John Timu can count on two hands the number of times he played special teams in college — mostly on the Washington Huskies’ kickoff unit.
He participated in special teams coverage even less at Long Beach (Calif.) Jordan High School, where, before he suffered an injury in the second game of his senior season, he played quarterback. He was the kicker and punter, too, so he wasn’t flying down the field at anyone.
Contrast that with his preseason experience as an NFL rookie — he played 52 Bears special teams downs, including 10 Thursday against the Browns — and the inside linebacker smiles.
“In this league, you gotta be a fast learner,” the 6-foot, 247-pound undrafted free agent said. “You gotta be able to adapt and adjust to new things. They install something one day and you have to go out there and execute as soon as we go out there in practice.
“It’s part of the evaluation process, in who can do it — and who can’t.”
He’s shown he can, and the Bears have reacted appropriately. The termination of fellow Huskies alum and inside linebacker Mason Foster, an accomplished pro, Friday night appears to have paved the way for Timu to make the team.
He stated his case Thursday, recording a sack, a quarterback hurry and four tackles in a rare start. He finished the preseason with eight tackles and an interception.
“Just to prove that I fit here, whether it’s as a Chicago Bear or just in this league,” he said. “Prove that I’m a fast learner and I prepare well and I can go out there and execute on the same day.”
Before Thursday’s game, he thought of coach John Fox, who told the team before the game how precious such opportunities were.
“I just say, ‘Make it a hard decision to let you go if they have to,’” he said.
It’s a common refrain this time of year: teaching college stars the nuances of special teams. Many aren’t as open to the task as Timu. Fitting the Bears’ college strategy, he was a three-time captain at Washington.
“Our thing was, ‘Sacrifice your body and glorify your soul for the team,’” he said. “I took that mindset out of (Washington) and brought it here as a Chicago Bear.”
Where exactly he fits will be clearer after the Bears submit their official cuts by 3 p.m. Saturday — and, likely, after they pore over the league-wide available free agents.
Fellow inside linebacker Jon Bostic, another bubble player, missed Thursday’s game after suffering an ankle injury Saturday, when he was rolled up on by the Bengals.
He characterized it as a minor injury Thursday, saying he was frustrated to miss “another chance for me to get better” by playing in a game.
He’s working on his conditioning — “Actually being in football shape is something totally different,” he said — but said he’s learned Vic Fangio’s defense.
He claimed he wasn’t worried about his fate.
“Not really,” he said. “For me, I look at it as a defense and how we need to get better. That’s the only thing I’m concerned about. We’ve got to get better each and every day before we hit Green Bay (in Week 1).”
Timu — who is practice squad-eligible, too — and Bostic are waiting to see whether they’ll still be around then.
Timu’s chances are looking up, even if he said he had “no idea” whether the Bears would keep him.
“I don’t know how things work,” he said. “I left it all on the field; that’s all I can say.”