I'm really excited to have the opening game of our season coming up this weekend, and to have that be a home game here in Chicago makes it that much better.
Training camp is over now, and though for me personally it wasn't exactly what I'd hoped it would be, I did learn quite a bit and feel well prepared for the games that count. Having an injury is the one thing you hope will never happen, and when it happens to you as a rookie, it just seems to make the whole thing that much worse. Each rep out on the field is so important that you don't want to miss even one of them.
But it's time to move on. I view what happened as part of the ups and downs of football. It's all part of the game. The important thing is that I am back and feeling 100 percent. The surgery on my finger was successful, and I don't feel any after-effects from it at all.
What I've been working on quite a bit is my speed and my conditioning. That's so important to keep at a top level if you hope to be successful in the NFL. Right now, I'm feeling that I'm right about where I was when I went down, so that's a very good thing.
I've been asked if I felt that getting hurt during camp impacted my learning curve. It really didn't. It's surprising just how much you can take in when you are on the sideline watching, and once I was able to return to practice, the veterans were great in helping me make up what I had missed. Right now, I am feeling confident that I understand the playbook and comfortable with the schemes we are using on the field.
The intensity of practice has picked up quite a bit recently, as you would expect it to in this time right before a game. We are studying the game plan and streamlining our work. It's interesting to me that what you do shrinks to a certain extent as you transition from camp to regular practice. We tried out quite a few things during the past month, and now the coaches are using what worked best. It's pared down and effective. That makes perfect sense when you think about it.
Detroit is a good team, and we're spending time studying film on them right now. They have some sharp receivers, and their quarterback has some good moves as well. There will be pressure on our team to perform, but nothing beyond the pressure that each of us has already put on ourselves to succeed You want to justify the coaches' faith in putting you on the team.
I do understand that there are high expectations from the fans for us this year. That's the way it should be. It was probably disappointing for many of them that we went winless in the preseason, but that is all behind us now. We are taking the positives from training camp and implementing those plays. It would be great to start the season with a few wins already, but that didn't happen. You have to leave behind what didn't go right before and go out there with a fresh perspective.
As far as the defense is concerned, I feel we will perform well. The unit is strong and talented. My place will be on special teams. It's the perfect situation for me. I feel that I can make a positive contribution there and still learn at the same time. My position calls for the ability to move fast and be sharp mentally. You've got to watch the entire field, then narrow down to the one guy who is making the play. Good game instincts are essential. It's a challenging position, but one that is fun as well.
I understand that for some NFL teams, special teams is sort of an afterthought. That definitely is not the case with the Bears. There are high expectations for us to be productive. Coach has been very clear about that. It's not undue pressure, just the knowledge that you have to show your best at all times.
Am I nervous going into this game? No, not at all. I was rarely nervous before games in college, either. Never had much need for superstitions or pregame rituals to calm down. Now, it's a matter of counting down the time until the ball is snapped.
Lining up at Soldier Field before that hometown crowd sounds great. I'm optimistic and excited. I can hardly wait for the game to start.
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