LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Shea McClellin acknowledged after practice during Chicago Bears organized team activities Tuesday that his "first two years [in the NFL] weren't the greatest," but is hopeful a position switch to linebacker might lead to better results.
"I'm excited about the switch," McClellin said. "They told me they wanted me to play linebacker and I was fine with it. I think it's a good fit for me, so I'm going to try to show what I can do."
Selected with the 19th overall pick of the 2012 draft, McClellin joined the Bears hoping to make a mark solely as a pass-rushing defensive end after taking on a variety of roles in college at Boise State, where he racked up 20.5 sacks in 49 games. McClellin's monstrous production in college didn't transfer over to the NFL game. In two unremarkable seasons in Chicago, McClellin has posted 6.5 sacks and 36 tackles, leading to the position switch.
McClellin said he "anticipated they probably would" ask him to move to linebacker.
"My first two years weren't the greatest, but I think linebacker is a natural fit for me," McClellin said. "I think it's what I should be doing. As a player, you're going to do what they tell you to, and I was fine with playing D-end. They wanted me to rush the passer, and I think one of my strengths is rushing the passer. I was fine with it."
Wearing jersey No. 50, McClellin participated in Tuesday's workout operating mostly from the Sam position because starting middle linebacker D.J. Williams didn't attend the OTA session. With Williams out, Jonathan Bostic was forced to play middle linebacker while McClellin slid outside to Sam.
McClellin took in a few repetitions at middle linebacker with the second team. But he's expected to compete with Bostic during training camp for the starting job on the strong side. For the most part, McClellin looked natural Tuesday as a linebacker, and teammates believe he can successfully transition into his new role.
"Trying to rush off the edge and then go back to linebacker, that's a transition guys have got to make," defensive end Jared Allen said. "You see that so much throughout this league, and the cool part is that he's athletic enough to do it. I've watched guys go from middle linebacker to fullback. It's one of those things: the more you can do in this league, the longer you'll be around. Obviously, they feel he has worth coming back off the edge. For me, if I had to go to linebacker, I'd be cut, that's not happening: I'm a one position type of guy."
In the meeting rooms, McClellin sits next to perennial Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs and has said the veteran players at the position have helped tremendously at easing the transition.
"He picks up things really fast. Being that he was in the defense before there's a lot of things and a lot of calls he's already familiar with," Briggs said. "He's an athletic linebacker and an athletic linebacker can play in this league. He's got speed. He's smart. Shea, size-wise, he could play Mike. Right now he's playing Sam. But I'm sure coach is probably going to move him around to see where his best fit is."
In preparation for the new role at linebacker, McClellin moved to California, where he spent 12 weeks in the offseason training with performance coach Scot Prohaska. McClellin lost 11 pounds and reduced his body fat by eight percent. When the team reported to Halas Hall for the start of the offseason program back in April, McClellin weighed 252 pounds and possessed 10 percent body fat.
The change prompted general manager Phil Emery to quip: "He looks like an extra from a Dolph Lundgren movie, doesn't he? He's looking good, looking trim and fit."
McClellin said the team wants him to stay between 245 and 250 pounds as a linebacker after playing last season at approximately 260 pounds as a defensive end. In a sense, for McClellin moving to linebacker is akin to returning home.
"Yeah, it's very natural," McClellin said. "The instincts are there and I've just got to work on the concepts, the routes, and it's good to have some guys out here to go against instead of just going against air. [I've] still got a lot to work on. I think I've got a lot to prove. I'm just gonna go out there and do the best I can."