New Season Brings Bears' Shaheen Another Chance

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. (670 The Score) -- Bears tight end Adam Shaheen finished his final drill of practice Friday morning and walked off the field with his helmet still strapped tight. A third-year pro, Shaheen isn't letting himself break focus on the opportunity before him.

Shaheen is practicing near a full volume once again after his back flared up during practice at Olivet Nazarene last Sunday. Given his injury history, the Bears made a point to approach Shaheen's back ailment with caution.

Shaheen is hoping to put his injuries, inconsistencies and struggles in the past. After an offseason with a renewed commitment to health, he's looking ahead.

"Getting ready to roll for game one," Shaheen said after practice Friday.

The Bears selected Shaheen in the second round of the 2017 draft, bringing him in with a rookie class that included Pro Bowl players in Mitchell Trubisky, Eddie Jackson and Tarik Cohen. He was the 6-foot-6 monstrosity at Division-II Ashland who became known as "Baby Gronk," a nickname he refused to take to upon entering the NFL.

As a rookie in 2017, Shaheen had only 12 receptions in 13 games before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury catching a touchdown during a win in Cincinnati in December. He entered camp in 2018 in terrific shape and hopeful for a breakout his second year in the league but instead endured a gruesome foot/ankle injury in the preseason. 

Upon his return in November, Shaheen suffered a concussion hauling in a two-point conversion in a win against the Vikings. He had only five catches in six regular-season games.

The injuries have been unfortunate and unavoidable, and they've defined Shaheen's first two years with the Bears. But the team still believes in his potential impact.

"Adam is a weapon," Bears offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich said. "Physically, everybody knows what he can do in the passing game. What he's capable of in the running game is what we think is in there. For whatever reason, it just can't happen. But the chemistry with Mitch, the timing, doing things against different looks. Obviously, we're a little bit behind schedule, but that's not anything that can't be overcome.

"Very optimistic about Adam. I think for a guy like that, it's part confidence, part all the other stuff. He just needs to get out and go."

Shaheen will get the chance to play a key role in the Bears' offense. He was featured prominently in the offseason program while veteran tight end complement Trey Burton was recovering from a sports hernia. Now, coach Matt Nagy is hopeful for Burton and Shaheen to become the tandem he envisioned upon his arrival in 2018.

The Bears are without sure options for tight end depth. Bradley Sowell has dropped around 30 pounds in converting from tackle to tight end. Ben Braunecker has primarily been a special teams presence during the last three years. There are intriguing undrafted rookies in Dax Raymond and Ian Bunting, but they're unproven.

"The preseason is going to be huge," Nagy said of the tight ends.

That's certainly the case for Shaheen, who has already come a long way this offseason. 

Rather than accepting his injuries as fluke occurrences, Shaheen has committed to bettering his body and using the Bears' training team to help implement preventative measures to injury. He has studied veteran teammates and how they've maintained health during their respective careers.

"That's kind of what a pro should be doing -- try to really hone your body," Shaheen said. "That's everything. I think it was just something I saw other guys doing. Having an injury history ... I'm growing and evolving as a player, on and off the field. That's the best way to say it."

Part of Shaheen's personal growth came with jiu-jitsu work this offseason. It helped him stay in shape and also offered benefits in confidence that can translate to the football field.

Will Shaheen take his work this offseason and become what the Bears hoped they drafted, what they still believe is there? He isn't thinking that way.

"I just want to play all 16 and help the team whatever way it is," Shaheen said.

No personal goal for production?

"No. No. Nope," he said. "It's all about helping the team ... Even my dad has asked me that question. I'm like, 'Dude, that's not what it's about.'"

Given the adversity in Shaheen's path to this point, he's keeping that helmet strapped and focusing on what's in front of his facemask.

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.