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Rookie Brandon Hardin quickly picking up new position

BrandHardBears’ third-round pick is playing all four phases special teams. “I take pride that” he said. | Nam Y. Huh~AP

Brandon Hardin, the Bears’ third-round pick, is playing on all four phases of special teams. “I take pride in that,” he said. | Nam Y. Huh~AP

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Updated: September 6, 2012 6:38AM

BOURBONNAIS — The Bears invested their third-round pick in Brandon Hardin, a defensive back who missed the entire 2011 season with a broken shoulder.

But through the first week of training camp, Hardin has looked like he belongs, making his share of plays, including an interception.

And that’s at a new position.

A cornerback at Oregon State, Hardin will play safety for the Bears, which is why patience is important.

“He’s making a transition. But athletically, he’s got everything you want,” Bears defensive backs coach Jon Hoke said. “He’s learning as we go, and he’s a smart guy, so he’s able to pick it up.”

Hardin is big (6-3, 217 pounds), but he also has excellent speed, which will be an asset on special teams.

Unlike some regular starters in college, Hardin was key on special teams at Oregon State.

With Major Wright and Chris Conte penciled in as starters, Hardin is embracing the special-teams route.

“Realistically, I’m hoping I can contribute to the Bears,” he said. “Right now, I’m four phases on special teams. I take pride in that.”

As a junior — the last season he played at Oregon State — Hardin tied for the team lead with 12 special-teams tackles.

He led the team with 11 special-teams tackles as a sophomore.

One thing that’s not a concern, though, is his health.

“Physically, no issues. Everyone always asks about the shoulder,” he said. “But fortunately, it happened so early in the season that I’m coming up on a year to date.

“I’m fine. The shoulder is fine. I’m just out there playing and not even thinking about it.”

Izzy alert

Much has been made about Shea McClellin, the team’s first-round pick, and the strong play of former Northwestern defensive end Corey Wootton. But veteran Israel Idonije is the starter opposite Julius Peppers, and he doesn’t look like he’s interested in giving up that spot.

“It’s pretty natural,” Idonije said. “The corps group of guys on this defense have been doing it for a while now, and we know the defense. That gives us the chance to just jump back in and really work on the things we all need to work on, the fundamental things.”

Idonije said there is no panic on the team, given all the expectations.

“Zero panic,” he said. “We’re just focused on being the best group we can be and being better than last year. Maximizing our potential.”

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