Chicago Bears defensive end Corey Wootton hasn’t felt this good in awhile — maybe ever.
As a fourth-round draft pick (2010) with an impressive 6’6” 270 lb. frame, expectations were high for the Northwestern Wildcat and former first-team All-Big Ten selection out of the gates. The Bears were desperate for a talented young pass rusher that could mercilessly tax opposing teams for double and triple-teaming All-Pro Julius Peppers, and Wootton looked like an ideal candidate to alleviate that pressure.
Like most rookies, Wootton’s contributions were minimal during year one (having been slowed by a knee injury from college), but after ending future Hall-of-Fame quarterback and longstanding Bear-killer Brett Favre’s career in Week 14 of the 2010 season, Wootton became an unlikely hero in Chicago. Unfortunately, that hero status also came with some uncharacteristically high expectations.
To date, that one sack is the only one that Corey Wooton has ever registered. But, after battling through an injury that cost him the first half of last season only to find himself buried on the depth chart, Wootton is healthy and ready to embrace the lofty expectations. Only, this time, they’re his own.
“I’m feeling really good. My main focus has been to improve on the way I came in (to camp) last year,” Wootton said following Sunday’s practice.
After a ten-sack year as a junior at Northwestern, an injury in the 2008 Alamo Bowl cost Corey Wootton part of his senior season, and left lingering effects that haunted him in each of his first two pro seasons. However, Wootton showed he wasn’t concerned with the knee that has plagued him and looked explosive at times in pass-rushing drills on Sunday.
“I’ve been very anxious. It’s been good this past two days — a good first start. I’ve still got a lot to improve on — you know — like footwork, pad level, hands, and all that, but I’m just looking to get better and improve every day,” Wootton said.
The fast start to camp is certainly a good sign for Corey Wootton, but he’ll have to continue to perform at a high-level if he hopes to remain in the Bears long-term future. After selecting Boise State defensive end Shea McClellin — who has struggled thus far in padded practices– in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, every snap will be treated like an audition for Wootton.
Wootton also faces stiff competition at defensive end from veterans like Chauncey Davis and former Ohio State-star (and a fellow fourth-round pick in 2010) Thaddeus Gibson.
“The biggest thing is just to stay consistent,” Wootton said when asked how he could best contribute to the 2012 Chicago Bears. “You’ve got to be able to limit the bad plays and you have to have a lot of good plays. That’s how guys make it in (the NFL).”