No one on the Chicago Bears roster can "replace" seven-time Pro Bowler Lance Briggs, who is recovering from a shoulder injury, yet someone has to play weak-side linebacker for the next six weeks. According to coach Marc Trestman, first in line is fourth-round rookie Khaseem Greene.
"Khaseem will certainly get a very good look here No. 1 and we've got Jerry [Franklin] and we've got Blake [Costanzo], and we just brought in [Larry] Grant, but we'll start with Khaseem and we'll see how the week goes," Trestman said today. "We've got a long way to go before we get started."
Trestman isn't willing to name Green the starter yet but it appears the team wants to give the kid a good long look while Briggs is out. For his part, Greene said he's up for the challenge.
"This is what one day we all look forward to doing is being starters in the NFL," Greene said. "For me, it's just taking more reps and getting familiarized with the starters and if my number is called then being out there with those guys."
Greene said one of his biggest challenges is trying not to do too much.
"If I am the starter, I can't go out there and try to be Lance and try to do too much because I'm not him. I can learn from him and I've learned a lot from him. But I can't go out there and try to force myself to make plays and stuff like that or I'll end up hurting the defense and the team. So my main thing is just doing what I'm supposed to do."
Greene has played almost exclusively on special teams this year and has seen the field on defense for just one snap. As such, expect some growing pains as he learns his role under coordinator Mel Tucker.
"I've only played one snap of defense this year and just having an opportunity to maybe get out there and be a starter and play way more snaps is enough in itself to be fired up," said Greene. "But again I've just got to stay calm, trust the defense and trust the scheme and then also build some confidence in my teammates so they know that I can actually go out there and compete if I'm the guy."
Greene was a two-time Big East Player of the Year at Rutgers and broke the NCAA record for career forced fumbles (15). Yet he came into training camp overweight and had to earn his stripes amongst his teammates and coaches. According to GM Phil Emery, that process has been very successful.
"If you remember when he came into camp, he was just a little bit heavy and he's taken all that off of him," Emery said last week. "He studies, he works hard at the game. There's been only positives with Khaseem and when he's ready to play, he'll be out on the field. He's a guy with a good future."
Heading into this year's draft, most believed Greene to be an ideal fit on the weak-side in a 4-3 defense, where he can use his quickness and speed to chase down ball carriers. With the Bears, he's worked exclusively as Briggs' understudy, so he should be prepared for his new role.
"Lance is a great leader. He's somebody that I look up to on the team," said Greene. "He's a guy who I can go to for anything. Outside of football, just life things I can go to him. So just to have him coach me up and try to help me as much as he can because he knows it's going to help the team is great to have him around."
Greene will start alongside fellow rookie linebacker Jon Bostic, who was called into duty to replace D.J. Williams after a season-ending torn pectoral. The two are considered the future of the linebacker position in Chicago. Monday Night against the Green Bay Packers will be our first chance to see them play together in a regular season contest.
"Jon's a smart guy, so if I have a question one of the older guys hasn't answered, sometimes he knows it," Greene said. "If he has something that he doesn't quite understand or could use help with, I can assist him with. So building that friendship, building that relationship has been great for us, and just being out there on the field with him and James [Anderson] and getting that chemistry going and flowing is real good."
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his third season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.