Wootton adjusting to life inside

Corey Wootton has been moved from defensive end to defensive tackle. It's been a bumpy transition, one that resulted in Giants RB Brandon Jacobs rolling up 106 yards last week.

Chicago Bears defensive lineman Corey Wootton is accustomed to adjusting on the fly. In high school, Wootton moved around the defensive line and thrived on the challenges those changes presented.

"I stayed in the DE position in college but I don't think I ever forgot what I'd learned from those days of high school ball," Wootton said. "Changing positions meant that I could never get too complacent. There was something new to learn almost every day."

Now Wootton is faced with a new task, that of lining up at defensive tackle after season-ending ACL injuries to veterans Nate Collins and Henry Melton.

"I've been an end for the Bears up until the Saints game. That's what I've been accustomed to. After both Henry and Nate went down, I was told that I'd be a tackle," Wootton said. "It's the same basic approach but now I'm a little closer to the ball. What I noticed immediately is that things happen a little faster in the new location. It's been a mental adjustment for me. I need to be completely focused at all times."

While Wootton didn't anticipate disaster, he wasn't completely surprised when injuries hit Melton first, then Collins two weeks later.

"It's a rough game and injuries can happen. In the NFL it's all about being able to step up when your number is called. The success of a team often depends on the players' versatility, being able to move around the field into an empty spot as needs arise."

The need to shift players around has already taken its toll on Chicago's defensive line. Giants running back Brandon Jacobs, an out-of-shape 31-year-old who was pulled off the street a few weeks ago, ran roughshod over the Bears last week to the tune of 106 yards and two touchdowns.

"Most of the time our defense looked good [last week]" Wootton said. "Other times we were a little out of our gaps. This was classic gap-to-gap football and there were things that we'll need to look at and correct going forward."

"It was a tough game. They have some big, strong, fast guys. There was a definite urgency for the win on their part. We had an equal urgency not to let it get away."

Wootton said he felt considerably more comfortable in his new position this week as compared to last Sunday's game.

"From last weekend to this week, a huge difference," he said. "Being close to the middle no longer feels strange to me. I felt that I was able to do some good things there but obviously there is still plenty of room for improvement. I'm studying the position and trying to get better every day."

Fortunately for the Bears' defense, turnovers created by cornerbacks Tim Jennings (two interceptions) and Zack Bowman (one interception filling in for the injured Charles Tillman) held the Giants in check, resulting in a 27-21 victory, bringing the Bears' record to 4-2 on the season.

"They're a bunch of Pro Bowl type guys. It was exciting to watch them step up as they did," said Wootton. "Zack in particular. He isn't mentioned that much in the press but he's such an accomplished player. I was glad to see him get some big plays. It was a group effort with everybody working, doing their jobs in an effective manner."

With a quieter schedule in the immediate future, Wootton is looking forward to some time to rest and heal.

"One game in the next 24 days will help considerably," he said. "Everybody is a little tired, a little banged up. The pro game takes a physical and mental toll."

Despite the poor performance against New York's run game, Wootton said he just one regret from last week's game.

"I wish that I'd had the chance to hear the [Northwestern] Wildcats band when they played on the field at halftime," the NU alum said. "But we were a little preoccupied at the time."

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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