How bumpy rookie year ‘molded' Velus into player he plans to be


LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- When he was manifesting his future success during his first NFL offseason, the 2022 campaign isn't what Bears rookie Velus Jones Jr. had in mind.

The third-round draft pick from Tennessee suffered a hamstring injury during training camp and the preseason. He didn't make his debut until Week 5. Jones saw limited offensive snaps in Weeks 5-8 before being a healthy scratch in Weeks 9 and 10.

Brought in to give the offense a game-breaking playmaker, Jones has struggled to carve out a role on offense. Jones has three catches for 24 yards and one touchdown on the season. He has also rushed six times for 48 yards.

Jones has made as much of an impact on the Bears' offense as a pebble dropping into a rushing river.

But with four weeks left in the season, Jones views his rocky rookie experience as something that will pay off in the long run.

"I feel like it molded me and shaped me into the upcoming player I need to be," Jones said. "I'm grateful, thankful. It's been bumpy. But what's a career without it being bumpy? I'm grateful.

"It taught me to block stuff out," Jones continued. "You can't take into account what everybody says or what everybody has to think about you or else you'll never be successful. You'll never reach where you want to be in your career. I have learned a lot. Just have fun at the end of the day. That's what I told myself coming back from the bye week. Just go out there and have fun. I've been doing this my whole life. It's nothing to have anxiety about, to worry about. Just put your work in and the results will take care of themselves."

Since returning to the field on Sundays in Week 11, Jones has slowly started to get more opportunities on offense. He has given the Bears a few jolts in the kick return game but is still searching for his breakout offensive moment.

The Bears believe that will come.

They were encouraged by how Jones responded to being a healthy scratch in back-to-back weeks. They have asked him to be more consistent in practice and believe he is doing everything they have asked him to do to be successful.

But expectations should continue to be tempered regarding Jones' usage and what he will be during the final four games of this season.

“To see that natural growth happen for him has been really good to see," offensive coordinator Luke Getsy said Thursday. "These last couple weeks, he has been owning it in the classroom, performing pretty good on the field for us, too. We’re giving him more opportunities. It’s just seeing that ascending.

"We don’t need him to go be a superstar right now. We don’t need him to go be somebody he’s not. We just need him to be the best Velus he can be each and every day. As long as he’s getting better, we feel like he has a bright future. We just want to keep that going.”

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Jones hopes the final four weeks of the season serve as a launching pad for what comes next.

"Just continue to make plays on special teams, offense when the ball comes my way," Jones said. "Make the most of any opportunity. Finish strong. That's my goal. Put my team in good position. When the ball comes my way, make a play on it."

With Darnell Mooney out for the season and Chase Claypool nursing a knee injury, Jones should have plenty of opportunities over the final four games to showcase his growth.

Armed with the lessons from a turbulent rookie season, Jones hopes to put his early-career struggles behind him and become the type of impact player he visualized before the roller coaster started.

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