- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears rookie second-round pick Jonathan Bostic steered reporters away from the notion he could be edging past veteran D.J. Williams for the starting job at middle linebacker.
With Williams sidelined since Jul. 31 with a calf injury, Bostic has wowed observers during workouts and two preseason outings with big hits and a penchant for making game-changing plays, such as the 51-yard interception returned for a touchdown in the preseason opener against the Carolina Panthers.
Asked whether he’s moved ahead of Williams, Bostic deadpanned: “Not really.”
“I kind of look at it as another opportunity to go out and compete,” he said. “I’m nowhere near where I want to be and nowhere near where I need to be. It’s about being able to go out there and put this uniform on opening day, and I’ve still got a lot of work to do. I’m learning from D.J. Even though D.J. is out right now, he’s getting a lot of mental reps, and he’s coaching me up as well. Lance (Briggs), James (Anderson), I’m learning from everybody.”
That’s a positive sign considering the Bears may need to call upon Bostic early than originally anticipated.
Although Bostic was drafted as the future at middle linebacker, due to Williams’ slow recovery he could find himself thrust into the starting lineup Sept. 8 when the Bears host the Cincinnati Bengals to start the regular season. Although the veteran is recovering at the pace the team anticipated, the preseason is coming to a close soon, meaning Williams likely won’t receive enough repetitions in the days leading to the regular season to get him into sufficient cardiovascular shape to play four quarters.
Bears coach Marc Trestman plans to meet with Williams this week “to see where he is.” But more than likely, Williams won’t be ready.
“We’re getting close to the season. His conditioning now becomes an issue,” Trestman said. “We think eventually he’ll be back. We just don’t know when. It’s an improving situation. He’s on schedule to come back over the time period that we expected him to. So we’ll see what happens over the next few weeks. Hopefully, we’ll get him out here to practice in the next 12 to 14 days or better.”
Despite Bostic being a threat to take his job, Williams has been helpful, according to the rookie. A 10th-year veteran, Williams has posted 90 tackles or more in five of the last six seasons. In 2012, Williams served multiple suspensions for violating the league’s substance abuse policy and started in only one contest.
Prior to that, Williams had led the Denver Broncos in five of his eight years with the team since coming into the NFL in 2004 as that club’s top draft pick.
“He can kind of see things and plus, he’s played in this league a long time,” Bostic said. “He’s basically giving his perspective: ‘Hey, when I played this team before, I saw this. You know, this player likes to do this.’ So really just being able to kind of get everybody’s perspective on things has been big for me.”