Bears' young GM Pace excited to make first draft pick

Regardless of what the six teams in front of him do in Thursday night's opening round of the NFL draft, Bears general manager Ryan Pace knows he'll get a great player.

"If we stay at (No.) 7, there are seven players we've identified that we feel really, really good about," Pace said after Wednesday's minicamp practice. "I know there's going to be a player that we can select that we're excited about."

This is the first time the 38-year-old Pace will be the decision-maker on draft day after spending 14 years in the New Orleans Saints' personnel department. There's a difference between providing information and making the call.

"Before, you're making recommendations," Pace said. "It's different when you're the guy making those choices."

For Pace and all the scouts who have spent the last nine months evaluating players and compiling information, the three days of the draft are the payoff.

"In our personnel world, this is our Super Bowl coming up," the Bears GM said. "We're excited. We're prepared. So we're ready to go."

Getting involved:

John Fox is considered a defensive coach because he spent 22 years coaching that side of the ball before getting his first head-coaching job with Carolina in 2002.

But it sounds like Fox will be more involved with both sides than his Bears predecessor. Offensive-minded Marc Trestman never seemed to be overly involved with the defense. Or maybe he just didn't want to be associated with the disappointing crew.

"I'm the head coach," Fox said, "so I'm kind of in charge of everything. And that would include offense, defense and special teams. (You) hire good people, let them do their jobs, but ultimately it comes back to me. So I would say I'm very hands on."

Learning curve:

After 12 years in the NFL as a defensive end in a 4-3 system, Jared Allen is in the process of transitioning to an outside linebacker as the Bears convert to a 3-4 alignment.

Asked about the move, Allen said: "I might have the best athletic feet in the history of the world," and then he laughed.

"It's completely different, so it's kind of cool," he said. "The way I learn, I try to equate things to what I've done in the past, what I know, different terminology. I just had to scrap that. I was texting my wife (Tuesday) night and I was like 'college football again, just learning a whole new system.'"

So, even though this week's minicamp is voluntary, Allen believes he needs to be at Halas Hall.

"I'm at home studying the playbook, and I haven't done that in 10 years," Allen said. "It's actually fun, it's energetic, it's a totally different style. I don't have to hit people every single time, which is kind of nice, too."

Making choices:

The three veterans who missed Tuesday's first practice - running back Matt Forte, tight end Martellus Bennett and defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff - also missed Wednesday's work and aren't expected Thursday, for the final day.

"I know these are individual choices by each player," Pace said. "I understand this is all voluntary. Of course we want them to be here, especially Year One where we're building chemistry and culture."

  Coach John Fox answers questions during the Chicago Bears minicamp Wednesday at Halas Hall in Lake Forest. Coach Fox and General Manager Ryan Pace discussed practice and Thursday's NFL draft. Gilbert R. Boucher II/
  Jared Allen tells the media he's excited to try to make the transition from defensive end to outside linebacker in the Bears' new defensive scheme. Gilbert R. Boucher II/
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