Chicago Bears wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher has been inactive more than he's played this season, but with Devin Hester (concussion) out and Alshon Jeffery (knee) doubtful against the Seattle Seahawks this Sunday, Sanzenbacher is likely to see a lot of playing time.
"I'm not getting ahead of myself and anticipating anything," Sanzenbacher said. "But if I get the opportunity, I'll be ready."
So far this season, Sanzebacher has been active on game day just three times, catching one pass for seven yards.
A four-year starter at Ohio State, Sanzenbacher hauled in 124 receptions for 1,879 yards and 19 touchdowns in his collegiate career. As an undrafted free agent rookie with the Bears last year, he appeared in 16 games with one start against Green Bay. In his NFL career, he has played in 19 games, with 28 receptions for 283 yards and three touchdowns.
At 5-11, 180-pounds, Sanzenbacher doesn't have ideal size and will have to rely on his quickness and speed to be a factor against the Seahawks.
WR Dane Sanzenbacher
"I know that's my strength," he said. "I've been in football at one level or another for many years. I participated in track when I was in high school so I know I have the speed. I can see a play unfolding and can usually get myself to the part of the field where I'm expected to be. I'm not a huge player so I gravitate to what I do best, which is moving quickly down the field."
It remains to be seen how the new-look offensive line – which will feature two new starters at guard on Sunday – will affect the passing attack. Although Sanzenbacher thinks new personnel shouldn't make much of a difference.
"I think that things will go on pretty much the way they have up to this point. For me personally, it doesn't matter a whole lot who is up front. We have complete confidence in our line no matter who might be in the actual lineup. They understand how to open the field for the rest of us. Guys who are in new positions is a change, but it's nothing that can't be handled."
Standing on the sidelines this year is a new experience for Sanzenbacher, who says he's still trying to improve his craft through observation.
"We have some incredible receivers on the team. Brandon [Marshall], Devin [Hester], Earl [Bennett}, all of the guys are playmakers. Alshon is coming along fast, picking things up even though he's been out with injuries recently. When I am not on the field, I spend my time observing. Learning from everything I see can only make me better."
During practice on Friday, Sanzenbacher and backup quarterback Josh McCown remained on the field long after the other players had left for the locker room. To the casual observer, it was a relaxing game of catch, but to Sanzenbacher, it was much more.
"Any time playing football is valuable for me," he said. "I want to learn to work with as many quarterbacks as I can. The timing is different with each one. The technique can vary. The more productive, the more versatile I am able to become, the more useful I'll be to this team."
Consistency also plays a role in Sanzenbacher's plan.
"I try to approach every practice as if I'll play in next Sunday's game. The Seahawks are physical, but its nothing we haven't seen before. I work hard, put in extra time and I feel I'll be ready. Backups are supposed be ready to contribute. If I can demonstrate that to the coaches, then I am doing my job."
Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 12 years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.