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Same Role, Different City for Jakeem Grant

The Bears traded for Jakeem Grant when they saw a chance for a big-play return man and he's not surprised his new home is Chicago, just that he's been traded at all.

Jakeem Grant wasn't entirely surprised he was traded to the Bears, after talking to Bears special teams coordinator Chris Tabor during the Miami Dolphins' practices at Halas Hall in August.

He was just surprised he was traded, period.

"Took me by surprise," Grant said. "I mean, coming off the year I had last year, I was thinking under no uncertainty that I would have a bigger role increase and I was one of their key guys, but it's a business of the game, man. So I mean, I'm not mad. I'm not anything, just ready to go.

"I've seen guys come and go. Didn't think I was going to be going, but hey, it is what it is. I'm ready to roll. That's behind me now and I'm ready to do whatever I can do to help out the Bears."

Grant was acquired for an undisclosed conditional future draft pick as the Bears cut returner Nsimba Webster, but then picked Webster back up for practice squad insurance. The trad surprised Grant because last year he made more receptions (36) for more yards (373) than any time in his six-year Miami Dolphins career. He also had a career high in punt returns (29) and averaged 11.4 yards, his second-best season.

During the August practices with the Bears prior to the Aug. 14 preseason opener, Grant talked to players and coaches with the Bears about different things.

"Yeah, I mean, I talked to the special teams coach and I talked to a lot of guys around here and they said they loved me, so it (was) kind of, yeah, that like red flag went up and I was like, OK, it could be a potential coming back here," Grant said.

Tabor likes talking with opposing players at such practices or whenever he gets a chance.

"I think you're always doing that," he said. "It's like any job. Jobs are built on relationships and those types of things. Even when we're in pregame watching the other team, I like to watch the other team warm up, watch guys' movement skills and those types of things. When you study them on tape and then are able to watch them up close, it just kind of either reconfirms what you think or you say, 'You know what? Maybe I viewed him wrong.'

"So, those days help and like I say, I'm glad he’s here."

Grant talked not just with Tabor, but with Bears players. The discussions were a bit more cordial once he joined practice this week than they were at those August practices. 

"It was all about me trying to kill them, not knowing you were going to end up right back here," Grant said. "And so some of the guys on the punt returns they were like, 'yeah, you back now.' So it was like, 'now I don’t have to chase you. All we've got to do is block for you.'

"They welcomed me with open arms, and that's one thing I can say I really appreciate."

The Grant return style is one Tabor thinks can work.

"You know, I've played against him multiple times," Tabor said. "He's a guy that obviously has speed, first-step quickness, can make you miss, can use all field zones whether it's the boundary, the middle or take them to the field.

"So, he kind of opens some things up in that area. He's been a good player in this league and we're fortunate to have him."

Grant isn't sure how much he can help with offense immediately as he learns the terminology, but definite will assume the punt return role.

"Oh yeah, definitely because it's basically run right, run left or run in the middle," he said of punt return. "So it's pretty black and white.

"But the offensive side, it's definitely totally different, because it's things that (are) a lot of motions and shifts and terms that you really need to take memorization."

He might be more familiar with the stadium the Bears play at Sunday, since he has been to Allegiant Stadium twice already. And that's always key for punt returners.

"It's a nice stadium," he said. "Fast grass, lights could definitely be an issue. Very bright lights.

"It's closed, indoors, so it's loud, so communication is definitely going to be a big key."

Grant is also familiar with some of the Bears players, chiefly running back Damien Williams, a former Miami Dolphin before he went on to win a Super Bowl in Kansas City.

"People call him the 8-ball here, but Damien Williams, one of my close friends from Miami and also off the field," Grant said, "And also Marquise Goodwin. We grew up in Texas. He went to Rowlett (high). I went to Mesquite Horn.

"I told him this earlier, but he's the whole reason why I even ran track. That's my guy, man. So I always looked up to him, and it's kind of great to be on the same team as him."

Grant spent his entire NFL career in Miami, grew up and played college ball in Texas so he's obviously not familiar with fielding punts in the Chicago wind and cold.

Beyond the few players he knows already on the time, Grant is honest about what he knows about Chicago and the team.

"Honestly, nothing," he said. "Besides Devin Hester, just knowing that he left an absolutely great mark here being a great returner. 

"So I know I have some big shoes to fill." 

After the way the Bears have bounced at punt returner from Tedd Ginn Jr. to Dwayne Harris, to DeAndre Carter to Nsimba Webster since Tarik Cohen's torn ACL, they'd no doubt adjust if the fit wasn't quite the same.

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