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Bears newcomers: Resilient Eric Kush can take a few hard knocks

Center Eric Kush (60) was claimed by the Bears after he was waived by the Los Angeles Rams on Saturday. The Bears are the sixth team he's played for in the last year. (Rick Scuteri/AP)

New Bears back-up center Eric Kush made a name for himself as a fun-loving, energetic character on the Rams — “The Man of a Thousand Tank Tops” — on HBO’s “Hard Knocks.” But his appearance in Tuesday night’s final episode was a downer.

“The heartfelt episode where I’m packing up my [stuff] after I got voted off the island,” he said.

Regrettably, that is a hard-knocks role Kush is all too familiar with. Getting waived by the Rams last week marked the fifth time in a year that he has been cut by an NFL team. He previously was let go by the Chiefs, Buccaneers, Panthers and Texans.

The good news is that he keeps getting chances. After being waived by the Rams, Kush was claimed by the Bears, who cut prospect Cornelius Edison to make room for Kush on their 53-man roster.

Kush has a long road from the bottom of the roster to the playing field on game day, but he’s come a long way just to get here. His only offer out of Chartiers Valley High School outside of Pittsburgh was at Division-II California (Pa.) as a defensive end. He switched to center to fill a team need and was drafted in the sixth-round by the Chiefs in 2013. He played in three games, with one start in two seasons (when the Chiefs were resting regulars for the playoffs in Week 17 in 2013).

Kush came into Chiefs training camp last year as the No. 1 center after Rodney Hudson signed with the Raiders. But he lost the job to second-round pick Mitch Morse early in camp and was waived in the final cut-down. He signed with the Rams in Week 10 last year and played in seven games, all on special teams.

He’s got a lot of catching up to do with the Bears. But he’s used to that.

“I’ll have plenty of time to get in with the o-line coaches and hammer out the details of all the concepts and all the plays and everything and get to work and study and get ready to roll,” Kush said after practice Monday. “The concepts are the concepts. It’s all, ‘This type of zone; this type of man scheme; this type of gap scheme; it’s all the same. They just call it something different, and handle little things within that concept differently and that’s what you’ve got to study and pick up on.”

Kush said he enjoyed the attention he received from his “Hard Knocks” appearances. “A couple of times when I’d be going through the airport or going somewhere, they’d be like, ‘Hey, I loved you on Hard Knocks,’” Kush said. “That was cool. It was a good time. I had some fun. Moving on now.”

Still, he was considering watching the final episode, even though he knows the ending.

“Why not?” he said. “There’s a happy ending. I got claimed and I’m going to Chicago.”

Kush is one of 22 newcomers on this year’s 53-man roster, including seven potential starters: linebacker Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman, defensive end Akiem Hicks, right tackle Bobby Massie, rookie center Cody Whitehair, wide receiver Kevin White and left guard Josh Sitton.

Here’s a capsule look at the others besides Kush who joined the Bears since training camp:

Cre’Von LeBlanc, CB: Acquired on waivers after he was cut by he New England Patriots, the 5-11, 190-pound LeBlanc is an undrafted free agent from Florida Atlantic. The talent is there — LeBlanc reportedly had offers from LSU and Florida before he was suspended as a high school senior after being accused with three teammates of sexual assault. The Bears got a good look at him when they practiced and played against the Patriots in Week 2 of the preseason.

“He’s a guy that our college scouts liked coming out in the process and he’s a guy obviously in the preseason that just jumped out,” general manager Ryan Pace said. “He’s a bit undersized, but he’s extremely sudden, he’s very sticky in mirroring routes and he’s got excellent ball skills.

“He just has a knack for going and getting the ball. And that’s been an emphasis on our defense right now is something that we want to improve on is ball skills and he definitely has that and that’s why he’s here.”

Mike Adams, OT: Signed as a free agent on Aug. 10. A former second-round pick by the Steelers (a first-round prospect before failing a drug test at the Combine in 2012), the 6-7, 323-pound Adams started six games at right tackle as a rookie and the first four games of 2013 at left tackle before losing the job. Had back surgery last summer and did not play in 2015.

Logan Paulsen, TE: Acquired on waivers after he was cut by the Redskins (who acquired veteran Vernon Davis in the offseason), Paulsen is a versatile, strong-blocking tight end with special-teams and fullback capabilities. An undrafted free agent from UCLA in 2010, Paulsen caught 79 passes for 801 yards and six touchdowns in five seasons with the Redskins (with 42 starts in four seaons from 2011-14). But he suffered a toe injury in the preseason last year and missed the entire season. The Bears cut Khari Lee — whom they traded a sixth-round in 2017 to acquire last year — to make room for Paulsen.

Connor Barth, PK: Acquired on waivers on Sunday after he was cut by the Saints, Barth has kicked 84.8 percent of his field goal attempts (139-of-164) in seven seasons with the Chiefs, Buccaneers, Broncos and Buccaneers again last year.

He is the most accurate field-goal kicker in Bucs history — the Buccaneers used the franchise tag on him in 2012. But after missing the 2013 season with a torn Achilles tendon, Barth was beaten out by rookie Patrick Murray in 2014. He made 15-of-16 field goals for John Fox’s Broncos in 2014 but was beaten out by Brandon McManus in the preseason last year — in part because of weak kickoffs.

Barth re-joined the Buccaneers to replace the faltering Murray last year and was 23-of-28 (82.1 percent), including 17-of-17 inside of 40 yards. But he was cut after the Bucs selected Roberto Aguayo in the second round of the 2016 draft. He lost a kicking duel this preseason in New Orleans to Kai Forbath, who was cut two days later.

Barth is 63-of-64 on kicks inside of 40 yards in his last four seasons. He is 37-of-47 (78.7 percent) on kicks of 40 yards or longer in that same span — including 6-of-11 (54.5 percent) last season.

Josh Sitton, G: The Bears signed Sitton to a three-year, $21.7 million contract ($10 million guaranteed) as a free agent Sunday after he was suddenly and unexpectedly cut by the Packers on Saturday. It’s a clear upgrade for the Bears — at least in the short term. Sitton, 30, is a three-time Pro Bowl guard who was second-team All-Pro last season. He will be plugged in at left guard to give the Bears one of the best guard tandems in the league with two-time Pro Bowl guard Kyle Long on the other side. Sitton is a strong all-around player but in particular one of the best pass-blocking guards in the NFL, which figures to be a boon for Jay Cutler.

“He’s extremely strong and powerful in the run game, and pass [protection],” Pace said. “He’s one of those guys that just makes it look easy — you never see him stressed or exposed. He’s in good position, smart, very intelligent player and that shows up when you meet with him and all the research we did on him echoed that as well.”

Contributing: Patrick Finley