BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Kevin White spent all of training camp last year watching from the sideline.
That changed on Thursday when White participated in his first training camp practice at Olivet Nazarene.
“I was all smiles,” said White, who sat out last season with a leg injury. “I was so excited, kind of like a kid in the candy store. Last year I was very, very frustrated, a lot of stress. And this year I’m kind of out there having fun and I’m able to contribute.”
Expectations are understandably high for White, whom the Bears took at No. 7 overall out of West Virginia in the 2015 NFL Draft.
White is expected to start opposite Alshon Jeffery, giving Chicago a potentially productive wide receiver combination, if both players can stay healthy.
“We’re happy to play and be on the same field together,” White said. “We’re excited. We don’t talk too much as far as what we have to do. We know what we have to do. We know what the fans want. We just wanted to live up to those expectations.”
For that to happen, White has to click with quarterback Jay Cutler. The two struck up a friendship early in the offseason, and if Thursday’s workout is any indication, Cutler will not hesitate to frequently fire the football in White’s direction.
“Me and Jay put a lot of time in,” White said. “If he wants me at 9 yards, at 10 yards, come back down the line or run back to him, that’s what I have to do. We’re continuing to do that.
“He taught me to use all of my speed. Sometimes I try to [ease] into the route sometimes and play like a little tempo game. He just told me to get up on them quick. He can obviously throw the ball, let the ball out a little quicker and help put some pressure on the defensive backs.”
For his part, Cutler understands the importance of dual threats at receiver. In 2013, Jeffery and Brandon Marshall terrorized opponents, putting up a combined 189 catches for 2,716 yards and 19 touchdowns.
No one assumes White is the second coming of Marshall, but Cutler sees special traits in the young receiver.
“He’s got a lot of things he’s processing, thinking through,” Cutler said. “I think for anybody taking a year off football, jumping back into it is going to be hard. A rookie missing kind of that vital year, where you learn so much that first year jumping into that second year, it’s a big miss for him. But he’s so physically gifted I think he’s going to make it up really, really quickly. It’s just a matter of him letting those athletic gifts come through and him getting comfortable with the system and the verbiage and the splits and everything else that he’s going to learn, and being at a place where he doesn’t have to think and can just go out and play football. I think once we hit a fast-forward button and get to that point, he’s going to be something special.”