Chicago Bears defensive tackle Will Sutton was introduced to the NFL during the team's 34-28 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in the preseason opener. Chicago's second-round rookie worked with the second team on Friday night and picked up one quarterback hurry.
Bear Report caught up with Sutton after the game to discuss his first live action on an NFL field.
“What did I think of my first NFL game? I was surprised that it was almost exactly the way I imagined it would turn out. I felt relaxed and happy and ready to go. I’m sure when I see the tapes and review exactly what happened, I won’t be quite as happy, but right now I’m thinking things turned out as well as they could have for me.
“It was completely exciting to be in this uniform and be playing at Soldier Field. The fans were incredible. I can only imagine what the noise level will be like once the regular season begins. I love playing here. It’s part of the process to go out and play, trying to get better and better.
“I knew I had a lot of friends and college teammates watching. That was fun. They always tell me afterwards how they think I did. I’m sure I’ll be getting feedback after tonight, hopefully most of it positive. I know one of the Eagles players, Keelan Johnson, from school. I know Bennie Logan a DT with the Eagles, too. We got together briefly on the field after the game was over. I also saw some other Pac-12 guys I’ve played against in college.
“The mental aspect is as important as the physical aspect of this game. If you can beat your nerves and acclimate quickly, you’ll be successful. I’m fortunate enough to have come form a fairly high-powered college football program so the intensity was somewhat familiar. The speed is faster here in the NFL, but that was kind of what I had expected so it wasn’t a shock.
“It’s important as a rookie to get as much playing time as possible. You always want to be in there more, but if I earn it, I know that will come with time. You want to be out there but not do dumb things when you’re on the field. The coaches understand that there will be a learning curve but you always want to demonstrate that you are one of the guys who are picking up things quickly.
“Anytime you are in a situation like tonight’s there are going to be some nerves going on. I tried to view it as a blessing so I was excited more than nervous. Once play began, I was fine. I found things slowing down, calming down after the first couple of plays.
“What did I like most about this first game? Having the chance to use the fundamentals and techniques that I’ve learned in camp so far. It’s one thing to use them on the practice field but something very different in a game day situation.
“You have to think faster, react faster. If you have been paying attention in practice, things tend to fall in place. There’s definitely an initial adjustment period now, but I think by the regular season, it will feel similar to playing in college in terms of confidence level for me personally.
“Getting to the playbook and completely understanding the schemes is vital. I’ve spent many hours working on that in camp. If you have a sound basis of knowledge you’ll probably be fine on the field.
“I’ve liked camp. Its been like college, but harder. Being around guys like Jay Ratliff, Lamarr Houston, I mean how good is that? Learning from the best is what I’ve always wanted to do. These vets remember when they were young and it was all new. They’ve been conveying their wisdom down to me and it’s been extremely helpful.
“Right now I’m working on improving my pass rush and trying overall to become a better student of the game. It’s a work in progress but I’ll come out OK.
“My little brother was here tonight. I was thrilled to have him in the stadium. I hope to have more family and friends around as the season progresses.”
Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 14 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.