LAKE FOREST – It might not be a regular season game, but at least the contests held in August or early September can give a player the feel of a National Football League game.
When it comes to rookies, that’s important, since they often only know the speed and power of the college game. It’s an opportunity that rookies like Cole Kmet traditionally benefit from before they take the field to contribute when the stakes are really on the line.
That chance disappeared for the tight end in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of every preseason game. The Bears’ first selection of the 2020 draft only has practice against his teammates to gauge what the competition might be like.
So Sunday’s contest against the Lions will be a learning experience for the Lake Barrington native and former Notre Dame tight end as he sees his first NFL action.
“I’m really looking forward to that,” said Kmet when asked about getting an idea of how to succeed in the NFL with experience, which he’ll start getting on Sunday. “I missed on part of that this preseason with no preseason games. Obviously the NFL game is a little bit different than the college game is, so just looking forward to going out there and compete against these guys and finding ways for myself to get open.
“Looking forward to all that, so it should be a lot of fun.”
How much it will be depends how quickly the tight end can get up to speed with the pace of the game, which he admitted he’s missing without any preseason games. Kmet’s expected to see some time Sunday at Ford Field as he’s listed second on the depth chart behind veteran Jimmy Graham.
He won’t be the only one in that situation as fellow second round pick Jaylon Johnson will make the start in his first NFL game at cornerback. Darnell Mooney is currently listed as the backup receiver to Ted Ginn. Jr. and also figures to see action Sunday.
They along with Kmet with have to be quick learners since the Bears expect them to perform in what’s a critical year for the franchise after finishing 8-8 in 2019.
“That’s something we’re just gonna have to come into and I’ll have to come into right away,” said Kmet. “I’m really looking forward to it, I understand there’s probably going to be a little bit of a learning curve with this going into the first week and really my first rookie season. It is what it is and it’s just how quickly I can learn and how quickly I can adapt to the circumstances thrown at me.”
With an unusual preseason, their might be more than usual coming the tight end’s way on Sunday.
See more on the Bears on Chicago Football Weekly with Jarrett Payton and Lauren Magiera on Saturday nights during the season at 6 PM on WGN-TV.