Bears linebacker Brian Iwuh certainly knows how to make a comeback, even if it is only in practice.
Iwuh, who had been sidelined since Aug. 3 with a sprained ankle and an injured knee, intercepted two of Dan LeFevour’s passes Monday in his first day back.
“[Monday] really built my confidence back up,” said Iwuh. “It felt good to get back out there and make plays.”
During his time away from the practice field, Iwuh has stayed sharp on his own.
“I’ve been studying the playbook," he said. "It’s a new system for me. I’ve been getting familiar with the schemes, learning the language, just trying to study and watch the veterans. All I could do was take mental reps.”
Despite having a stellar session, Iwuh still nurses his knee and ankle daily trying desperately to get back into great condition.
“I’ve been a little fragile with it," he admitted, "even today. But it’s something I’ve got to get over in order to get out there and play the way I want to play. But it’s feeling good. Not all the way there yet, but I’m getting it back into shape.”
This is Iwuh’s first season with the Bears. He spent the previous four years playing for the Jaguars, appearing in 58 games and recording 67 tackles.
Iwuh is one of nine linebackers currently on a Bears roster that only has room for six or seven of them. Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Hunter Hillenmeyer, Nick Roach and Pisa Tinoisamoa are all virtual locks to make the roster, as is special-teams ace Tim Shaw, which makes Iwuh one of three remaining linebackers battling for maybe one slot.
LB Brian Iwuh
And his competition is tough.
Shaw has been making a huge splash in training camp, as he did a year ago when he developed into one of the league's best special teamers, while Kevin Malast and Matt Mayberry are both holding their own. However, the biggest issue for Iwuh, obviously, has been his injury. Being sidelined means fewer reps in camp, which means less of an opportunity to prove to coaches that he is a viable weapon.
Iwuh certainly made his snaps count Monday.
“You feel the sense of urgency," he said. "You want to make the team, and in order to do that, you have to be the best player that you can be.”
Iwuh’s best chance to stick around for the long haul will be through his talents on special teams, which have always been his strength.
In his four seasons in Jacksonville, Iwuh played primarily on special teams, where he excelled on one of the NFL’s best coverage units. Now in Chicago, where special teams are consistently amongst the best in football, Iwuh must push his game even more to make the squad.
“In Jacksonville, we took a lot a pride in our special teams,” said Iwuh. “I’m just trying to bring some of that over here to Chicago and help this team be the best in the league.”
Despite all the adversity and competition, Iwuh is staying strong underneath all the pressure.
“I feel confident, and I feel ready to make an impact on this team,” he said.
Iwuh’s fate with the Bears will be decided shortly, as training camp winds down in just a few short days. The 6-0, 235-pounder will get his shot to make an impact during the three remaining preseason games, when he’ll likely see extended playing time.
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Marco Scola is a student at Columbia College Chicago majoring in Journalism. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.