Bears hope Mark Sanchez can help translate success for young QB room
BOURBONNAIS — Mark Sanchez could see the disappointment in their eyes. Hispanic fans would be thrilled to meet USC’s star quarterback, a Los Angeles athlete who finally looked like them. They’d say a word or two in Spanish, though, and Sanchez wouldn’t respond.
“I was like Ritchie Valens in ‘La Bamba,’ when he goes down to Mexico,” the Bears backup quarterback said, invoking the 1987 movie about the rock singer. “And he’s like, ‘No speak-o español-o.’”
He decided to fix that. He made himself fluent.
At the suggestion of his then-girlfriend, the Southern California native began driving around listening to Spanish-language CDs by Michel Thomas. The Hollywood linguist teaches that language is like a tennis match.
“Just get the ball over the net,” said Sanchez, who did a TV interview in Spanish after the Bears’ walkthrough Thursday. “You don’t have to be Andre Agassi.
“I pronounce words wrong. That was part of it, too. I had so much fear of offending people, like, ‘Man, he can’t even speak Spanish. Look at his last name. He’s representing us. He can’t even talk to us and communicate.’ That weighed on me.”
What better player, then, to help the Bears’ two other new quarterbacks — starter Mike Glennon and rookie Mitch Trubisky — translate the playbook.
“I think it’s so similar,” he said. “Because you’re saying the same things, you’re talking through these reads the same way.”
One team’s “pepper” terminology is another’s “dipper” or “doppler,” Sanchez said. On his fifth franchise, Sanchez can translate the Bears’ plays into different terms. He’ll ask a struggling teammate where he played last and compare the Bears’ play to what that team likely called it. He’s a regular Michel Thomas.
Sanchez is hoping to translate the pitfalls of fame into advice for Trubisky, the No. 2 overall pick. One piece of advice: rent a two-bedroom apartment.
“He’s not married, he doesn’t have any kids,” Sanchez said. “You don’t need a five-bedroom place to look after for all your buddies to live in.
“If you want another responsibility, get a dog or something.”
The fifth overall pick of the Jets in 2009, Sanchez started as a rookie in the NFL’s most demanding market. He has been a star in Los Angeles and New York and has played in two football-crazy markets, Philadelphia and Dallas.
“He’s been where Mitchell’s been, he’s been where Mike has been, he’s been in rooms with different quarterback coaches,” quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone said. “He’s got a lot of experience to lean on.”
Sanchez is more than a mascot. He has had the best practice of a Bears quarterback in camp already, and at least until the Bears grow more comfortable with Trubisky, Sanchez is one Glennon rolled ankle away from playing. The Bears call him their second-string quarterback, though Trubisky’s snaps with the second team have increased lately.
The last year was the most trying of Sanchez’s career. He went from being the Broncos’ presumptive starter early in the preseason to Dak Prescott’s mentor, attempting only 18 passes with the Cowboys.
“It flips your whole world upside down,” Sanchez said. “That was in some ways great and in some ways absolutely defeating and frustrating.”
He had two choices: walk away or find a niche with a team that valued his experience.
“Stop playing?” he said. “What am I going to tell my son one day? ‘Why’d you stop playing? You were only 30?’ ‘Oh, things didn’t go my way, so I quit.’ That’s not right.
“You can’t live like that, and you can’t compete like that, so you’ve got to keep fighting, keep playing, keep competing. That’s what this has been, and it’s been fun. This group, I’m happy I landed here.”
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