MCCOOK, Ill. – Darnell Mooney is up and running again.
The Bears fourth year wideout sprinted out of a tunnel of kids onto the practice field in McCook to kick off his youth football camp.
“My father is from here. I used to come here in the summer. We went to some camps and stuff. It was fun. I learned a lot of things from those. Good journey. Good experience. I’m able to give it back. I’m happy I can do so.”
And Bears fans are happy Mooney’s ankle appears to be fully healed with training camp just over two weeks away.
“I’m feeling good. I’m ready to roll.”
Mooney spent a large chunk of the offseason rehabbing alongside Eddie Jackson on his journey back to the gridiron.
“There’s been some ups and downs. It’s been a trial. Some things I’ve learned – I’ve enjoyed the journey of it. I’ve enjoyed the process. I’ve learned a lot being able to sit down. You can’t really do too much. Rehabbing my ankle, especially with Eddie, being able to talk through some life things – it’s been amazing.”
The Bears roster has gone through a lot of changes since Mooney went down last November. The pieces Ryan Poles has put together since then, gives Mooney hope the offense can find its stride.
“Another year in the same offense, under the same regime – we understand it. We’re not just thinking about, ‘Are we doing the right things? Are we not doing the right things?’ I just know my year one to year two was a different thing knowledge wise. I’m not on a hype train or anything. We’re just going to win. We have to win. Nothing else but that.”
Mooney caught 40 balls for 493 yards in twelve games last season. Now that he’s healthy again, Mooney wants to take his game to new heights.
“I’m always going as high as I can go. There is no more thinking about what other people think about me. I don’t really care.
“You have these critics, but I know what I’m capable of. I know what I can do. I know I can ball. The highs, the ceiling, whatever it is – I’m going to reach it.”
The Bears receiver’s room is a lot more robust than when Mooney first entered the league. DJ Moore and Chase Claypool round out of trio of targets for Justin Fields that have been building chemistry on and off the field.
“It’s important because usually it’s just me and Justin. There are a lot more other guys out there now. I’m happy about that. Guy just willing to work. You see lot of faces. Even with our guys coming back from last year – it’s just a different feeling. Some guys that I probably didn’t like at first, I grew a relationship with them. I know their character. I know why they act that way. I love them for the way they are.
“It’s like having a brother. You’re like, ‘I do not like this guy.’ After you figure out why he acts this way and his story and all that, it’s a good thing. It’s a good turn out of growing as a person.
“It’s extremely important to have that chemistry. To have that family intact. It’s only going to make us better. We have to win. There’s no waiting and seeing how this thing grows. We have to win. It starts off Week 1 and continuing going on from there.”
Fans been following Mooney’s progress on social media. Training videos and pictures of a much more muscular Mooney have caught diehards’ eyes.
“It’s things I’ve always been doing. Credit to my people who post those things for me. Some things I’ve been doing for awhile. I just haven’t been running that much. I have to sit down and stuff.”
The training wheels are coming off soon, though, with Mooney expected to be a full go at camp.
“I’ve been with guys – Justin and all them. It’ll be the same thing. I’m not looking like, ‘Oh my God! I’m finally out there with them.’ It’s fun. It’s going to be normal to me. Just ready to get everything in line with the whole team – all 11 players.”
As for his message to Bears fans who have high expectations for this team now?
“Get ready to win. Tired of losing. Don’t go for any hypeness or anything like that. Just get ready to win.”