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Jul 19, 2024  |  
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NextImg:With Bears shifting him to more comfortable role, WR Chase Claypool out to ‘overachieve’

When the Bears acquired receiver Chase Claypool in a trade with the Steelers in November, it seemed as though they might hold a parade to celebrate the move.

It’s understandable, too, given how starved they have been for downfield playmakers and that it was a rare major addition in a season of subtraction.

The uproar over Claypool quickly quieted, however. Then it turned. He had 14 catches in seven games. By the end of the season, everyone was wishing general manager Ryan Poles had kept the second-round pick, which turned out to be No. 32 overall, he had used to acquire Claypool.

Perhaps those were overreactions at both junctures. That’s really up to Claypool to determine, however, and he and the Bears have a lot riding on whether he can change his trajectory.

He’s only 25, and Poles would love to see him establish himself as a long-term piece of the passing attack. He’s also a pending free agent, which is a big reason Claypool called this ‘‘the biggest year of my life’’ as he finishes out his rookie deal.

‘‘Anytime you don’t meet your goals, you’re gonna be more motivated to overachieve the next year,’’ he told the Sun-Times. ‘‘I just refined my process. I figured out what worked, what didn’t work.

‘‘You want to prove everyone [in the building] right. You also want to prove everyone [outside] wrong. That’s my thing.’’

From Claypool’s perspective, he’s the same big-time talent who put up 121 catches, 1,733 yards and 11 touchdowns in his first two NFL seasons. The problems last season were that the Steelers shifted him to a suboptimal role at slot receiver, then it was difficult for him to grasp the Bears’ offense on the fly. Between the two, he had career lows in catches (46), yards (451) and touchdowns (one).

Those hindrances are gone this season. Claypool said his confidence in the scheme ‘‘is up there,’’ and coordinator Luke Getsy has him in a role similar to the one he had when he thrived with the Steelers — ‘‘what I can really excel in,’’ Claypool said.

So there’s no reason he shouldn’t be back.

‘‘When you’re more confident in the system, you play faster, make plays, feel good about it, have fun with your teammates more,’’ Claypool said. ‘‘Last season had ebbs and flows. I was making the best of any situation I could, trying to make plays no matter where I was on the field, looking at the positive side of things. It’s tough mentally.

‘‘I know the whole offense now. They can put me in wherever they want. Because I know the whole offense, my confidence is up there and they can feel confident, as well. When we’re both confident, good things happen.’’