Adam L. Jahns’ “Inside the Huddle” columns appear in game-day editions of the Chicago Sun-Times.
Falcons running back Devonta Freeman saw an opening in the Bears’ defensive front and tried to cut through it. But he didn’t get too far.
As Fox broadcaster Kevin Burkhardt said, Freeman’s momentum was stopped by “a Bears brick wall led by Danny Trevathan.”
“That’s what you live for as a linebacker, to meet them face-to-face in the hole,” Trevathan said. “They’re always running sideways and trying to run away from you. Finally, you get that opportunity to strike like a cobra.”
It was a knock-you-in-the-mouth hit that Trevathan has become known for during his six-year career. But it was a tackle that meant much more to him and the Bears.
It was Trevathan’s first contact in a game since he ruptured the patellar tendon in his right knee in Week 13 last season and after going through a grueling rehabilitation process.
“That was my first hit — yes!” Trevathan said. “I felt good, man. I’m looking forward to having more like that and playing lights-out with this defense.”
Athletes returning from torn patellar tendons can require a year or more to feel like themselves. But Trevathan was ready by Week 1 — less than 10 months after he suffered the devastating injury Nov. 27 against the Titans.
“He’s a stud, man,” defensive end Mitch Unrein said.
Trevathan’s resilience impressed teammates. It was inspiring. But after losing linebacker Jerrell Freeman to a torn pectoral muscle, Trevathan’s return also has been a godsend.
How would the Bears’ defense stack up if it lost Freeman and Trevathan still was recovering from his surgery? The Bears see second-year linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski as a future starter, but he can only replace one of them.
“I’ve always believed that they don’t have to see you working for you to work,” Trevathan said. “You know what you put in. What really adds to your character is what you do when you’re not around somebody or somebody’s not watching.
“That’s the type of person I want to be, and I want to make anybody around me not work just because, [but] work because it’s for yourself. Work because it’s going to make you better at something. That was my whole attitude through that surgery: just getting better, getting back and helping my guys out.”
Again, it’s an attitude that his teammates felt. They might not have seen everything that Trevathan was doing during his rehabilitation, but seeing him out there on the practice fields in Bourbonnais when training camp opened was a strong statement.
“He loves this team,” linebacker Christian Jones said. “He did everything he could to get back as fast as he could. It shows what kind of guy he is. He cares. He cares about everybody in this locker room. He cares about his job. He works hard. It’s showing.”
Unrein wasn’t surprised, though. He distinctly remembered how well Trevathan played during the 2015 season for the Broncos despite dislocating his left kneecap a season earlier and requiring surgery. Trevathan had 109 tackles and two interceptions, including a 25-yard pick-six, during that season.
“He’s one of the most resilient guys I’ve ever been around,” said Unrein, who was Trevathan’s teammate for three seasons in Denver before they signed with the Bears.
“He’s been through a lot of adversity, and he’s come back stronger and stronger every single time. . . . He’s already playing at a high level right away. Everyone feeds off that.”
The Bears certainly hope that continues. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio described Trevathan’s Week 1 performance as “fine,” but only because it was his first game action after being held out the entire preseason.
“He worked extremely hard to get it back, so credit to him for coming back smoothly,” Fangio said. “I don’t see any ill effects from the injury.”
To Trevathan, who signed a four-year contract worth $15.5 million guaranteed with the Bears last offseason, it was just the start. He has something to build on. He felt energetic but still thinks his conditioning needs work. He was happy with his performance, but he thought he left plays out on the field.
But just being able to take the field in Week 1 and play with his teammates was a “heartfelt” experience, he said.
“Just prayed about it, and I just worked my tail off,” Trevathan said. “To be out there, it felt good.”
@DarrylConrad: All we hear about is Mitch Trubisky needs time and Mike Glennon’s experience. Then Glennon runs the check-down, ease-the-rookie-in game plan. Explain.
A: Great question. The bulk of Glennon’s completions against the Falcons came on check-downs and on underneath throws against soft coverage. Isn’t Trubisky capable of doing the same? I get it. It’s frustrating for fans who believe Trubisky already is the better quarterback. But it’s a complicated process. The Bears are considering many factors: It was Glennon’s first start since 2015, so an ease-the-rookie-in approach applies to him in a sense, especially being in a new offense. Also, the Bears’ patient approach with Trubisky includes him watching and learning from Glennon’s successes and failures. And the Bears want Trubisky to gain experience through game-week preparations. He’s the No. 2 quarterback and running the scout team.
@KrisArmstrong1: Interesting watching [Leonard] Floyd drop into coverage so often. It diminishes the pass rush. Is this a trend?
A: Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio likes to use Floyd in coverage. It diminishes the rush, but it enhances the coverage. And the rush and coverage work hand-in-hand. Fangio has faith in Akiem Hicks and others to generate a rush. Floyd, meanwhile, is a versatile defender in an era of versatile offensive threats. He can run with tight ends and backs. That said, Floyd’s No. 1 job is getting sacks. Fangio needs him to attack. But certain matchups require Floyd to help in coverage.
Some Chicken Salad
After one week, rookie running back Tarik Cohen has reached buzzworthy status. And over time, that buzz might affect special teams.
Special-teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers has coached those special type of players. He also has schemed against them, citing former Bears great Devin Hester.
“The team feels it,” Rodgers said. “As you start going and you have a good returner back there, there aren’t too many guys sitting on the bench. You look down there, and when there’s a guy back there who’s a good player, they all want to watch, too.”
Players want to be on the field, too. Rodgers pointed to how Bears defensive starters, including cornerback Charles Tillman, blocked for Hester.
‘‘When they feel like you’ve got a chance to score, you’ve got more people trying to get on the field,’’ Rodgers said. ‘‘When there’s a belief, it certainly helps your production.’’
Cohen might fit that bill. His three punt returns for 45 yards against the Falcons were a good start.
“To say that he’s headed for the Pro Bowl or anything, I don’t think anybody saw that, as a returner anyway,” Rodgers said. “But his positive attributes as a player certainly lend well to the return stuff.”
A special process
As a rookie, wide receiver Tanner Gentry finds himself in a familiar situation: learning how to play special teams after rarely playing them in college.
“It’s something that we face every year with every rookie,” Rodgers said. “You start from ground zero, teach them what we’re looking for. You teach them some of the things that they’re going to see. You just try to give enough reps over the course of the preseason that they can be successful because it does pick up in the regular season.”
Gentry, who went undrafted and was promoted to the active roster this week, was the Bears’ best big-play receiver in camp. He has the talent to surpass Josh Bellamy and Deonte Thompson on the depth chart, but being active on game day requires that Gentry have an understanding of certain responsibilities on special teams.
But Rodgers said he has to be mindful of rookies’ inexperience with a “simplified” approach.
“You just let their talent take over,” Rodgers said. “Football’s football. You’re blocking and tackling whether you’re on special teams, offense or defense. And that’s what we’re trying to convince them of.’’
More on Cohen
The praise has poured in for Cohen. Teammates have highlighted just about everything about him.
But one compliment from Bellamy immediately after the Bears’ loss to the Falcons still stands out after a week’s worth of high praise.
“He’s the best athlete on the field at all times,” Bellamy said.
Follow me on Twitter @adamjahns.