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Riley Ridley wouldn’t, but human nature tells us that watching former Georgia Bulldog teammate Javon Wims’ rapid ascension in his second offseason with the Bears — fueled at least in part throughout camp by Ridley’s balky right hamstring — might be just a tad bittersweet.
After all, Ridley, the Bears’ fourth-round rookie wideout, led Georgia in receiving last season and was selected 126th overall in the spring, billed as a pro-ready pass catcher with advanced route running and competitiveness. Wims was the Bulldogs’ leading receiver two years ago, producing more big plays but fewer touchdowns than Ridley, before arriving to the Bears as the 224th overall pick with a talented but raw label.
“As a former Dog, I’m rooting him on from the sideline or if I’m on the field,” Ridley said this week of Wims. “And I just hope for him to do the best. That’s for any receiver in our room.
But Ridley's focus, he said, is not "in everyone else’s business but trying to perfect my craft and what I do."
Because the overseer of that room, WR coach Mike Furrey, has a mantra: “I want my guys to be selfish to become unselfish,” he told PFW in the spring. “I want them to build their careers to the best they can and become better — that’s going to help us unselfishly as a football team.”
After putting some impressive stuff on film in the spring program, Ridley failed to make it through his first summer practice, suffering a right hamstring injury that cost him eight days of camp work, plus the first preseason game. He appeared a bit rusty upon returning, with a few uncharacteristic drops, but Ridley punctuated the final weekend in Bourbonnais with one of the best plays of camp: a contested, high-pointing touchdown grab from Chase Daniel over first-year CB Michael Joseph.
And for the first time this summer, the scouting report we received in the spring on Ridley from his new boss, GM Ryan Pace — “when the ball is in the air, he is going to win it” — actualized.
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“I’m not 100 percent all the way yet, but I’m working on my routes each and every day, just keeping my head in the playbook and trying to be a student of the game,” Ridley said.
The timing and familiarity, then, between Ridley and QB Mitch Trubisky understandably remains a work in progress — they were unable to connect on a fade pattern two days ago in practice on a ball that should’ve been intercepted in the end zone. But Trubisky afterward clearly sounded encouraged about the trajectory of his newest weapon.
“I love throwing to Riley. He's very savvy. He's like ‘Juice’ [Wims] a lot, where he can run the whole route tree. We can put him in a lot of different spots, and as a rookie and in his first year in this offense he picked up really quickly. You can tell he's got a high football IQ. He studies a lot. He's very competitive. He wants it really bad. And you love to see that as a quarterback.”
It remains to be seen what type of rookie role is in store for Ridley. On one hand, with Anthony Miller currently hobbled and Emanuel Hall the WR corps’ first surprising omission, opportunities seemingly abound. Yet on the other, Wims, in addition obviously to Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel, remain ahead of the rookie, who at the very least seems unlikely to match the first-year production of his brother, Atlanta Falcons 2018 first-rounder Calvin Ridley, whose 10 touchdowns made him the only frosh pass catcher a year ago to eclipse Miller’s seven.
Riley said he and Calvin have exchanged a few calls during camp but, “really right now, I’m just focused on Bears football.”
“… We got a lot of [receivers] that can do a lot of different things. [It’s] just very competitive [in the WR room], being a young guy and wanting to make a mark.”
Ridley figures to get his first chance in a game Friday night against the New York Giants.
“When I got a little dinged up, all I could do was take my treatment, get my rehab, get better, get healthy. And at this time, now, I’m back and ready to work.”