Time for Ogunleye to Deliver

Bourbonnais - Defensive left end Adewale Ogunleye has a reputation and a $33 million contract to live up to.

When the Bears traded Pro Bowl wide receiver Marty Booker and a third-round draft choice to the Dolphins for Ogunleye, they expected double-digit sacks from the 2003 AFC sack leader. But the 2003 Pro Bowl pick's sack total dropped from 15 to 5, as he struggled to overcome a nagging ankle injury that caused him to miss four games and required postseason surgery.

Ogunleye was back on the field in a limited capacity by the end of the spring practices, and he may get some time off during camp, but the Bears are expecting a big season from their best pass rusher.

"I think as you talk about defensive ends, you have to start with double digits with the sack total," said head coach Lovie Smith. "Wale has had about 15 or so. We're expecting those types of numbers from him. His body is in the best shape that it's been in in a long time. I'm just not talking about coming off of injury but working with (new strength coach) Rusty Jones in the weight room. He's improved quite a bit. We're expecting big things out of him."

In addition to a healthier body, Ogunleye said he's more comfortable in the Bears' defense. He didn't join the team until after training camp last year.

"It feels more like this is my team (now)," he said. "Last year I was like one of the new guys; now I'm part of the team, and I'm one of the leaders of the team. It was kind of hard (last year), like it was thrown upon me at the last minute."

The sack leader the past two seasons has been RE Alex Brown with modest totals of 5.5 and 6 respectively. The last Chicago defensive lineman to reach double-digits in sacks was DT Jim Flanigan when he finished with 11 in 1995. An end hasn't achieved the feat since Richard Dent had 12.5 in 1993.

"Wale we brought him here to sack the quarterback," Smith said. "He's a double-digit sack guy, just like we expect Alex Brown to be also, our two defensive ends. That's what we're expecting out of him. He should be one of our leaders."

There is some concern that Ogunleye's sack numbers were inflated in Miami because he played opposite of Jason Taylor, who has 80.5 career sacks in eight seasons.

In Chicago, Ogunleye is asked to be the man on a young and talented defensive line. He still seems to be adjusting to the role of being a focal point.

"My goal is to go out here and prove to these guys that I belong to be here and I belong to be one of the leaders of this team," Ogunleye said.

This year, there are no excuses. Health isn't expected to be an issue and it's still on Ogunleye to be the pass rusher for which the Bears paid.

"We all had a disappointing year last year. That's why we're the first team to start practicing and we need them all," Smith said. "I'm a year older this year and things have changed and we just see good things happening in our future for Wale and all of us."


Bear Report Top Stories