Talk in the Bears’ locker room Wednesday turned to Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.’s $90 million contract extension. Someone mentioned that Beckham must be feeling a lot of pressure.
“I could name you 90 million reasons why there’s no pressure,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said later.
Amukamara didn’t sign a record-breaking deal this offseason, but his three-year, $27 million contract — with $18 million guaranteed over two seasons — was enough to give him a newfound appreciation for stability. The previous three seasons, Amukamara played out the final year of three separate contracts.
“I think the pressure’s off,” Amukamara said. “Now you can play even more free. I don’t know why guys’ play declines [after signing big contracts]. I can play more free. I’m not worried about getting subbed out. I’m not worried about getting cut, all that stuff. I’m not worried about trying to impress everybody. Now I can home in and play my game.”
A year ago, cornerback was one of the franchise’s biggest concerns, short term and long term. With Amukamara re-signed and Kyle Fuller resurgent, though, the starting positions are among the most stable parts of a defense that returns its entire coaching staff and most of its relevant contributors. It’s likely the Bears’ 11 Week 1 starters against the Packers are all returning members of last year’s team.
“The fact we’ve got continuity working for us — not only personnel but the same defense and coaches — we’re going to be as good as we want to be,” Amukamara said. “To be honest, what better way to have a test than the first game Sunday night?”
The only drama of Thursday night’s preseason game will be among players fighting for spots at the back end of the roster. Amukamara, who has recovered from a groin injury, will watch with 30 or so players from the sideline.
He was a solid performer last season despite turning in his second consecutive year without an interception. In eight full years, he only has logged more than one pick in one season. The lanky Amukamara said that playing press corner, in which he jams receivers at the line, has limited his chances.
“I’ve been playing off a little more,” he said, “so I’ve been able to see things before they actually happen. . . . The last couple of years, I came up a little short. But takeaways have been heavily stressed. As a defense, we feel that’ll get us to where we want to be.”