Considered one of the most prolific tight ends in NFL history, Graham signed with the Bears in March after spending his first 10 seasons with the Saints (2011-14), Seahawks (2015-17) and Packers (2018-19). Since entering the league, the five-time Pro Bowler leads all tight ends in yards (7,883) and ranks second in receptions (649) and touchdowns (74).
Graham hopes to bolster his already-impressive résumé by leading the Bears to a Super Bowl title.
“I’m extremely blessed to be here with such a young group of guys that are so hungry,” Graham said. “You can feel the buzz in this building. To me, this might be the most special time because I want to retire here and this is where I want to end it. There’s only one way to end it; hopefully, that’s winning that final game.”
The first impression that Graham has made on coaches and teammates couldn’t be more positive.
“I just love how great of shape he’s in,” said coach Matt Nagy. “I love where he’s at mentally. I love where he’s at as a mentor to these younger guys, and not just the tight ends. This guy has a lot of experience and he’s played with a lot of great quarterbacks on different teams, so he’s using his experiences to help all of us players and coaches.
“But then on top of that, too, he brings this mentality of every time we step on the field, it’s a mentality that we are going to be attacking and aggressive and we are going to do everything we can to do that.”
Just as he’s done throughout his illustrious career, Graham has made tough catches look easy during his first few training camp practices with the Bears.
“He’s been such a great player in this league and he’s got such a great radius of catching,” said quarterback Nick Foles. “The dude can catch the ball and run routes and he’s still got a lot of juice in him. And then the knowledge he brings to the game. He’s played the game a long time. The wisdom he’s gained from different offenses is intriguing, so having those conversations has been great.”
With his fire, passion and pass-catching skills, Graham has helped ignite the Bears offense in practice. But the athletic 6-7, 265-pounder also has given defenders a chance to sharpen their coverage skills, especially in spirited one-on-one drills.
“Him being around and in the game for so long, there’s a lot of different things he’s done that I haven’t really seen in practice going up against other tight ends,” said two-time Pro Bowl safety Eddie Jackson. “For him to be able to run routes, jump and make those type of plays he’s capable of making, it really helps us a lot from a safety standpoint.”
Graham’s offseason arrival was part of the Bears’ plan to revamp their tight end position. They also signed veteran Demetrius Harris in free agency and spent their top draft pick on Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet in the second round. The moves were made after Bears tight ends combined to catch just 46 passes for 416 yards and two touchdowns last season. In addition, it was the first time since 1970 the Bears didn’t have a tight end compile at least 100 yards in a season.
“I’m not sure what happened here last year,” Graham said. “But it’s a new year. For me, I’m going to bring my mindset and my work ethic. I’m going to make sure that our room holds ourselves accountable. We’re going to give everything we’ve got on each and every play. I can guarantee that.
“Being one of the older guys on the team, I’m going to continue to be vocal in a positive way and to uplift my guys, just to make sure that everybody goes into each and every week extremely confident and is ready to play, ready to have fun out there. And the only way to have fun is to move that rock, get third downs and to score. That’s the only mindset that we have.”