P.J. Pope Rookie Diary: Entry 1

Tailback P.J. Pope hasn't been in the headlines too often since training camp, but he's still getting better every day as a member of the practice squad. The rookie out of Bowling Green was actually the team's leading rusher in preseason, so he's proven that he has what it takes to succeed on Sundays. Pope took some time away from the field to write his own version of the Rookie Diary.

"It was good to have the chance to take a short break last weekend. Those three days off really made a difference to me. I felt that I was able to return to Halas Hall energized and ready for the rest of the season.

"I went back to Bowling Green to see some of my buddies. The team there had a game Thursday night. I got in too late to watch it in person, but I did catch some of it on TV. Then the guys had a few days off just like we did, so I really didn't have too much of a chance to reconnect with my old team until Sunday.

"It was strange to go back as a pro and talk to the players. Many of them are in the position that I was in about this time last year. They're wondering if they'll be chosen by a team and if they will get the opportunity to play at this level.

"I told them some of the things I've learned, and they told me some of the things they'd noticed when they'd seen me play. It was a good exchange of information both ways.

"The Cardinal game was one of those times you'd really rather forget, at least as far as the offense was concerned. Nothing seemed to go right, and it was a case where few things that you tried turned out like you thought they would.

"How I handle a game like that is to move on mentally as soon as possible. You can't second-guess yourself too much in football or you end up rethinking every little detail.

"It is important though to learn from your mistakes. That's what I always did after a game in college. I'd watch the film and isolate what I'd been doing incorrectly. Then I'd make it my job during the week to correct those mistakes. I rarely looked at what I had done right, figuring that if I knew enough to do something correctly in a game, I'd probably keep on doing that thing correctly.

"The best part of the Arizona game was, of course, the win. Standing on the sidelines that night and listening to the other guys, I don't think any of us ever doubted that we would come out okay in the end. You really have to view things that way, or you won't play at your highest level.

"I've been asked since then if I read the media reports on the games. Not if I can help it. I don't think it does a player any good to read what somebody else has to say about him. You know whether or not you have done well.

"On the other hand, I appreciate the high expectations for the team this year. It would be awful to be part of a team that nobody expects to do well. You'd just go around with that attitude all season. Now we know we are expected to win, and so far, that's exactly what has happened. I don't think this brings added pressure at all. We all know among ourselves what we are doing well and what could be done better.

"For my own play, I feel that I am just about where I should be on the learning curve here. I am satisfied with my speed. It seems to be improving every week, which is what is supposed to happen. I can also begin to feel the speed of the game slowing down a bit for me. That's important as a young player. So often it seems that everything happens so quickly. You definitely want to see the play unfolding and react accordingly. It's the instinct taking over before the thought process kicks in.

"Being on the scout team can be pretty intimidating because some of the best players in the NFL are coming right at me. But you aren't going to find experience any better than that as a first-year player. Going against the top players has to improve your own personal game.

"We are making the mental switch right now to the 49er game that is coming up this weekend. I'm looking forward to watching the tapes and seeing what San Francisco does on the field. I think that everybody is prepared mentally for this game with no letdown after that Monday night game.

"It's a home game, which is always more intense. As a team, we're ready to go and get on with the rest of the season. This is going to be fun. Let's get on with it."

P.J. Pope (or Jamar Williams or Mark Anderson) and his Rookie Diary appear every Wednesday exclusively at BearReport.com.

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