Roy Robertson-Harris played the best game of his pro career Thursday, but he wasn’t about to gloat.
“I had a great game, I feel like, but I’m not going to say, ‘I had a great game — it’s going to be a Pro Bowl season,’ ” he said Monday. “Right now I’m thinking about Denver.”
That mindset, he said, comes from defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, who preaches focusing on the present — to “be where your feet are,” he said.
That fits the most unknown regular of the Bears’ front seven just fine.
An undrafted free agent who switched positions from outside linebacker in his first year, Robertson-Harris doesn’t have the draft pedigree of former first-round picks Roquan Smith and Leonard Floyd — or even of Bilal Nichols, the Bears’ fifth-round choice last year. He doesn’t have the bank account of Khalil Mack (six years, $141 million), Akiem Hicks (four years, $48 million), Eddie Goldman (four years, $42.04 million) or Danny Trevathan (four years, $28 million).
He was one of the Bears’ best defensive players in the opener though, logging one sack against the Packers and coming close on another despite playing 41 percent of the time, less than any of the above players.
Robertson-Harris said he was more worried about the loss.
“I didn’t’ win a lot of games growing up,” said Robertson-Harris, who had three sacks last year and two in 2017. “Last year was a big season or me as far as wins. I’d like to repeat that.”
In his four years, UTEP went 17-32. In his first two seasons in the NFL — the rookie sat out 2016 after suffering a serious heat-related illness — the Bears went 8-24.
“Last year was my best, the most fun year I ever had in football,” he said. “To lose, I don’t want to go down that losing road again. I just want to win games. I said it before: Stats and all that stuff will come.”
Week 1 marked the most public confirmation that converting him to defensive end in 2016 was the proper move.
In addition to being a tremendous athlete — the Bears once used Robertson-Harris as a gunner on the punt team — he had the traits the Bears valued in a defensive lineman. The next step was getting him into the kitchen — and the weight room.
In the last three years, Robertson-Harris improved his hands and feet, as well as his ability to recognize blocks and anchor himself on run plays, defensive line coach Jay Rodgers said. He never worried about where he stood on the depth chart.
In the past year, particularly, he has adjusted from what he knew as an edge rusher — a one-on-one matchup against a blocker — to the messy world of defensive line.
He has learned from it.
“It’s dirty in there inside,” Rodgers said. “You can’t just dip your toe in there. You have to commit to it. Through time and through experience, you get to understand what the world is. You have to fail in order to succeed. You just have to.”