It's great being here at Soldier Field tonight. I went to Northwestern for college, so I'm familiar with the stadium from a fan's point of view, but actually being on the field is something else all together. It's a real thrill.
The noise level is incredible. When we first came out, it felt like a real game. I know about the enthusiasm that people here have for this team. Having the opportunity to be a part of that now is amazing. It's very exciting for me all around.
Camp has been going well. It's very intense, of course, as there is a lot to learn in a relatively short period of time. We go from meetings to on-field practice then back in meetings again. As I'm sure every other rookie has mentioned, it's a real job to keep your body rested and ready to go day after day. But that's all part of the learning process this first year in the pros.
The vets have been extremely helpful in my adjustment to this level so far. Any time I have questions, they provide good answers. I can't say enough about the coaching staff – really top level people who are completely dedicated. They pass their enthusiasm on to us, and it makes the excitement level that much higher.
What you need to be careful of, though, at least as a first-year player, is getting too carried away in all of this. There's a lot to absorb. D-coordinator Rod Marinelli tells us to take it one day at a time. That may seem kind of obvious, but it's something we need to be aware of.
What he is saying is that you have to step back a little, not get frustrated if things don't go exactly the way you want them to at any given moment and just bet in there and try again. Or from the other side, if you make a really good play, don't get too impressed with yourself. You might screw up on the next series.
It's all a process, and being patient is a big component in success.
Facing Kevin Shaffer across the line is a challenge. He's a strong, fast and determined player. He's also really smart and can anticipate what I am going to do. From my point of view, it's the best possible situation because he has been in the league so long. 10 years at the pro level means that Kevin has learned a lot. He definitely knows what's going on. If I can learn how to react well to his moves, I should be in relatively good shape once we face other teams.
As a rookie, I am faced with the usual situation of thinking before I react during plays. That's something I am working on. The point is to get to where you move before thinking about it. That's very important as a defensive lineman. You have to be on the ball quickly.
I'm working on my speed, as well as on my reaction time. To be effective on a team like the Bears, you need not only to be a large lineman, but one who moves quickly. My footwork needs some improvement, and my hands could be better. That is what camp is for: You get the chance to refine your technique and to improve things overall.
I'm learning to keep pushing no matter what. Even if it isn't a great play, you have to finish it. Then you work to make things that much better next time.
I've been asked about rookie hazing. It hasn't been too bad so far, but you'll notice when I come off the field that I tend to be carrying an extra set of shoulder pads or two. They belong to Israel Idonije. I don't mind doing that for him one bit. It's all part of the learning process.
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BR Rookie Diary: Wootton, 2nd Entry
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