Wide receiver Brandon Lloyd has Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner in his corner. Turner was Lloyd's coach at Illinois.
Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer
BOURBONNAIS - There's no truth to the rumor that it took three bellhops working overtime to carry all of Brandon Lloyd's baggage when he arrived in Chicago.
But the sixth-year wide receiver does have a bit of an image problem that he's working to improve after two troubling years with the Washington Redskins.
Even if you believe only half of what you read, Lloyd clearly did not work and play well with others while he banked about $12 million in D.C. and caught just 25 passes without reaching the end zone even once.
There were profane confrontations with coaches and meltdowns on the sidelines and in the locker room on top of the lack of production.
"I don't feel like that's who I am, and I think that the people who know me know that's not who I am," Lloyd said. "But it's something I have to combat because that's what the perception is. That's where I'm at in my life and in my career.
"Now it's going to be what I make of it. Am I going to come in here and let people be right? Or am I going to come in here and continue to work hard and let my play do the talking and mature that way? That (second option) is what I'm going to choose."
Fortunately for Lloyd, after he wore out his welcome with the Redskins, he found a lifeline in Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner, who recruited him and coached him when he was the head coach at Illinois (1997-2004).
Although he left Champaign with a year of eligibility remaining, Lloyd was the second-leading receiver in Illini history with 2,583 receiving yards and 21 touchdowns. He caught 65 passes in each of his final two seasons and picked up 1,010 yards as a junior and 1,062 as a sophomore.
He also impressed Turner as a hard worker with solid character, which is why the Bears signed him on March 7, nine days after the Redskins said 'see ya.'
"I basically went by what I knew of him as a person," Turner said. "Obviously we all heard some stuff. I told Brandon, 'The only thing I'm concerned with is the here and the now, what you're going to do here and what you do now.'
"I told him, 'I've heard stuff. Every guy in that locker room has probably heard stuff. The equipment guys have probably talked to other equipment guys and heard stuff. Trainers talk to trainers. Everybody's heard stuff. But you're here, you have a fresh start, and none of that matters. I know what kind of person you are, and I've got faith in you.' "
That meant a lot to the 6-foot, 194-pound Lloyd, a fourth-round pick in 2003 whose career was off to a solid start after back-to-back seasons of 43 and 48 catches with the San Francisco 49ers in 2004 and '05 before he was traded to the Redskins.
"When coach Turner called me, he said, 'I've known you since you were 16 or 17 years old,' " Lloyd said. " 'I know your mom and dad, I know what kind of kid you are, but I don't know what happened from the time you left Illinois.'
"It's good to know that he understands me, and he knows where I'm coming from, and he knows that I want to do great on the football field. I feel like coach Turner really knows what kind of person I am on the football field."
Now it's up to Lloyd to reward that faith. He had an impressive off-season at Halas Hall, and so far in training camp he has gotten as many practice reps with the first team as any receiver on the roster and has been a frequent target of both Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton.
Lloyd could be in the starting lineup against the Indianapolis Colts on Sept. 7, but he's not making any predictions.
Asked what his role would be on opening night, he checked his watch for the date and said, "I'm focused on July 29th. Seriously, it's a day at a time."
The early returns are encouraging.
"So far it's working out great," Turner said. "He's working extremely hard, playing well, making some plays for us. Like anybody in camp has some good plays and bad plays. That's training camp, but his attitude's great, studying, working hard, doing a great job. . . he's going to help us."
But it's going to take more than one off-season and one training camp to alter the image of the selfish, petulant underachiever that Lloyd helped create.
"All the stuff that I've heard and that other people have heard, I'm sure he's heard the same things, and I think he does have something to prove," Turner said. "Probably more so about his character and attitude than football.
"Everyone knows he's got tremendous ability. I think he's got to prove that he's a good guy. He wants to prove that he's a good person and can be a team guy, which I believe he can be."