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Coordinator Mel Tucker praises rookie CB Kyle Fuller after minicamp

Chicago Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller (23) looks teammates during rookie football mini-camp Lake Forest Ill. Friday May 16 2014. (AP

Chicago Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller (23) looks to teammates during a rookie football mini-camp in Lake Forest, Ill., on Friday, May 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

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Updated: June 23, 2014 1:20PM

The Bears’ No. 23s, past and present, were together before the NFL Scouting Combine.

Only they didn’t know it at the time.

Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller and Devin Hester trained together with speed coach Tom Shaw in Orlando, Florida.

They didn’t talk about Chicago because Fuller had no idea the Bears would draft him with the 14th pick.

And they certainly didn’t speak about wearing No.  23. Hester, one of the game’s greatest kick returners, hadn’t been told that the Bears didn’t want him back.

So when you ask Fuller about wearing Hester’s old number, he understands the power of 23 in Chicago.

“I know the history,” Fuller said.

On Sunday, he finished the Bears’ rookie minicamp with what he called “a better understanding of the defense” and his role with the team.

Despite being a first-round pick expected to compete for the Bears’ nickel-back spot, Fuller said he doesn’t feel pressure.

“My goal is just to come in, learn the defense . . . so that I can be a contributor, whether it be on defense, special teams, whatever it is,” Fuller said. “So that’s all I can take care of. That will take care of everything else.”

Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker was full of praise for Fuller this week.

‘‘From Day 1, he’s a very intelligent player,” Tucker said. “He’s got good size [5-11, 190 pounds]. He’s got good speed. He’s a willing and aggressive tackler and a high-percentage tackler. He’s got excellent ball skills and great awareness.

“And he’s a football guy. He’s a tough guy.

“That’s what he brings, so that’s what we’re looking for.”

Drafting a cornerback might seem like a luxury, given the re-signing of Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman this offseason.

But Tucker said that the proliferation of spread offenses means the Bears are “required” to often play defensive sets with a nickel back.

“Typically, at least half of the snaps that you’ll play in the season will be with five defensive backs in the game,” Tucker said. “And sometimes you’ll go into game weeks or games and almost every snap will be in sub personnel. . . .

“A third corner is like a starter. A third corner plays as much if not more than your third linebacker in a 4-3.’’

Fuller said he’s looking forward to meeting the team’s veterans in the coming weeks. He had heard from Jennings but not Tillman.

“I think we have a very welcoming locker room,” coach Marc Trestman said. “The guys in our locker room know that we won’t be the same team tomorrow. We’ll have new guys in our locker room and new guys on the field, and that does naturally change the dynamic and chemistry of our football team.

“I’m sure the guys who have been in our locker room will be very welcoming to the guys and get them in a position and show them the way, show them how we do things here.”


Twitter: @patrickfinley

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