Chicago Bears sixth-round rookie defensive end Cornelius Washington has been waiting patiently all season. After making the 53-man roster coming out of training camp, Washington was a spectator through the first three regular season contests.
Yet last week he finally saw the field, logging four snaps against the Detroit Lions. It wasn't much playing time but it was a positive step in the right direction for a player with a lot of athleticism and potential.
"I finally got to play in a regular season game. I can't tell you how important that was to me. I've been standing on the sidelines for a few weeks now, trying to soak it all up. But now that I've played, I understand the difference between watching and doing as far as in helping the learning curve.
"It's almost impossible to describe how intense it is out there. So much is happening at once and the plays move a lot faster than you'd think. When my number was called to head out there, I confess to a major case of the jitters, but once the play had started, I was fine. You can't be nervous when you have so much else to do.
"I think my speed was pretty good. Of course there is always room for improvement in every aspect of my game. There's plenty more to work on as far as technique and other fine points, but the most important thing to me was that I felt comfortable. It was a good foundation to build upon and it finally broke the curse of me sitting there waiting to go in but never getting the call.
"We've had two road trips in a row now and for me personally, its been an easy process. I always think of travel to games as a business trip. In my mind, there's no time to fool around and not concentrate. As players, we have a job to do. We go to the stadium, do our work and head home.
"Both Pittsburgh and Detroit had some very intense fans. The noise can really get to you after a while. I think the fortunate thing for guys on defense is that the crowd in opponent's fields are usually very quiet when we're on the field. They want their offensive guys to be able to hear everything they need to.
"It's extremely interesting to me to have the chance to see new schemes, watch new players, play in different environments. It's all part of the seasoning that every rookie has to go through."
How was the locker room different after a loss?
"What surprised me was that there was no difference to speak of. Of course the players were disappointed over the loss but the overwhelming feeling was very positive. We felt that we were never out of the game, and most important of all, we never gave up.
"The veterans definitely set the tone in our locker room. We rookies follow their lead. What they were telling us is that the loss is something to put behind us. Beating yourself up is not a good thing to do. We'll watch the film, take away any positives that we can, then work hard to face the Saints this coming Sunday.
"It's a very long season and to get discouraged this early after such a strong start would not be productive. That's not to say there aren't adjustments to be made and things to work on, but we are united and ready to go forward and win out from here on.
"This week we have been going back to fundamentals in technique, narrowing our focus and on improving our communication on the line. There were some missed gaps last weekend and we've been working on that as well. The Saints have an extremely strong offense and it won't be easy to contain them. I did watch their game the other night and learned quite a bit from that.
"I'm definitely looking forward to the first home game [we've played] in a few weeks. Although things are set up extremely well for us on the road in terms of helping us keep to our normal routine, it's always more comfortable at your home field. My hoe from a personal standpoint is that I will be given the opportunity once more to show that I do belong here and that I can be productive. There's nothing better than having a coach tell you that it's time to go out and play."
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.