Though his big smile said otherwise Bears defensive end Corey Wootton insisted he gained no particular satisfaction from taking a rookie to school Monday. He even praised the victim fifth-round pick Jordan Mills.

‘‘It kind of reminds me of when I first got here’’ Wootton said. ‘‘I kind of got whupped up on a little bit by some of the older guys. But it’s all good. He did well on certain plays against me. A couple of plays I got him. He’s definitely talented. He’s going to be a great player.’’

Mills might or might not learn his lesson. The greater significance was that it was Wootton who was dishing it out — a few quick first steps toward what he hopes is one giant leap this season.

Under first-year defensive coordinator Mel Tucker the Bears are hoping to maintain the standout defense they had with Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli.

But the reality is that there’s more to it than that. With key core players still producing at a Pro Bowl level not getting any younger — defensive end Julius Peppers linebacker Lance Briggs and cornerback Charles Tillman — the Bears need complementary players to develop into stars.

The situation arguably is most precarious on the defensive line where it all starts in the cover-2 defense as designed by Smith and tweaked by Tucker. Peppers led the Bears with 111/2 sacks last year. Israel Idonije was next with 71/2 and he signed with the Lions in free agency. Idonije’s absence leaves a hole that threatens to get bigger as Peppers gets older.