Monday, August 20, 2012
Walters has opportunity to secure a spot
By Jeff Dickerson
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Even before Chris Conte and Brandon Hardin got hurt against the Redskins, second-year safety Anthony Walters was making a strong bid to win a spot on the Bears' final 53-man roster.
Walters arrived in Chicago last year as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Delaware and spent the first six weeks of the 2011 season on the Bears' practice squad before he got bumped up to the active roster for four games. He ultimately suffered a hamstring injury that ended his season.
Although the Bears spent a third-round pick on Hardin in the offseason, Walters remains very much in the mix to make the team as a reserve safety and special teams contributor after a strong showing versus the Redskins. He finished the game with the second-highest point total on special teams behind kicker Robbie Gould.
"Opportunities are opportunities," Walters said. "I had a couple of chances since I've been here so far and I kind of look at every opportunity the same. This one I'll have more chances, more reps to prove myself. But I've always had reps here or there to show, which is why they kept me here last year and put me on IR. I was grateful for that. Now I'm just working off of last year.
"I thought I was mostly a cover safety. I played corner in college. I was coming here expecting to play free safety. But the way we do it here, if you know more of the system, they'll put you at strong. You make a lot of adjustments there. I look at myself as a cover safety until I got here. And then I realized that there aren't any cover positions on this team. Everybody's going to hit. You better hit or you won't be in there. That's what I learned."
Walters started on two phases of special teams last week (punt return and kickoff return) and is slated to see increased duties Friday night in New York after he was placed on the No. 1 punt team Monday morning.
"It's (special teams) a way to get on the field. It's a way to stay employed. Like I told somebody earlier, I'm going to do whatever they ask to make the team -- especially (special) teams. You start the game with a special-teams play and they're a very important play, especially here. We're top five every year in special teams. They take it extremely serious."
In addition to Walters, receiver Dane Sanzenbacher and tight end Even Rodriguez both graded out well in the special teams department last weekend. Rodriguez, a 2012 fourth round draft choice, was already all but assured a roster spot, but the development can only help Sanzenbacher who is making a strong push to make the club for a second straight year.
"Anthony Walters played well," Coach Lovie Smith said. "We asked him to improve his play from the first game and he did that as a safety and as a special teams player. That's what you find out when guys get cast into a different role. You know they can do a little more than you thought they could."