It's difficult to feel that you are a part of the team when you are unable to participate in the actual games. In the NFL, it's pretty much a case of out of sight, out of mind. That's why I make it a point to be around Halas Hall as much as possible.
I go to all of the team meetings, and I spend many hours in the workout room. Then if I ever have any spare time, I get a copy of a film of one of the other teams and study it. I watch over and over again for technique. I want to find out what the top players do well and what the guys who maybe aren't as good are doing incorrectly. It's a great way to learn about the game as it is played at this level.
Rusty Jones has been a tremendous help to me in the rehab process. We've worked together on every aspect of my physical well-being. He's altered my diet. which was necessary because I wasn't burning all those calories out on the field. Then he devised a rigorous strength and conditioning program that would maximize what I am able to do while still protecting my ankle.
The results have been amazing. I look in the mirror now and hardly recognize myself. I've dropped weight and increased muscle mass significantly. I fell a lot looser and more in control. I think that once I am cleared to play again, I'll find that I'm a lot quicker and stronger.
When I was picked by the Bears in this year's draft, I never imagined that I'd end up on IR. That was incredibly frustrating. I have to credit the coaches and staff here at Halas Hall with doing all they can to make me feel a part of things. They are watching my progress and encouraging me every step of the way. That means a lot to a rookie in my situation.
Even not being able to play in games, I've found this year to be exciting. There's nothing like being on the sidelines when we are winning at Soldier Field. The crowd noise is overwhelming, and it really gets the guys going. I came from a big school program at Oklahoma, and we had some pretty noisy games, but this is another level entirely.
I was fortunate that the coaches at Oklahoma exchanged ideas with the Bears staff for a number of years. The Bears helped give the Oklahoma program a very comparable structure to what is currently used here at Halas Hall. Both programs have a similar approach and philosophy. That made a big difference in the ease with which I was able to progress to the pro level. It never felt strange or uncomfortable.
Even while I'm on IR, I feel the full excitement of this season for the team. Things have been going well, and that's always a good thing. Everybody is playing at a very high level, and the positive results are coming from that. The offense and the defense are getting things done. I feel that we will continue to dominate because of the incredible skill and talent that these players possess.
I have to tell one story that happened right after the draft. As a young player, I idolized Brian Urlacher. One day I was practicing with the team, and I got a good hit. Somebody tapped me on the shoulder, so I turned around. It was Urlacher. He said, "Nice play, kid." I couldn't believe it. Trust me when I say that was one moment I'm going to remember for a long time.
My ultimate goal in this league is to be an impact-maker. I'd also like to be a team leader who is respected by his teammates and his peers. For now, I'm content to stand on the sidelines with the team and learn all I can. But I sure can't wait to be back on the field. The sooner the better as far as I'm concerned.
Mark Anderson usually writes his Rookie Diary every Wednesday exclusively for BearReport.com, but Dusty Dvoracek was more than happy to fill in for him this week.
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