Returning to the place where you began a career can accurately be called a homecoming. College graduates often return to their alma maters for a homecoming football game. But for most of those, the reunion is one that is enjoyed by all.
For Vikings wide receiver Bobby Wade, returning to Soldier Field to play his former Bears teammates is something of a mixed bag. While his exit from Chicago wasn't on the terms he had hoped – he was released with two weeks remaining in the 2005 season – his return is a chance to renew old acquaintances, but also help put a dagger in the heart of a Bears team that has struggled to find offensive and defensive consistency this season.
Wade, who developed many strong relationships with his teammates and non-football people alike in Chicago, will be making his first return to Soldier since being unceremoniously discarded by the Bears. In the days leading up to the game, he has spoken with former teammates like Lance Briggs, Muhsin Muhammad and Tommie Harris and said he's looking forward to coming back – if for no other reason than to check out on some of his stuff.
"I got back there during the offseason, so I saw a lot of (the Bears players)," Wade said. "I don't have a home there, but I still have a storage locker. If anybody is looking for some go-carts, they're for sale."
Wade's journey from the Bears to the Vikings was a short one. Claimed by the Tennessee Titans shortly after being released in Chicago, he played the final two games of 2005 and all of 2006 with the Titans before becoming an unrestricted free agent. Sunday will be the first time he has ever played against the Bears and there will be some mixed feelings, especially as it relates to Briggs.
Briggs and Wade were both standouts at the University of Arizona and on April 26, 2003, Wade was there to congratulate Briggs on being selected by the Bears in the third round of the draft – the same year in which they took DE Michael Haynes in the first round (who is no longer with the team) and Rex Grossman with a second first-round pick. Less than 24 hours later, the situation was reversed, as Wade received a congratulatory call from Briggs after he was selected by the Bears in the fifth round of the draft. They have been teammates since their first year of college and Wade expects that friendship will have to be put on a three-hour hiatus Sunday.
"We're excited to play each other," Wade said. "This is the first time we've played on different teams against each other, but we've had our fair share of going back and competing. (We shared) some friendly words this week – nothing like trash talking, just feeling each other out and a little bit of talking about life as well as football. We're excited to play each other and we're going to get the opportunity to see each other a few times, because he plays (outside) linebacker and I line up in the slot."
It's unlikely Briggs will let up on his old friend, and there is the distinct possibility that the raucous Bears fans will do their best to make his homecoming an unwelcome affair that he would just as soon forget. But Wade says he isn't sure how he will be received – he just hopes to silence the Bears fans with some big plays on the field, because he knows the fans and their expectations, which could actually serve as an ally for the Vikings.
"(The crowd reaction to me) will kind of tell you where I am on their level," Wade said. "I would be excited if I go out there and get booed. That would be great. If I go out and they said nothing, that would be cool too. They're one of those crowds that, if you take them out (of being a noise factor), they'll definitely turn on (the Bears) offense and defense. That's what they do. If we can come out strong early and take the fans out of the game, they'll let (the Bears) know about it."
If that happens, Wade will show that not only can you go home again, you can make those you left behind re-think whether they made the right decision to let you leave in the first place.
Wade Excited to Renew Acquaintances
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