It was really fun to get that first game in at Soldier Field. As I had expected, the crowd was great. It's amazing how loud it can get in there, and the regular season hasn't even started yet. I'd never had a similar experience in sports. In college, I played for San Jose State, which was a much smaller environment for football.
Crowds like that get our adrenaline pumping. It really makes a difference. I think that each of us plays a little harder every time we have a game at home. I'm definitely looking forward to all of the upcoming games we'll have in Chicago, except perhaps for those at the end of the season when it gets really cold. Remember, I'm from California, and I'm not accustomed to those kinds of conditions yet.
Playing the Giants was an enjoyable experience. I was fortunate enough to have been in the game for a considerable period of time. That is the best possible situation if you are a rookie learning what to do. I think anytime you are facing somebody you've never gone up against before, it helps the learning curve. You need to read cues and adjust on the fly.
I was moved from defensive end to defensive tackle and then back to defensive end again. I'm really happy anywhere the coaches want me to play. The technique for each position on the D-line is pretty much the same, so transitioning from one to the other isn't a big deal, and I think that my versatility is one of the reasons that the Bears drafted me in the first place.
What I was working on during the Giants game was my speed. I want to be able to get to the quarterback as quickly as possible. Obviously, acceleration is the key. I'm fortunate that I have long legs and a sizable stride. That helps quite a bit when you're trying to get through your opponent's offensive line. Also, I want to improve my reaction time. Experience on the field should help with that.
I was asked after the game what it felt like to get four tackles. Honestly, I had no idea. I guess I had two solos and two assists, or at least that is what I've been told. In a game situation, you are so concentrated on what is happening right then you never really count up what you have done. If that were true, though, I'd have to say that I'm very happy about that. It's a good start. After watching the game film, I'll have a better idea exactly what went on and how I can improve for the next time I'm out there.One thing that I've enjoyed is talking on the phone with my friends and former teammates from college after games. They've all been watching, and you can be sure they have opinions on how I play and how I can get better. As a rookie, any feedback is good feedback, particularly when it comes from people who know you well.
We have another away game this weekend against Denver. I feel much better prepared for this road trip now that I've already traveled with the team to Buffalo. There are little things you need to learn, like how to settle in a hotel room quickly, how to pace yourself so you are rested, details about the flight – that kind of thing. It's surprising how much the little things matter. You want to be sure that, when the game begins, you are in the best possible physical and mental condition.
Some of my family members will be watching from the stands. This will be the first time that any relatives will see me playing in a Bears uniform, so that will be exciting.
I know there's been a lot of talk in town about the Denver game. As a team, we're not paying much attention to what the media is saying in that respect. We have much more to concentrate on right now. We're all aware of Jay Cutler's history there, so we're expecting quite a bit of crowd noise. But otherwise, it's just another preseason contest. We plan to go in, grind it out and maximize our opportunities for success.
Personally, I am settling in to a routine now. It makes a difference finally having a home here in the Chicago area. Although the schedule isn't any lighter than it was during the first weeks of camp, at least I can come back to my own couch at night and relax.
It's been an enjoyable first few weeks with the team. I've learned a lot, I feel strong and I am looking forward to a good weekend on the road.
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Gilbert Rookie Diary: 7th Entry
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