Chicago Bears rookie QB Caleb Williams is encouraged by his early progress in a 3-day minicamp

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Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams passes during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Arizona State Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

LAKE FOREST, IL (AP) — Chicago Bears rookie quarterback Caleb Williams emerged from his first exposure to veteran NFL players at organized team activities and minicamp with a greater appreciation for what he’s up against.

Williams, the first pick in the NFL draft, found he has plenty to learn, and the defense he’ll face every day in training camp will be a formidable one with designs on being a top-five unit.

“I didn’t come in necessarily with the expectation to be and seem like a 13-year vet,” Williams said Thursday after a three-day mandatory minicamp ended. “I came in to work, to work my tail off, show the guys that I’m here, I’m working my tail off, I’m progressing and trying not to make the same mistake again.

“That’s the biggest thing, day in and day out, is trying not to make the same mistake over and over and learn from them. That’s been my biggest thing for me.

It was anything but easy for the 2022 Heisman Trophy winner.

On the first day of camp, Williams threw late over the middle and had it picked off by new Bears safety Kevin Byard. On the second day, Williams did the same thing but it was linebacker Tremaine Edmunds making the interception. In red-zone work Thursday, Williams put on a good display of accuracy with a better command of the offense while working against the first-team defense.

“So with all the reps that we’ve been able to get and obtain, it’s been huge,” Williams said. “So just like today I feel like progression-wise, being able to throw a little bit more anticipation was a little small step for me.”

Coach Matt Eberflus plans to keep Williams working against the starting defense throughout training camp.

“I think that Caleb is a talent, a very good talent,” Eberflus said. “His game will go to where it needs to be. I want him to see that in front of him, the windows closing, the variation of what we do on defense, and I want him to see that day-in and day-out so that when he gets to play somebody else it will look (to him like), ‘OK, I’ve been there, done that.’

“That’s how we’re going to keep it.”

Aside from the practice competition, Williams found the Bears’ cadence on signal calls to be a challenge, one that led to false starts.

“It’s just finding the balance between it all, not being too loud on certain plays and things like that, not being voice too low, so just working practice-wise, just working through it,” Williams said. “Obviously in college a lot of teams are clap cadence, so it’s been four years since I’ve been verbal. So it’s just getting back to the verbal cadence is really what it is.”

Williams called the developmental process steady and painstaking.

“First, I ask questions,” Williams said. “I ask questions to Coach. I ask about my progression, I ask where he wants me to be, where I should be, and then obviously I have my own goal set for myself and that’s to be perfect.

“Obviously you strive for something like that and you don’t ever reach it, but you keep striving for it.”

Williams has also gotten a taste of his new role off the field, during excursions to White Sox, Cubs and Sky g

“I obviously said in a bunch of interviews that I’m going to be a part of the community, be out there, let everybody see that I’m just another human, just being out there, enjoying being myself and being part of the community and supporting them,” Williams said.

At some point before training camp, Williams needs to sign a contract.

“I’m not handling that,” Williams said. “I’ve been focused on these past three days of minicamp, the OTAs before that and rookie camp before that. I haven’t been focused on that.

”(GM Ryan) Poles and my team have been focused on that. I have lawyers and attorneys to handle things like that so I can be free-minded on the field, enjoying coming into work every day and working my tail off.”

NOTES: Eberflus said the Bears will have a joint practice on Aug. 15 with the Cincinnati Bengals at Halas Hall. The teams play a preseason game two days later. … WR Tyler Scott, CB Kyler Gordon, T Braxton Jones, TE Cole Kmet and G Nate Davis were held out of Thursday’s practice. The team doesn’t usually reveal less serious injuries in the offseason, but Eberflus said Gordon’s injury was lower back stiffness.

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