It took only three snaps Sunday for the football to come Chase Claypool’s way. And while his first reception as a Chicago Bear was far from spectacular — Miami Dolphins cornerback Kader Kohou knifed in to stop the quick pass for a 1-yard gain — the reception from the Soldier Field crowd was anything but ordinary.
A roar echoed off the lakefront and added to Claypool’s Week 9 welcome. For a 24-year-old receiver who wants to feel wanted, that offered a warm greeting, the loudest cheer he had ever gotten for a 1-yard catch.
“That was pretty cool,” Claypool said.
What a wild week it turned out to be.
The previous Sunday, Claypool had four receptions and 45 yards for the Pittsburgh Steelers in a 35-13 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. He was preparing to exhale over the Steelers’ bye week. But by Wednesday morning of last week he was instead on a flight to O’Hare International Airport, traded to the Bears for a second-round pick.
Claypool raced to Halas Hall, met briefly with coaches, was shown to his locker and ate lunch. Then he made his way to the practice field in the snap of a finger to continue a fast-paced orientation.
So much for the decompression. Suddenly, Claypool was diverted into an intense cram session, needing to learn the Bears offense in rapid fashion and, at the very least, understand his plays and responsibilities for the game against the Dolphins.
Practices. Meetings. Hours of homework. Video tutorials from offensive coordinator Luke Getsy. That all led Claypool into his first game and to that first catch and ultimately to the moment at which he could have punctuated his Chicago arrival with a big fourth-quarter catch on the Bears’ final drive with the game on the line. But field judge Ryan Dickson apparently didn’t see Dolphins cornerback Keion Crossen grabbing Claypool’s waist and pulling him backward before a Justin Fields deep ball arrived. What should have been a 37-yard pass-interference penalty or a deep reception to push the Bears into field-goal range resulted in an incompletion with 1 minute, 29 seconds remaining.
The Bears lost 35-32.
Claypool was still a bit dizzied from everything afterward.
“It was a whirlwind for sure,” he said. “Early mornings. Late nights. Studying the playbook six or seven hours per day. I’m just trying to get all the information down.”
As chaotic and demanding as it was for Claypool to prepare for what turned out to be a 26-snap workday, getting through Sunday’s game also lifted him over a hurdle.
“It settles me down a little bit,” he said. “It’s been a crazy experience. (On Sunday) I was bouncing off walls, trying to do everything perfect and put this little blanket of pressure on myself. Now that I’ve settled in, I can take a deep breath.”
On Sunday night, after a postgame dinner with friends and family, Claypool finally had an opportunity to catch his breath. “That was a good reset for me,” he said. “Just to chill, recover and prepare for the next week.”
Now, as he readies for Game 2 as a Bear against the Detroit Lions on Sunday at Soldier Field, he’s feeling a greater sense of calm and comfort. As much as anything, Claypool is feeling valued by the Bears. Perhaps that can help light the wick for greater production.
After practice Wednesday in Lake Forest, the third-year receiver wouldn’t go into depth about why his time in Pittsburgh ended abruptly, particularly noteworthy after he racked up 1,733 yards and 11 touchdowns over his first two seasons.
But he has insinuated multiple times in the past week that a window of opportunity seemed to close on him with the Steelers. For whatever reason.
“At some point, I just think their perspective on me (changed),” Claypool said. “It was like, ‘He’s not a red-zone threat’ for some reason. Or ‘He’s not a deep-ball threat’ for some reason. I’m not sure when that happened. But I started getting formationed away from those things. So it became super hard for me to make big plays. Because any time there was a big play drawn up, I was on the other side.”
In his first game as a Bear, the ball came Claypool’s way on eight of the 26 snaps he played. He had two catches for 13 yards, a run for 4 and drew an opening-drive pass-interference flag that netted 28 yards. Getsy clearly wasn’t hesitant to get his new playmaker involved. Fields showed his trust too.
“It was a cool experience to have a team that wants you like that and wants to get you involved,” Claypool said.
Added Fields: “The more he’s with our offense, the more he practices, I think the more he’ll be able to focus on the details of each and every route.”
With eight games remaining, the Bears have time to carve out a proper niche for Claypool, who is eager to get a handful of big-play opportunities each week. His increasing comfort — with the offense, with his surroundings, with his teammates — should help.
After one week in Chicago, Claypool has wrapped his arms around the fresh start with a team that wants to help him maximize his abilities.
“They look at me as a valuable player, obviously,” Claypool said. “That’s why they traded for me. And I think they’ll give me more opportunities to make plays. It’s just a matter of time to get that ball rolling.”