- Jeff Dickerson, ESPN Staff Writer
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Nick Roach has spent the better part of five seasons with the Chicago Bears in competition with the likes of Hunter Hillenmeyer and Pisa Tinoisamoa for the starting strong side linebacker spot on defense.
So it did not bother Roach to hear general manager Phil Emery announce to the media on Monday that recent free-agent pickup Geno Hayes would "compete against Nick" in training camp.
"It's really just a part of the job when you are not one of the cornerstones like Lance [Briggs] and Brian [Urlacher]," Roach said Tuesday after being honored as the 2011 veteran Brian Piccolo Award winner. "You basically have to justify your worth as the years go on. I consider myself fortunate to have been able to do that for this many years, now going into the my sixth season.'
"All the competition has made me better, no doubt about it. Plus, when they bring good players in, you become better because you learn stuff from them. You get to see what makes them good, and at the same time add a little something to your game or see what you can do better."
Last summer was the first time the Bears did not have another proven linebacker in camp to battle Roach on the strong side. Roach started 15 games in 2011, recording 61 tackles, six tackles for a loss and three pass break ups. Since arriving in Chicago at the end of the 2007 campaign, Roach has made 45 career starts, all over the span of the past four seasons.
"I wouldn't say there is pressure when you compete against a certain guy because there is always pressure," Roach said. "Each day you are also competing against guys on other teams because scouting departments, their jobs are to constantly look around the league and see if there is somebody else out there that can make each room better. Whether it's somebody in your own room, or somebody on another team with better film, you're kind of competing all the time."
Hayes, who will also back up Briggs at weakside linebacker, according to Emery, started 42 games the past three years in Tampa Bay where he recorded a career-best 98 tackles in 2009. The 24-year-old signed a one-year deal with the Bears after he lost his starting job with the Bucs midway through last season.
"Geno, I know he played a lot of defense when he was in Tampa and that he played well when he was there," Roach said. "He's a good player."