- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- After producing a breakout season in 2011, Chicago Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton enters the final year of his original rookie contract, but refuses to become vocal in his desire for a new deal.
Melton said the team hasn’t reached out to him or his representatives about a new contract, but he’s “not going to let it really get in my way of being who I want to be this year.”
“I still have a lot to prove for this defense, and I do want to show that I am the guy of the future for this defense. We’re really just sitting back. I’m not going to let it be a distraction or be a distraction to the team or anything. We’re just letting it go.”
Scheduled to earn $565,000 this season in the final year of his contract signed in 2009, Melton finally in 2011 lived up to the high expectations placed on him by the coaching staff. Going into the 2011 season, Bears coach Lovie Smith consistently pointed to Melton as a player poised for a breakout year.
Melton responded with seven sacks in 15 starts, which tied for third in the NFL in sacks among defensive tackles.
This offseason, the club’s decision to not bring back veteran defensive tackles Anthony Adams and free agent Amobi Okoye provided further evidence of its confidence in Melton paired next to Matt Toeaina, with second-year man Stephen Paea adding to the rotation.
Melton likes what he’s seen so far from the defensive line during offseason workouts.
“Of course you can always get better,” Melton said. “Unless you finish first in total defense, you always can get better. Right now, we’re really just having to know where everyone needs to be and we’re going into some serious detail, a lot more technique. It’s looking good. We’ve got a lot of veterans, a lot of studs. We’ve got a big rotation. Pretty much whoever steps in can get the job done.”
Melton would prefer to continue to work his trade in Chicago, which in 2009 selected him with a fourth-round pick. Still, he won’t let the prospect of potentially departing derail what he’s expecting to be an even better campaign in 2012 than his breakout season of 2011.
“I love the city, the fans are great. I’ve got a lot of close friends on the team, and I love being out here,” Melton said. “I’d love to be here. I’d love to be the motor for the defense.”