BR Rookie Diary: Paea, 2nd Entry

Chicago's second-round pick, DT Stephen Paea, will be playing in his first NFL game this Sunday at Soldier Field. Bear Report caught up with him to get his thoughts heading into the weekend.

It's just a few days until the start of the regular season and I'm so excited. It's interesting, though, that my reaction is very different from those first games during the preseason. I have to admit I was pretty nervous then. Terrified probably would be more accurate. It was my first time on an NFL field in a game-day situation. Pretty intimidating. But at this point I've moved past that. I'm anticipating what will happen and looking forward to it.

This is my first week of pre-game preparation. It's quite an education to see the difference in approach in terms of position meetings and what we are doing on the field as compared to training camp. The intensity level and the overall speed of play in practice has definitely picked up. Planning for a particular opponent is different as well, though we did that for preseason games. What we are doing now is much more thorough and very specific.

Looking back at camp it was a very positive experience. I was sorry to have missed that practice time in the spring during the lockout but I think that all of us rookies have been able to catch up. The other players on the team helped us whenever they could and of course the coaches put in extra time with us.

DT Stephen Paea
Jonathan Daniel/Getty

It got kind of intimidating [in camp]. Every time I lined up in Bourbonnais I'd see Brian Urlacher right there looking at me. You can imagine that there was no way I was going to make any mistakes with him watching. That's how you learn, though.

Being around these vets has raised the level of my game compared to what it was when we started in July. I've been working on timing and technique and on reacting instead of thinking once a play has started. When I am not on the field I watch very carefully to see what I can pick up from my teammates.

I've been asked what was the biggest transition for me after I've reached the pros. So far I'd say it's the lack of time. That was particularly true in camp. We were going full out from six in the morning until around 11 at night either in meetings, working out or practicing. It was a shock to the system. I tried to pace myself so I didn't get too tired and especially so I didn't lose any weight.

Now that we are back at Halas Hall it's easier to get into a longer-term routine. We are learning how to view football as a job and how to plan our time accordingly. But it's still important to pay attention to how your body is reacting, to be sure to get enough rest and good nutrition.

I've had some time to look around Chicago since camp has been over. I've found some great restaurants and have enjoyed just walking around sightseeing. I want to learn as much as I can about this city. It's an attractive, friendly place to live. I'm happy to have the chance to settle in and enjoy it.

[The Falcons] are a playoff caliber team and will present a real challenge. They're fast, they have an unpredictable offense and their O-line is very strong. They have some big receivers and a quarterback who can get the ball out quickly. Guys like Jones and Turner are hard to stop. Matt Ryan knows the game and can be very effective. But I think we'll do well. It's good for us to have the game here in Chicago. There's a home field advantage for sure.

I know that the experts haven't picked the Bears to do that well this season, but from what I've seen so far, they're wrong. I think we have a chip on our shoulders and have something to prove. The underdog role seems to fit this team well.

It's a tough schedule starting out against three top teams. Atlanta, New Orleans, then Green Bay. This will definitely be shock immersion for me. There's no room for error. I need to give this all I've got. My family will be there in the stands so I'm hoping for a good showing. It should be fun and I can't wait to get on the field.

Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 12 years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.

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