LAKE FOREST – Bears veteran Charles Tillman has seen dozens of cornerbacks come and go since he arrived as a rookie out of Louisiana-Lafayette in 2003.
No group has measured up to the current one, Tillman said Wednesday.
“In my 10 years of being here, I think this is the best group of corners we’ve had in overall talent,” Tillman said after the second day of full-squad minicamp at Halas Hall. “Now, they’re still learning the defense, but as far as a talent standpoint, I think this is by far the best group of talented young men we’ve had.”
During the offseason, the Bears re-signed Tim Jennings and signed veterans Kelvin Hayden and Jonathan Wilhite to bolster the cornerback position. They also added a pair of rookies in sixth-round pick Isaiah Frey and seventh-round pick Greg McCoy.
The group has impressed Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.
“What it does is creates great competition,” Marinelli said. “At this time of the year though, you’re just trying to teach and develop a unit. The competition really starts once you get the pads on. … So far, so good.”
Another boost: After years of winning practice battles, the secondary has had to step up its efforts this season across from Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall.
Tillman said his one-on-one drills against Marshall would help him improve.
“Most definitely,” Tillman said. “The one thing I can say about Brandon is it’s like game day every day. Every play, I feel like I’m getting that game-quality competition.
“He’s a competitor, I’m a competitor, and I need that. It makes me good and it pushes me, and I think it pushes him, as well.”
Lots of love: Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice praised running back Michael Bush on the first day of minicamp instead of dwelling on Matt Forte’s absence.
“We love Michael,” Tice said.
On Wednesday, Bears coach Lovie Smith was asked what Forte might think of that message.
“I think Matt Forte feels pretty good about us loving him, also,” Smith said.
Bears bits: Rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffery returned to practice after sitting out Tuesday’s drills because of a leg injury. … Linebacker Brian Urlacher and tight end Matt Spaeth remained out, but Urlacher tested his injured knee by running wind sprints.