"I can't explain the words, the feeling of that … words can't explain it," Okoye told Bear Report. "Him and Lovie, they are like father figures to me. It's a great thing to come out here and be under that leadership again."
Okoye racked up 4.0 sacks for Chicago last season as Henry Melton's backup but chose to sign a one-year deal with the Tampa Baby Buccaneers at the start of free agency this offseason. He had his knee scoped in early June and re-aggravated the injury in Tampa Bay's first preseason game. He sat out the next two contests, compelling Bucs coach Greg Schiano to release him.
Okoye said his knee is healthy and he's ready to get back in the navy and orange.
DT Amobi Okoye
Dennis Wierzbicki/US Presswire
"I'm past that situation," he said. "I'm worried more about the Chicago Bears and Amobi Okoye having an exceptional year."
The Bears signed Okoye to a one-year deal for the veteran minimum, $700,000 – a steal for a young player (25) who knows, and has been successful in, the team's defensive system.
"It was a goal and a great effort to come back here after the season ended, without a doubt," said Okoye. "But it's a business and things didn't work out. I had to do what's best for my family. At the end of the day we were trying to get from point A to point B, and we took the road more traveled."
After he signed with the Bucs, the Bears tried in vain to find an experienced, competent replacement at defensive tackle. Nate Collins could still be that player but Okoye is a proven commodity. He and Melton combined for 11.0 sacks last season, the most by a Bears DT duo since 1995. I asked Okoye what they had to do to repeat that success.
"Increasing your relentlessness, playing off each other and just extra hunger. Not being satisfied."
Okoye and Melton combined for 3.0 sacks in last year's season opener against the Atlanta Falcons. If the Bears are to be successful Sunday against the Colts and their rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, a repeat performance by this 3-technique duo will go a long way toward a Week 1 victory.
"That's true for every game but especially with this one," said Okoye. "We've got to get the rookie rattled early. He's good, he's a real good quarterback. We've got to get to him, get in his face."
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.