After one play during today’s matchup against the Chicago Bears, Raiola looked down and stomped with his cleats on the back of defensive tackle Ego Ferguson’s right calf after the whistle. The personal foul that wasn’t called halted play and forced Ferguson to limp off the field.
“It was tough out there anyway but on this [play], I was taken somewhat by surprise,” Ferguson said after the game. “I understood ahead of time that this was going to be a rough game but I hadn’t expected anything like that to happen. My philosophy has always been that as a player you need to stay in between the lines. That play definitely was outside of the lines and that’s not right.”
While Ferguson refused to characterize Raiola’s play as dirty, he emphasized that the move “didn’t exactly seem accidental.”
Ferguson also noted that Raiola never stopped to apologize to him after the game.
“We all saw that and took note of that,” said Ferguson. “If you do something in the heat of the moment, at least acknowledge that after the game.”
It was a moment in a Bears season full of challenges, particularly for the rookies. Yet being under fire “has been helpful” Ferguson said.
“We rookies have been out there a lot, especially on defense,” he said. “It’s been trial by fire for many of us, kind of like getting thrown into the deep end of the pool. But if you step back and think about it, that’s our job. I suspect that this on-field work has accelerated our learning curve considerably.”
And while Ferguson, who played at LSU, faced some of the best and toughest opponents while in college, the NFL has presented him with an entirely new level of effort.
“I never had a problem like what happened today during my entire football career up to now,” he said. “Now I know that kind of stuff can go on. It’s 100 percent all of the time out there. That can be brutal. It’s why I am kind of giving Railoa a pass as far as intentionally stepping on me. I chose to think that he was caught up in the emotion of the moment and not purposefully setting out to injure me. But that said, I'm going to look at the game film before I make any strong conclusions.”
In talking to the media after the game, Ferguson preferred to focus on a strong defensive effort that held the Lions to 20 points and gave the Bears a chance to win the game.
“Our coach always stresses that we have to go all out and that is what we did today. Interceptions, turnovers, we were able to stop a lot of Detroit’s momentum, especially when they were near the end zone at least twice. Look at [Shane] Vereen’s interception. Look at the stops we had. In my book, those were game-changing plays.”
In Ferguson’s view, a win would have been meaningful and instrumental in rookie development both during the last game of the season next week at Minnesota, and going into the offseason.
“We just wanted a win so badly, to have some success to build on,” he said. “That didn’t happen so we’ll have to suck it up and learn what we can from what happened this year.
“Personally I think I have learned a lot. I’m definitely not the same player who came to Halas Hall last spring. I think I’ve developed week to week but I understand that I still have a long way to go.”
Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 17 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.