Bears defensive tackle Stephen Paea gained valuable NFL experience last season as a rookie, but that’s not the only reason he feels like a much better player in training camp.
After undergoing offseason surgery on a knee that bothered him all of last season, Paea is finally healthy. He’s now able to push off his leg and utilize his tremendous strength and power.
“The difference is I can hold double teams this year even better than before,” Paea said. “I can take those. Even though I’m only at 285, 290, I can play like I’m 315, holding that double team, and be able to bull rush and be able to change direction during a pass and all that.”
Paea hurt his knee while practicing at the Senior Bowl, but that didn’t deter the Bears from trading up nine spots in the second round of the draft to select the Oregon State product.
Inactive the first five games of the season, Paea recorded a safety on his second NFL snap when he sacked Donovan McNabb in the end zone in a win over the Vikings. Paea finished his rookie season with 18 tackles, two sacks and two tackles-for-loss. But he never felt like completely healthy.
“I just got to rehab my knee almost every week getting ready for practice, and when it came to game time I was tired from practice,” Paea said. “But this year there shouldn’t be any excuses. I can do everything now. So let’s just say it’s 100 percent right now. I’m feeling pretty good about it, very confident, and just can’t wait to go.”
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