Eddie Goldman didn’t seem to know what all the fuss was about.
The 21-year-old rookie nose tackle from Florida State is in line for the opportunity of his short NFL career —with the NFL’s suspension of mentor Jeremiah Ratliff for the first three games of the regular season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, Goldman is the apparent “next man up.”
That’s pretty heady stuff, even for the 39th overall pick in the draft. Four years ago Friday, he was in Cincinnati with his high school teammates from Friendship Collegiate Academy of Washington, D.C. for their season opener. On Saturday, he’ll be in Cincinnati with his Bears teammates for the all-important “dress rehearsal” preseason game against the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium.
Ratliff, whose suspension doesn’t begin until the start of the regular season, figures to start against the Bengals. But Goldman likely will play a prominent role in the rotation as the Bears give him every chance to fill the spot in Ratliff’s absence.
“I’m just focused on getting out there and playing with the team,” the 6-4, 336-pound Goldman said when asked how stoked he was for the opportunity to replace Ratliff as the starting nose tackle. “I don’t look at it any differently. He’s still going to be out there helping me, no matter what. I’m just focused on playing with those 10 other guys out there.”
If Goldman is excited about the opportunity, he’s keeping it to himself. “I mean, if coach wants me to be out there, then I’ll be out there,” he said when pressed about the opportunity. “It will definitely be a great experience and I have to step up, if I need to.”
Bears coach John Fox strictly adheres to a philosophy of “understate and overproduce.” So he wasn’t about to ignite any hype about Goldman, who would be starting his true senior season at Florida State if he did not turn pro.
“He’s a very young player —he’s young even for his class,” Fox said when asked about Goldman. “He’s a big body that’s willing to work. He’s kind of a mature for as young as he is. He’s done everything we’ve asked. He’s progressing [with] what we’re teaching.”
Goldman is taking advantage of the opportunity to practice against Kyle Long, the Bears’ two-time Pro Bowl guard, and also center Will Montgomery and guard Matt Slauson.
“I always try to get pass rush reps with [Long]. People rarely beat him in pass rush,” Goldman said. “I’m definitely looking to go against him — and Will Montgomery and Slauson.”
He’s learned that it’s not all about his unique athleticism in the NFL.
“When you put your hand down and the ball’s about to snap, you have to have a plan going up against these guys,” Goldman said. “Slauson’s been in the league eight years. Kyle’s a Pro Bowler. Will, he’s been in the league for [10 years], so you definitely have to have a plan and be detailed in your technique as well.”