John Crist: You were on the field in passing situations more than ever this past season, especially later in the year. Is that something we can expect to see again in 2008 – a little less of the nickel package?
Hunter Hillenmeyer: That's probably up to the coaches more than anything. I think that, ideally, you would go to nickel when those passing situations present themselves. I can't speculate as far as the amount of playing time I'll get. Obviously, I want to play as much as I can. My job is just to do what I can when I am on the field.
JC: I asked Ricky Manning Jr. about you last year and the kind of relationship you have since you're hardly ever on the field at the same time. What's the dynamic like between you and all the nickelbacks? Is there any pretend animosity there since they're taking snaps away from you?
HH: No. Usually the way we do it, it has nothing to do – except for a little bit last year – it has nothing to do with anything except for the offensive personnel. When they go three-wide-receiver sets, then we put the nickel in. Obviously, that can change with personnel and the team you're playing [and] some things like that. I actually kind of root for the nickels because I think of it like, I'm never going to have as many tackles as Brian [Urlacher] or Lance [Briggs], but if you can add our stats together – since we make up one full player together in terms of playing time – and see if we can compete with them.
JC: Everybody knows that this defense was decimated by injuries last year. Is it fair to say that you'll be just fine on that side of the ball if everyone stays healthy, or is it time to quit using that crutch and accept the fact that you have to play better as a unit?
HH: Yeah, I think you're exactly right. I think it might have been [Charles Tillman] that I heard talking about it. We need to quit talking about who we were because we can't say, "Well, we were good two years ago, and because we have the same people, then we're going to be good again." Because I think that that does build complacency. And so, we need to work like we were the 20-something ranked defense [last year], which is exactly what we were. As long as we have that mentality, then I think that things will happen for us.
JC: I know you got married about a month ago, so congratulations to you. Do you believe that having your life together and settled down off the field can have a direct effect on how you play the game on the field?
HH: I think so. I think there's probably a correlation. Having your life together off the field probably makes you a better player, and unfortunately the case you see more often is that the opposite is true, too. When people have a lot of personal issues going on, then their play suffers. So I'm thankful I've always been a guy that's been blessed with [a] great off-the-field life in that sense, and it definitely simplifies things for me in terms of football.
JC: Your new bride, Shannon, is the daughter of former Chicago Bulls coach Tim Floyd, who is now the head man at USC. Did you have any reservations about marrying a girl who's spent her life around big-time sports just like you have?
HH: No. I actually think it probably helps. She's used to seeing her dad be a public figure her whole life, and so it's not a big deal to her. She's not impressed by it. She doesn't care. And that's probably good in terms of our relationship – that it doesn't have anything to do with what I do for a living.
John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.
Camp Chat: LB Hunter Hillenmeyer
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