BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – James Anderson is a Bears linebacker. Ron Rivera was a Bears linebacker. Now Rivera coaches the Carolina Panthers and was Anderson’s coach last year before went to Chicago.
But Anderson wasn’t always sure what to believe from Rivera, a young backup with the ’85 Super Bowl XX champions.
“He would always tell us old linebacker stories,” Anderson said, shaking his head and laughing. “I wasn’t there so I had to take what he said.
[MORE: Bears waiting to hit different uniforms - like Panthers']
“I don’t even think I ever saw the [Super Bowl] ring. We just heard stories.”
Rivera “is still a linebacker at heart,” said Anderson, preparing for Friday’s preseason game against his old team. “He would come and watch our drills, watch film with us, ask us what we see, how we’re thinking, and you could definitely tell he looks at defense and offenses from a linebacker’s perspective.”
Anderson, who has stepped seamlessly into the job vacancy when Nick Roach signed with the Oakland Raiders this offseason, was the Panthers’ third-round pick in the 2006 draft and played his entire career in Carolina. He signed a five-year deal worth a potential $22 million with the Panthers in 2011 but suffered a back injury that cost him the last four games last season.
[RELATED: Offense feeling the 'love' at Comcast Bears Fan Fest]
The Panthers released him Mar. 12 and the Bears signed him to a one-year pact for $1.25 million. Anderson became one of the many veterans forced to take one-years because of the salary cap situation but there was more involved in him coming to Chicago.
“For me it really wasn’t only about the money,” Anderson said. “I had two or three teams I had in mind I wanted to go to but above all the others, this was the team I wanted to go to.
“Being in Chicago, playing for the Bears, playing linebacker for the Bears. What better situation could you ask for?”
Anderson came to the Bears and became the first player since the retirement of Mike Singletary to wear No. 50 – a number not retired by the Bears, just one that was out of circulation.
[ALSO: Pope sees opportunity with Bears]
"There's a lot of history behind this number with the Bears, and I'm honored and blessed that they would even consider letting me wear it," Anderson told ChicagoBears.com, the team’s website. "I'm going to do everything I can to honor the tradition by going out every day and every game and giving it all I've got."
Anderson was a teammate of Julius Peppers with the Panthers, who played primarily a 4-3 defensive scheme under John Fox and then Rivera.
What makes Anderson, who turns 30 next month, of some additional note is that he is a strong-side linebacker. The Bears drafted Jonathan Bostic for middle linebacker and Khaseem Greene as the heir apparent to Lance Briggs in time. The Bears have no other starter-grade SLB in their pipeline at the moment.
Anderson would like to be that “pipeline.”
“I feel like I could stay here for a while,” he said. “A one-year deal just means, go prove yourself. So you go out there and you play ball and you let the chips fall where they may.”