Brandon Meriweather quickly fitting in with Bears

Devin Hester was a teammate of Brandon Meriweather’s at “The U.” He is very clear about what kind of player the Bears just acquired in the person of his former University of Miami pal.

An intimidator. And Hester speaks from experience.

“Yes,” Hester said, more than once, then laughed. “Yes. I played against him in college and always told him, ‘Don’t hit me hard.’ I know the type of power that he brings up when he comes up and hits. Another hard-hitting safety.”

Not always the kind of hard-hitting that the NFL approves of, as evidenced by the $50,000 fine Meriweather was assessed for a helmet-to-helmet blow to the head of Baltimore Ravens tight end Todd Heap.

And Meriweather was involved in the notorious brawl between players from The U and Florida International, a sprawling fight in which Meriweather reportedly stomped players on the ground.

The Bears arguably have not had a safety generally feared or considered an intimidator physically since Todd Bell or more recently Tony Parrish. Meriweather has tended to play outside the defensive scheme too often to suit Bill Belichick, who released him from the New England Patriots, but he is also what the Bears crave in their defensive backfields:

“Another athlete from Florida that’s going to make plays,” Hester said. “He has the natural ability to go up and get balls and is real talented when the ball’s in the air.

“A very smart player. One thing I noticed about him at Miami is he was one player who always knew where the other guys were [supposed to be] and if a guy was confused on the defensive side of the ball, he would be the guy that knew everything.”

Meriweather and safety Chris Harris walked together off the practice field Monday, Harris explaining in great detail the intricacies of the Bears’ scheme as it applies to safeties, including depth of positioning, partitioning of the deep areas of the field and such.

You just have to assume that Meriweather in fact knew to whom he was talking.

Name tags?
Getting along with teammates off the field isn’t remotely as important as connecting with them on it. Meriweather is off to more than a good start with the former.

More or less.

The latest No. 1 draft choice (of another team) signed by the Bears was swarmed at his locker stall Monday by microphones, recorders, pens and one sidekick.

Harris was in the pack of interrogators and, holding a microphone, led off with questions of the newest Bear.

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is new safety Brandon Meriweather,” Harris intoned. “First, how does it feel to be a Chicago Bears right now?”

Meriweather went with the moment.  “It feels great,” he said with exaggerated enthusiasm and high-pitched voice. “I get to play with guys like Chris Henry and ...”

He couldn’t hold his straight face and laughed. So did everyone, Harris too, sort of, since Chris Henry was the Cincinnati wide receiver who died from a fall from a truck nearly two years ago.

The Bears can laugh at an obvious slip of the tongue. They won’t at slips in coverage, however.

To make room for Meriweather, the Bears released cornerback Joshua Moore, the team’s fifth-round pick in the 2010 draft. Moore played in just three games last season, was inactive for the other 13 and was credited with just 1 special-teams tackle.

Meriweather, while expected to move into the starting lineup sooner rather than later, won’t until coaches are convinced he will make fewer mistakes than Major Wright at free safety.

Meriweather was a two-time Pro Bowl player for the New England Patriots, who play a 3-4 defense under Belichick. He obviously didn’t play that scheme to Belichick’s satisfaction, and as far as how long it will likely take for him to fully grasp the intricacies of a Cover-2 safety vs. one in a 3-4, Meriweather admitted he wasn’t sure.

“I have never been traded or released,” Meriweather said. “I have never had to come into a new system besides my rookie year. I don’t know. I can’t answer that.”

Meriweather’s aptitude with defenses that Hester described will get a test this week. The most difficult aspect of the Bears’ defense is “the mental part of the game,” coach Lovie Smith said. “We do things differently, we call things differently.

“But once you get by some of the different terminology, most coverages are pretty much the same, most defenses are pretty much gap-control, when the ball’s in the air, you go get it; guy’s running with the ball, you go tackle him. There’ll be some challenges but when you have a veteran like that, they usually pick it up pretty quick.”

And, the Bears hope, intimidate an offensive player here and there in the process.

Click here to order Brandon Meriweather’s proCane Rookie Card.

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