears coach Lovie Smith downplays the obstacles the rookies face

"Everything a rookie has to go through … you want to be in that position where you have an opportunity to make the ballclub. … If you're a rookie, you have to do something to make us notice you. Anything that can help you do that, they are all for it."

Hardin knows the advice he receives from friends and family to help him make it in the NFL needs to be taken for what it's worth.

"They try to talk football," Hardin said. "Sometimes my mom will give me pointers. You have to say, 'Yes, Mom, thank you.' But really, she doesn't know much about what's going on here."

fmitchell@tribune.com

Twitter @kicker34