BOURBONNAIS – Practice was over, long over in fact, and there was Will Sutton, pads off, going at it like a ninja wannabe with martial arts expert Joe Kim. Hand-fighting, combining the hand-fighting with footwork and angles for taking on blocks and pass rushing. Five minutes...10...15...
“We call him ‘Master’ because he’s a black belt,” Sutton said. “He gets excited, the hat goes backwards and he goes to work.”
And the rookie defensive tackle was going through the private ordeal with Kim after spending the practice at the three-technique with the No. 1 defense, with Jeremiah Ratliff given a recovery day off.
“From what I saw, I liked what I saw,” said defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni with the qualifier that he was on his way to review film of the day.
All in the flow of turning a third-round draft choice into an NFL defensive lineman. That has not always gone well for the Bears with a landscape littered with Jarron Gilberts, Marcus Harrisons and Dusty Dvoraceks over the past decade.
It has not automatically gone smoothly for the rookie from Arizona State. On the first day in pads, he went one-on-one with guard Matt Slauson and the veteran gave the kid a crash (literally) course in NFL’ness. The bull rush that helped Sutton to two Pac-12 player of the year awards suddenly went nowhere.
“You can’t just go down the middle of the man,” Sutton said, shaking his head. “Everybody is a grown man and you’ve got to use technique. Technique is the game and you have to use proper technique in every matchup….
“With the 1’s you’ve got to go in there with the proper technique, can’t be out there thinking too much, but you’ve also got to be smart.”
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And strong. The Bears may want to get bigger on the lines but Sutton’s effectiveness dropped substantially when he went up to 320 pounds last season. Now the Bears want him at 290, he’s there now, but the need is for strength now.
“The only struggle I had with the transition [from college to the NFL] was just how strong how everyone is,” Sutton said. “The weight room is one of the biggest factors out here and I’m a young guy out here with guys who’ve been doing it for a while, so experience plays a role and I’ve just got to take the weight room seriously.”