Graham's play could pay off in 2012

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Corey Graham's sole focus is helping the Chicago Bears make the playoffs, either through his work on special teams, defense, or both. But to the casual observer, Graham could be in store for bigger and better things once the Bears' season wraps up.

Graham, a free agent last summer, explored his options on the open market before agreeing to a one-year deal to remain with the Bears in 2011. A potential Pro Bowler for his work on special teams, Graham has clearly stated the desire to one day expand his horizons and be a regular starter on defense somewhere in the NFL.

But since starting nine games at cornerback in 2008, Graham's opportunities on defense have been limited. It was that small body of work in the secondary which ultimately paved the way for Graham to return to Chicago a week into training camp. If teams weren't will to pay him starter money, he decided to come back to the Bears where he already had a carved out niche on special teams.

Graham continued his excellence on special teams -- he's second on the team with 13 tackles -- but received an unexpected shot to jump back into the defense when nickel back D.J. Moore missed the last two weeks with an ankle injury. Graham has thrived in the role and recorded three interceptions in the last three games.

According to Bears coach Lovie Smith, the defense "hasn't missed a beat" with Moore on the sidelines and Graham in the slot. With that kind of endorsement on file, not to mention the consistent flow of takeaways, it's quite possible teams will view Graham in a new light once free agency begins on March 13.

"I hope it helps," Graham said Wednesday. "That was the big thing when I talked to my agent and talked to a few teams [in free agency], they needed to see more recent film. I haven't had real defensive film since 2008. So I assume it's going to help, but I just have to go out there and make the best of the situation. Hope that I get another opportunity to go out there and play, and hope another team sees it, or even here. Maybe they like it and they give me an opportunity to play more on defense [moving forward].

"It can't hurt. Anyway you look at it, it can't hurt. When you get an opportunity, you got to make the most of it, and that's what I'm trying to do."