John Crist: You bounced around a bit earlier in your career, first Carolina and then Jacksonville before coming to Chicago. You had a great season in 2009 on special teams, so do you finally feel like you've been validated and you officially belong in the NFL?
Tim Shaw: I've always known that I belonged in the NFL. Everywhere I've been, I've never felt out of place, overmatched, anything like that, but it was just a matter of finding a home. Wherever I was, I was being productive and I was definitely able to compete and all those things, so I knew I belonged in the NFL. I think it was just a matter of finding a home. So I would never tell you I'm comfortable, but I definitely would tell you that I worked to make sure I belong.
JC: You never want to take a roster spot for granted, but for the first time, you're walking into meeting rooms before the start of a season and the coaching staff is expecting you to do certain things. You've got to feel a lot better about your football future this year than you did last year, right?
TS: It's nice to be appreciated. It's nice to be looked at as kind of a leader. It's nice to be definitely seen in that light. But at the same time, I know how this is a business just going through what I've been through. I don't ever think like that. But I definitely enjoy the weight that I see on my shoulders, and that's kind of what you want. But other than that, I feel better. But you just never feel comfortable.
JC: I think fans are amazed that unheralded offensive and defensive players can be so productive on special teams, and then some of the best offensive and defensive players in the league aren't good at all on special teams. Is the skill set really that different?
TS: It's different, but it's also a different mindset. Special teams is football, but it's football in a different frame of mind. You've got to run that full 40 or 50 yards, and then you've got to be a football player, and it's just all types of different things like that. But I guarantee you, the guys that are great players on defense, they could play special teams, no problem. But I think there's a lot of guys on special teams who are good defensive players, too. Or if they haven't had the opportunity, they definitely can be.
JC: Bears fans know that Dave Toub is one of the truly great special teams coordinators in the NFL, but very few of them really understand why. What makes him so good at his craft?
TS: As far as I can see so far, it's just a matter of his preparation, just the way he sees the game. I think that the way he gets us to play, in that he gives us rules but gives us freedom. It's kind of a weird thing to say. It kind of contradicts each other, but he says [if] we can go make a play, make a play. Go out of your rules and make a play. But at the same time, we have strict rules that he holds us accountable [to]. And I think more than anything, he's created an environment in there of expectations. As players, we hold each other to those expectations. High, high expectations that guys years before have set.
JC: When Brendon Ayanbadejo was with the Bears, even though he was a Pro Bowl special teamer, he always wanted to be known as a linebacker first. When you hear a term like "special-teams ace" thrown around, does that have positive or negative connotation to you?
TS: It's positive, but I don't care. As long as they're saying something about me, it's probably a good thing. Of course, I want to play defense. I wouldn't be here if I didn't. You can't just sit where you're at and say that that's good enough. But at the same time, I love [special] teams and I'll go out and give my heart as long as they ask me to, as long as they want me to. But I'm out here practicing defense. One day, that's my dream.
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John Crist is the Publisher of BearReport.com, a Heisman Trophy voter and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.
OTAs Q&A: LB Tim Shaw
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