LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Cornerback Zack Bowman thought his best shot to land on an NFL roster would be in New England, where he recently had a workout with the Patriots. Given the way it ended for Bowman here in Chicago, he really never felt returning to the Bears was a serious option.
But that all changed Tuesday morning when Bowman's agent called and informed the free agent his old team wanted to bring him back on a one-year deal.
"I was shocked when I got the phone call," Bowman said. "But then I realized the opportunity that I had and obviously got excited. The first person that popped into my mind was Chris Harris. He got released when I got here and he ended up coming back a few years later. He was the first player that popped into my mind."
The Bears decided not to make an attempt to re-sign Bowman in the offseason after his original rookie deal expired, despite the fact Bowman intercepted a team-high six passes in 2009. The problems began for Bowman when he lost his starting cornerback job to Tim Jennings in early 2010. He really seemed to fall out of favor after a rough outing against the Green Bay Packers last year in Week 16 at Lambeau Field.
Bowman hit the free-agent market and eventually signed with division rival Minnesota. It looked as if Bowman was safe when he made the Vikings' initial 53-man roster as their last defensive back. But one day after the final rosters were set, Bowman got cut when Minnesota brought in another defender to take his place.
"It was surprising, but they wanted to go in a different direction," Bowman said. "I understand, it's part of the game."
Following his release, the 6-foot-1 cornerback made his way down to Houston where he trained with other former NFL players, while at the same time caring for his wife who is due to give birth to their second child soon.
Bowman practiced Wednesday but is unsure of his role or for how long he's going to be on the Bears' roster. Given how stacked the defense is at cornerback with Charles Tillman, Jennings and Kelvin Hayden, Bowman was likely brought back to help on special teams in the event a hip strain sidelines Sherrick McManins on Monday night against the Detroit Lions. Bowman was always considered a solid special teamer during his first stint with the Bears. He finished tied for fifth on the team last year with 10 special teams tackles.
If nothing else, Bowman's second go-round in Chicago might provide him with good tape moving forward if he gets an opportunity to be active for a game.
"I don't know what they want me to do yet, I just appreciate the opportunity to play football again," Bowman said. "I'm excited just to practice and run around on the field with the guys. That's what I'm really looking forward to. I've only been gone since January but it feels like a long time. Minnesota was really similar to Chicago, so I sat in meetings today and basically knew everything.
"You just come back in here more appreciative of everything. I mean, I've been doing this since the fourth grade. To not be able to do it for weeks or months, it sucks, but it's fun to be back."