Chicago Bears cornerback Zack Bowman sat down in front of his old locker and shook his head.
"It's hard to imagine I ever left," Bowman said. "They put my name on this space right after I was re-signed. When I went back into the locker room for the first time this year, it was exactly the same. I was wondering if I'd imagined being away from here."
Bowman played corner for the Bears from 2008-2011 but left in free agency after losing his starting spot to Tim Jennings. Bowman signed with the Vikings this offseason but was cut just before the season began.
"I was out on a run when the Bears called my agent," he said. "When my phone rang with the information, I was ecstatic. The first person to come into my mind was former safety Chris Harris. He was here, then he was gone, then he came back again. You get accustomed to things like that in the NFL. But I have to admit that it's really good to be home now."
After he was cut by the Vikings, Bowman decided to concentrate on things other than football for the short term.
"What was I going to do, sit in my room and brood?" he said. "I made a point of getting out and doing things that were not necessarily sports related. But I did have confidence that some team would pick me up eventually so I stayed with my usual conditioning program. Once I was back with a team, and better yet, back with my old team, I was able to breathe a sigh of relief."
Now Bowman is reunited with old teammates and former coaches.
"There are a lot of new faces here now, but some familiar ones as well. Most of my original teammates are here right now. The equipment staff is the same. It feels as if not that much is different from the last time I dressed in this locker."
The fact that rookie Jeremy Jones most recently occupied what is now Bowman's locker didn't seem to bother Bowman in the slightest.
"I wish him the best. I'm sorry for him but happy for me," Bowman said. "It's all a part of playing in the NFL, learning to be comfortable with moving in and out of locker rooms."
After sitting in meetings today, Bowman feels more comfortable than ever.
"The Minnesota system was very much like that of the Bears. Even though I haven't been here in a while I don't feel that I have lost much in terms of understanding the overall approach."
With 16 starts in 45 games played in Chicago, Bowman could contribute immediately in the Bears' secondary. During his previous tenure in Chicago, Bowman had seven interceptions and 117 tackles, including 22 special teams tackles. Bowman is looking forward to hopefully aadding to those totals beginning Monday night.
"They know what I can do," Bowman said. "That's why the team brought me back. I feel I can make a positive contribution. I'm happy to be on the field whenever they need me."
What about a return appearance under the Monday Night spotlight?
"It makes things even better. I've played in those types of games many times before. It can get intense but nerves have never been a problem for me. Football is my job but it's also fun. I love that the game is a division rivalry. How great is that? I'm thrilled to be back and to have the opportunity to play for the Bears."
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.