Many of the players in this league were concerned when it was time to leave Florida for our new teams abroad. That was right about the time that the war with Iraq began. Since we have been here, however, I'm glad to report that there have been no problems at all. We are able to concentrate on football, which is the whole purpose of coming here in the first place.
What has been the biggest change for me personally? I would say the opportunity to experience another culture. We did get some orientation before we left Florida but of course being here is when you really begin to learn things. Everything is different-the food, the language, the way of life. I'm learning a lot.
The competition in the European league is excellent, both on offense and on defense. There are a number of very talented players here. The Berlin Thunder hasn't done as well as we would have liked during the first two games. That has been somewhat discouraging, but we are ready to turn things around. Nobody wants to lose, but we aren't discouraged. Instead, we feel that we have something to prove.
What I've enjoyed recently has been the chance to play significant minutes during the games. When I played my rookie year with the Bears, I wasn't in that much and at times it was frustrating. Since coming to Europe, I feel that I've become a more seasoned, better player. This game experience should improve my chances once I am back in the NFL.
Practices here are hard. In many respects, the drills are more difficult than they were in the NFL. There is a good tempo and things tend to move fast. The reason for this is because everybody is out to prove themselves. This is our chance to shine.
As a former rookie, I can build on what I learned with the Bears last season. I know a lot more about what is expected of me during a game. I see things during plays that I never noticed before. My reaction time is much better. That is something that should help me to secure a regular roster spot for the coming NFL season.
I've been playing both as a cornerback and safety, which is what I did both in high school and college. So far in the first two games of the NFL Europe season, I've had a 58-yard kick return and an interception that went for 38 yards. This is something I'd like to become even more skilled at and the type of play I want with the Bears this coming year.
From what I hear from my agent, the Bears coaches are ready for me to compete for a regular roster spot. I hope that the Bears staff will be talking to me about that when I get home.
I enjoy punt and kick returns. It's a good position for me. I think that I follow the ball quite well. My speed has improved and I feel ready to be an impact player.
It seems to me that success in the NFL or in NFL Europe is all about individual effort. As a player, you have to find where on the field you are most comfortable. Then, you do as good a job there as you possibly can.
There aren't that many truly great players in the NFL, maybe just a handful of them. There are more really good players, then even more players who just get by.
The difference between these levels is the talent you were born with, of course, but also how hard each player is willing to work on his position. That's where I am right now. I have the opportunity to become much better. Our coaches are excellent. They are seeing where each player's skills lie and helping them to develop those skills. That should be a tremendous advantage for me when I return to Chicago.
I am also learning more about winning and losing. That's a big factor during a rookie year when it's easy to become discouraged. The important thing is to be able to recover quickly from a loss. You just forget it and move on, ready to give your best effort to the next game. That is the secret of success in any football league, and that's one of the reasons that I feel ready to move on to the next level of the NFL.
Beth Gorr contributed to this article.