Chicago Bears rookie fullback Evan Rodriguez has carved himself a niche in the team's offense. Coordinator Mike Tice has used him mainly as a lead blocker this season but is slowly expanding Rodriguez's role. Going forward, it appears E-Rod will play an integral part in the success of Chicago's offense as the team enters its push for the playoffs.
Bear Report correspondent Beth Gorr talks with Rodriguez about his rookie season up to this point.
"The season's getting real exciting. I'm so glad to be a part of all of this. Looking back, I think about those early times here at Halas Hall. It was all so new and really different for me. But now that I've been here a while, I don't think of myself as a rookie anymore. I'm learning so much and I've had such a great opportunity to play that I feel like I belong.
"The NFL experience so far has been what I'd expected and a lot more. Thinking of the time around a year ago when the college season had ended and I didn't know what my future would hold, I never would have predicted that things would turn out as well as they have. I landed with a top-tier team. It's been the perfect environment for me to mature and develop as a pro player.
"The thing I am proudest of at this point is that I am finally beginning to react instead of thinking first. When you're in a game, this is incredibly important. If you are in your stance deciding what to do next, you'll get beaten every time. My coaches have spent a lot of time in one-on-one work with me on this. Their attention to detail has paid off.
"I got my first reception last weekend. It took a while but hey, later is better than never.
"The only thing I didn't think of at the time was saving the ball for my trophy case. Hopefully there will be a lot more receptions in my future and this first one won't be such a big thing anymore. The one ball that I'll definitely want to keep is the one from my first touchdown when that happens.
"I'm feeling very good physically. The trainers have been doing an excellent job on me so my body feels good. I'm ready to go through the rest of the season.
How do you feel the injuries along the offensive line will affect the offense?
"The best things about the Bears is the depth at all positions. There are no players on the roster who are not able to step up and fill in as needed.
"We've spent extra time in practice this week working on communication and timing. When you have a unit that has been together all season, then you have communication built in. But if a guy or two goes down you need to start all over again. The players who have come in have picked up everything very quickly. You have to remember that this is their job, they know exactly what to do.
"The role of a backup is to be prepared, so that is never a problem. I have no concerns at all going into the game this weekend as long as everybody does their job and nobody slacks. Actually I think what you'll see happening on Sunday is that everybody will be picking it up a notch.
"One thing every team works on when new guys move into the lineup is the timing. Again, we've been practicing intensively on that. You need to function as a cohesive unit at all times on the offense and from what I've seen this week, things are coming along very well.
"Seattle will be a tough game. Their defense is composed of big, fast guys. We've been watching film on them and have our plan in place. I feel confident and am looking forward to the matchup.
"Being home at Soldier Field is always an advantage. One of the best things about playing in Chicago is the fans who support this team. It's crazy how loud they get.
"The interesting thing to me has been the number of fans who also travel to away games. We've come into more than one stadium this year that sounded exactly like Soldier Field. You hear ‘Let's go Bears' from all over the place.
"I love looking into the stands and seeing rows of blue and orange. It makes a tremendous difference to players when we feel that level of support and encouragement. We want to let everybody know how much we appreciate that."
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.