September 5, 2011
Undrafted rookies just getting started
By: Larry Mayer | Last Updated: 9/5/2011 2:32 PM
Twenty-six undrafted free agents arrived at training camp with a dream, but faced an uphill battle that was even steeper than usual after the offseason program was cancelled due to the lockout.
For the five who survived final cuts Saturday and earned a spot on the Bears’ 53-man roster, it was a remarkable accomplishment—but only the beginning of what they hope is a long NFL journey.
Dane Sanzenbacher impressed coaches with his playmaking ability this summer.Moving from the rookie “cave” in the Halas Hall basement to the regular locker room Monday, wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher, tight end Kyle Adams, linebacker Dom DeCicco, safety Winston Venable and defensive end Mario Addison reflected on the last 48 hours.
“It’s awesome; one of the best days of my life,” Adams said. “It’s just great to make a team, a lot of hard work, very thankful, very blessed by God to be here and just real excited for the opportunity.”
“It feels good,” Venable said. “Not that I haven’t put in the work yet, but now you’ve just got to put it into overdrive and continue to work hard. Your job is never really safe, so I’m going to continue doing what I’ve been doing and not get complacent.”
“It’s a dream come true,” DeCicco said. “But it’s a week-to-week job and you just have to keep performing every week and hopefully maintain it throughout the whole year.”
With no offseason program, the rookies had to compress several months of learning into a few weeks at camp.
“It made the whole process seem like it was going really fast just because there was never any time to slow down and relax,” Sanzenbacher said. “You were learning everything on the fly and on the field trying to apply everything. It finally got to a point where it’s starting to slow down a little bit.”
“I had to do a little extra work mentally with the playbook, especially playing a new position at safety,” Venable said. “I was more of a linebacker in college. So just the terminology kind of threw me off real big during camp. I met with coach Gill [Byrd] on the side and did some extra one-on-one type stuff that slowly progressed learning the defense. It's not like I have it down yet, and I'll continue to have to do those type of things."
“It was pretty hard because we didn’t know anything about the playbook or even where we were going until camp came,” DeCicco said. “Learning a new playbook for me was tough at first. I got discouraged a lot, but I was able to stick with it and just kept learning with the help of the older guys and coaches.”
Waiting to find out whether they had made the team Saturday was a nerve-wracking experience. “I was on pins and needles pretty much the whole time, but a bunch of us were, so we were just hanging out and trying to get our minds off of it,” DeCicco said.
“It was a little hectic just not knowing whether you were going to get a call or not either to confirm you were on the team or to get released,” Venable said. “Fortunately, I didn’t get a call and was able to see that 53-man roster come out after six o’clock.”
The undrafted rookies celebrated in different ways.
“I talked to my parents, talked to some friends,” Adams said. “I’ve got some friends from Purdue in the city, so I went and saw them. It was a really good weekend.”
“I just called my parents and my family and let them know, and they were ecstatic,” DeCicco said. “They threw a party back at home and I just pretty much sat in the hotel and hung out with everybody else.”