BOURBONNAIS | Jonathan Bostic figured his rookie season would be spent observing from a distance and playing cheerleader on Sundays.
Slowly, within a year or two, the former Florida middle linebacker would see his game time increase and his leash loosened a bit.
Instead, Bostic spent Thursday's practice barking out defensive signals with the first unit.
And he's still unpacking at Olivet Nazarene University.
Projected starter D.J. Williams is out with a calf injury, which opened the door. Veteran Lance Briggs was given the day off.
"There's really no difference. Make all the calls. Make the changes. Know the down and distance," Bostic said of his responsibilities. "I've got to learn all the terminology and keep getting better, but I don't look at it like I'm being thrown in the fire.
"A lot of guys here I've been watching on TV for the last 10 or 12 years, I'm ready to be in there with them now. I've got to step it up and make sure I know that playbook while I'm on the field."
The Bears' second-round pick isn't doing this blindfolded. He started 26 games at middle linebacker with the Gators his last two seasons.
D.J. Williams, seven-time Pro Bowler Lance Briggs and James Anderson have served as mentors at camp.
"He did well. He did well," defensive end Julius Peppers said of Bostic. "We're gonna need him because we hope Lance doesn't go down but he could. All of us could go down, so the next man has to step up."
Bostic comes from good stock. His father Jon was a defensive back with the Lions from 1985-87. Despite being inexperienced, Bostic is not intimidated.
"It's coming easier," he said. "Obviously, they're adding stuff every day. Being able to take those things from the meeting room out to the field is gonna be important.
"It can be the difference between winning or losing the game."
Thursday morning's injury report also included tackles Jermon Bushrod (calf) and Jonathan Scott (knee) and defensive end Corey Wooton (hip). Tim Jennings missed his second practice for personal reasons. Briggs was given the day off.
An overflow crowd was entertained for much of the 2 1/2-hour practice.
Among the highlights was Brandon Marshall's 50-yard touchdown catch in tight, double coverage along the left sideline. It was a perfect throw from Jay Cutler and Marshall celebrated by heaving the football some 40 yards, over a medical tent and out of sight.
Martellus Bennett then outjumped a fully-extended Charles Tillman to grab a TD bomb from Cutler.
Not to be outdone, safety Chris Conte had a 70-yard interception return touchdown as 313-pound first-round pick Kyle Long gave chase much of the way.
"It's crazy to see how the fans come and support us every day, as hot as it is out here," Bostic said. "It's just practice, not really a game, and it shows just how much support we have."
First-year coach Marc Trestman wants every Bear to hit the ground running with no exceptions.
"We don't have freshmen here and we don't have guys who are being red-shirted," he said. "Everybody has to be ready and they know it.
"Jon (Bostic) is from a football family so we expect him to be ascending as a productive player on our roster. Plus, he came in as a front-line special teams player where we expect him to be dominant as well."