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Time Running Out on Jaylon Johnson to Start in Opener

Second-round draft pick continues to make only occasional appearances as Bears enter last week of training camp before game week

It's a big week of practice approaching for Jaylon Johnson—if he's allowed to compete, that is.

The Bears went through their second controlled scrimmage Saturday at Soldier Field and Johnson wasn't really a participant. The second-round draft pick from Utah was in uniform and was noticeable once only because he ran across the field at full speed and then back to the sideline by himself, like someone doing a wind sprint. It was in between plays. 

Buster Skrine played outside at first-team cornerback and when they played a nickel defense he moved into the slot and Kevin Toliver came on to play outside.

Beyond that, the Bears have kept Johnson largely under wraps because he's been getting past rehab for a shoulder surgery. He has appeared occasionally at Halas Hall on the practice field and had an interception of Nick Foles in one session.

"Yeah definitely, you see everybody out here competing, competing and you just want to be a part of it all entirely," Johnson said. "For me, it's just staying true to myself and knowing who I am and what I am able to do and then just trusting the staff and trusting the trainers and everything like that just that they are protecting me and I am good for the long run."

There's much to learn for rookies at cornerback in the NFL. One of the biggest things is being able to forget the previous play because they need a short memory when it comes to getting beat for a big gain by a receiver and quarterback. The lack of confidence resulting from being beaten often has taken down more than a few defensive backs in the NFL.

"I've been beat," Johnson said. "I've played the corner position so you are going to get beat all the time—not all the time—but you are going to be beat at times.

"At the end of the day, for me it is just about having that confidence that I am going to get the next one back or I am going to make a play and I am going to make up for it. I'm not concerned for when that situation does come."

The other great adjustment, for all rookies and not just cornerbacks, is speed of the game at this level.

"I felt really good from what I have been able to do just going out there and being able to compete," Johnson said. "The speed hasn't been too shocking for me. It's been really easy to adjust to. It's just about learning the game, learning some tricks that come with coming to the next level and playing against professional athletes. It's just about going day by day and getting better every day."

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It would seem if Johnson has a chance to start or even play in the opener, it's going to take practicing this week extensively after he hasn't been allowed to do much through most of camp.

He likened what's happened to his freshman year at Utah.

"My freshman year I knew right away coming into it, I knew what the depth chart was looking like on my way into Utah," Johnson said. "At the end of the day, it was just about learning my assignments and then just perfecting my technique and that was something I did throughout my whole career.

"So nothing changes now just being a rookie and coming in, showing them that I know my assignments and that I can perfect my technique and play good football."

Johnson might have known right away he could play in college, but he didn't start that first game as a freshman at Utah, either.

If he doesn't start against Detroit in Week 1, it may not mean much in terms of the long haul.

On Saturday, Kyle Fuller picked off two passes and continued to look every bit like the Pro Bowl cornerback he has been the last two seasons. Fuller never started his first game, or even second game.

Johnson is wearing jersey No. 33, the number of former Bears cornerback great Charles Tillman.

Tillman never started his first game with the team, either.

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