The Bears drafted Tayo Fabuluje out of TCU in the sixth round of this year's draft. The 6-3, 342-pound offensive tackle was active from Week 4-8, serving as the part-time sixth offensive lineman.
Then the NFL swung down its egregious hammer, suspending Fabuluje four games for violating the league's policy on performance enhancing substances. He had to sit out Weeks 10-13 but was reinstated to the active roster this week.
We sat down with Fabuluje to discuss the recent suspension and how he's learning from his mistakes.
"My suspension is finally over and it’s amazing how glad I am to be back. My team is like my family. This absence has been like being away from the people I care about the most. It was a very tough situation but it’s really good to be back here right now.
"When you have a suspension you are not allowed to do anything team related. No meetings. No practice, nothing. I did conditioning privately, on my own, these past few weeks. Of course that wasn’t as effective as what is offered here at Halas Hall. I had a full day of practice today and I’m gassed. My conditioning was OK, or so I thought, but now I know I have considerable catching up to do.
"I am also getting back on the Bears nutrition program. I’m a big guy to begin with and I gained a little weight during the time off. I’m proud to say, though, that in the past few days I’ve lost around seven pounds. That doesn’t mean I’m where I should be by any means, but it is a solid start."
When did you first find out about the failed drug test?
"I’d heard there might be a problem back in training camp. They sent me a letter in the mail and I immediately talked to my trainer about it. For the suspension to come when it did, which was quite a while later, was more than a little surprising. My original understanding was that it would be a process of going through their program. I didn’t realize that you are completely out for a given period of time. It just kind of came out of nowhere.
"This whole thing has thrown a wrench into my game plan, that’s for sure. Coming in as a rookie you have such a steep learning curve anyway and you rely on being around the guys to help you learn and become a better player.
"I was isolated with no feedback from anybody. It was made very clear that I was not allowed to be on the grounds of Halas Hall ever, for any reason, during my suspension. As a rookie it’s tough enough to find your place and fit in under normal circumstances. When you can’t be around the other players, it’s much more difficult.
"What hit me the hardest was that you’re in the process of trying to figure things out in the normal day-to-day of meetings and practices, then you are taken out of your routine. It hurts everything, your progress, your consistency, your learning curve. That was really tough to face.
"Now I’m back and trying to get on track of being like I was before I left. That’s a difficult task for anybody, especially a rookie. When I was home, I tried to recreate the workout routines from camp, but that’s difficult when you are on your own.
"In many ways it was a frightening situation and continues to be that even now."
How far back did the suspension set you, both physically and mentally?
"I’m way behind on forming relationships within the team. That communication is key when you are on the field in a game-day situation, so I know I’ve lost a lot right there.
"My goal right now is to learn as much as I can as fast as I can. It seems like there is a new curveball every day and you have to figure out a way to hit it out of the park. What is helping the most are these great examples around me. These are character guys who work hard. They’re pulling me along and the information they are giving me is priceless. They are so generous with their time in trying to catch me up. There are no words to adequately express my appreciation for that.
"These last three games I’ll be devoted to getting better as a player. Looking ahead to the off-season, I am not sure at this point if I will go home to Texas at all. I may take a week’s break when the season ends, but other than that I will be here in the facility working hard every day. It’s on me to show the coaches my intentions, that I am somebody who can be counted on to give it my all.
"I’m so grateful for the assistance of everybody who is helping me right now. All I can do is try my best and take things one day at a time."