New Shape of Gray

Bourbonnais - Bobby Gray has had some punishing hits over the course of his career, but coming up with the ball is what will get him into the starting lineup in this defense.

Gray has just one career interception in three years, but his pick of Brett Favre sealed a win at Green Bay.

The fourth year veteran has come up with his hands on the ball several times over the first two weeks of training camp. He's impressed the coaches enough to get a shot with the first team defense.

"I think I am getting better, a lot better," Gray said. "I'm cutting down on mistakes and things like that and it gives me an opportunity to step up and do what I want to do. I want to be a starter and I'm finally getting an opportunity."

Although Mike Green and Mike Brown are secured in their jobs at free and strong safety respectively, the Bears know all too well that having a Plan B is crucial.

"We're starting Mike Green and Mike Brown, but we've got to look at our other guys," said defensive coordinator Ron Rivera. "Todd Johnson is having a terrific camp as well as Bobby Gray, so all we wanted to do is mix up our guys and see how they all work together."

When Green battled a groin injury for much of 2003, Gray started 9 games. Last year it was Gray that fought a groin problem. When Brown went down with a season ending Achilles injury in Week 2, the Bears turned to Johnson and not Gray.

"It was tough because I wanted to play," Gray said. "But at the same time I understood where Coach (Lovie) Smith was coming from because I made some mental mistakes."

Paying attention to detail has become a top priority for Gray, which by his own admission is something he has struggled with in the past. An additional season in the system along with working on sharpening his technique gives Gray a new found confidence.

"I know it's my time," Gray said. "I don't want to sound arrogant, but I've just been waiting and I'm getting an opportunity so I'm going to try to take full advantage of it."

For Gray, 27, his chance to make a lasting impression is 2005. He's dropped ten pounds in the off-season and is now at 204, which should end any talk of him moving to linebacker because of his ability to be a strong run defender.

"I heard a little bit about that and I don't know; I really don't blame coach for saying that because I was just big and I could come up and hit," Gray said. "The next best thing was linebacker."

Despite the lighter playing weight, Gray still feels he'll be able to deliver the hits he's been known to dish out.

"We're going to find out real soon," Gray said.


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