Bears rookie linebacker Fitts showing flashes of promise
BOURBONNAIS -- Rookie outside linebacker Kylie Fitts finally got to turn it loose as a pass rusher in Thursday night's preseason opener against the Ravens, and the results were encouraging.
"He has a high motor," Bears coach Matt Nagy said. "We had to get on him the last couple weeks and even in OTAs about staying away from (our) quarterback. He's just geared so much with that bull's-eye on the quarterback. He goes full speed."
Fitts' motor runs hot, even when he's practicing against his own quarterbacks, but he saved some for the Ravens and came away from his first professional game with 1 sack and 3 QB pressures. Providing a potent pass rush will be the key for the sixth-round pick, as he seeks to carve out a niche on an already established defense.
"It's very important," Fitts said. "I want to come out here and perform every practice and game, so I have to take advantage of every opportunity."
He's heard the compliments from Nagy, but the 6-foot-4, 260-pound Fitts says that praise can't change his approach.
"It's good to be called out like that, but for now I'm just trying to ignore it and stay on my routine, stay humble and continue to grind every day."
Fitts flashed his ability to get after the quarterback with 7 sacks as a sophomore at Utah, but he was injured for much of his college career, which caused his stock to plummet in the draft.
"Last season it was tough, sitting out all those plays," he said. "But I just ignore (it). I don't think about injuries; I just come out and think about performing really well."
As much as he showed up in the Ravens' backfield as a pass rusher, Fitts' game against the Ravens wasn't perfect, as Nagy noted.
He lost containment on a run play to his side, and Fitts said his technique could have been better on some of his pass rushes.
"He flashed on a couple plays, but he could've been better on a few as well," Nagy said. "Now you come back here to ONU, and you watch the tape, and you talk through it, and you teach him."
Nagy said the worst thing a young player like Fitts can do is coast after an impressive early outing. "Sometimes, those young guys start to think, 'OK, I did a lot to help myself out, and now I can kind of coast into practice or coast into the next game,' " Nagy said. "And that's not the case. So our message to them is: 'That's over with now. You did that; you played well. Now improve on that and build those blocks.' "
That's the mindset Fitts is embracing.
"You can't come out here at a practice and take some plays off," he said. "It's every snap, every drill, you're going 100 percent."
But don't forget to take it easy on your own quarterbacks.
Safety Deon Bush (hamstring) and cornerback Cre'Von LeBlanc (groin) joined center Hroniss Grasu (ankle) and outside linebacker Aaron Lynch (hamstring) on the sidelines, but inside linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe, outside linebacker Kasim Edebali, offensive lineman James Daniels and tight end Ben Braunecker returned to the field.
Coming and going:
The Bears signed guard Kaleb Johnson and released center Jack Allen, a Hinsdale Central H.S. and Michigan State product.
• Bob LeGere is a senior writer at Pro Football Weekly. Follow Bob's Bears reports on Twitter @BobLeGere or @PFWeekly.