Sharpe views sensational catch as proof work with Fields paying off originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
CHICAGO – Tajae Sharpe has been building toward Saturday's spectacular catch in the Bears' preseason-opening 19-14 win over the Kansas City Chiefs at Soldier Field.
It's a sign of progress. That the sweat he and quarterback Justin Fields have poured into the bucket is paying off. It started the minute Sharpe arrived at Halas Hall in the spring and met Fields. He saw a talented, young quarterback laser-focused on etching his name among the game's greats.
So, they got to work building chemistry. Rep after rep, play after play, film session after film session. It starts with Fields and seeps into the rest of the roster. Sharpe is no exception.
"Just continue to put in the work every single day," Sharpe said in the Bears' locker room when asked how he and Fields have built such strong chemistry in a short period. "Practice, meeting times, watching film, things of that nature. Everybody on this team, we want to be great. That's one of the first things I seen in Justin. He works so hard. He wants to be great. One of the best in the league, and I love to see that, especially he's a young player, second year in the league.
"Just to see that drive and that motivation that he has being a leader of the team, it makes everybody want to push themselves to become better. Just throughout practice, seeing what we are doing wrong, what we are doing right and just continuing to build every single day."
Sharpe got a lot of work with the first team during the offseason program but opened training camp on the Non-Football Injury list, putting his roster spot in jeopardy. The 27-year-old receiver returned to practice just as Byron Pringle, N'Keal Harry, David Moore, and Velus Jones Jr. went down and picked up right where he left off.
A good week of camp led to Saturday's preseason opener against the Chiefs, where Sharpe and Fields displayed that connection forged through countless reps.
Facing a third-and-9 from their own 8-yard line, Fields saw man coverage and checked at the line of scrimmage, sending Sharpe on a go route. The second-year quarterback hung tough in the pocket under pressure and tossed a beautiful back-shoulder throw that Sharpe hauled in with mainly one hand for a gain of 19.
Sharpe was already trending upward. But that play and lock-step chemistry with Fields might just be what cements his place on the 53-man roster.
But the veteran wide receiver only sees affirmation that the work he and Fields are putting in is paying off.
"We've been working very hard to be on the same page and communicate," Sharpe said. "He's a great leader, so he does a great job of letter everybody know exactly what he expects from us.
"This is what we are doing it for," Sharpe said later of his one-handed catch. "We go out there and we work extremely hard, we put our bodies on the line. Mentally and physically, it's not an easy game to play. Whenever you get rewarded for putting in so much hard work, it's obviously a good feeling."
The Bears' offense wasn't anything to write home about. The first team gained 78 yards in 18 plays and didn't put points on the board. Fields made two big-time throws and showed off his pocket presence and athleticism with a 10-yard scramble. Sharpe and Darnell Mooney both made sensational catches to move the chains on third down.
Those are positives, but there is still a lot of work to be done.
But as the Bears evaluate a host of receivers scratching and clawing to make the team, it's clear Sharpe has emerged as someone Fields trusts to make the necessary plays.
"I think Tajae's a lot like Darnell [Mooney] where he can adjust to balls thrown at him and stuff like that," Fields said of Sharpe. "He has that savviness off the ball, and he's probably two-to-three inches bigger than Darnell, too, so he has a good range, he has great hands, as I said before, great ball skills, so I'm excited to see what he can do for us this year."
Fields and Sharpe will go back to work this week. They'll focus on everything they need to clean up to be ready for the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1. But they'll also have that throw to fall back on as proof that they are on the right path.