Earlier this week Israel Idonije was reflecting on the career changes that saw him go to the Detroit Lions in 2013 after spending his entire career as a Bear. The change meant that he was away from Chicago in the first year of the Mel Tucker regime on defense before returning this offseason on a one-year deal.
He’d played his entire career with the likes of Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman and Brian Urlacher, then went to an entirely new venue, then back again.
“The mind is a funny thing,” Idonije told CSN Chicago. “I was with that (Lovie Smith) staff for nine years so that was what I knew… Going to Detroit was a great thing because it was going to a whole new team and new faces, and now [returning to Chicago] is being with a new team and new faces.”
That all came to an abrupt finish on Thursday when the Bears terminated the contract of Idonije at the end of their three-day minicamp, a stretch that saw him lining up with third- and fourth-stringers by the end.
It will only be a line on the league transactions wire, another veteran whose career with the team that gave him his real start came quietly to a close. But the Bears’ release of Idonije merits more than just a line on the wire.
Idonije was an undrafted free agent out of Manitoba who made the Cleveland Browns in 2003 before being waived injured and then landed on the Bears’ practice squad. By the time he was done in Chicago he had been the Bears’ Ed Block Courage Award recipient in 2009 and the Bears’ nominee in 2009 and 2010 for the “Walter Payton Man of the Year” award, being one of the three finalists for the NFL award in 2010 for his work with children in Africa through his foundation.
He started 42 of 48 games from 2010-12 with a career-best eight sacks in 2010 and 7.5 in 2012. For his NFL career, Idonije started 50 of 149 games, registering 273 tackles, 29 sacks, 40 tackles for losses, six forced fumbles and six fumble recoveries. He added 36 special teams tackles and eight blocked kicks.
Ironically, Idonije’s release points to a talent uptick even before next month’s start of training camp. The expectation has been that after an offseason of adding youth and firepower on the defensive line, the Bears were headed toward a situation where they would be letting go of individuals good enough to play in the NFL.
Defensive end was one of those areas.
Besides the front-liners of Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young, plus David Bass returning and 2013 sixth-rounder Cornelius Washington, the Bears also signed Austen Lane, Tracey Robertson and Trevor Scott, all with NFL experience and younger than Idonije (33).