When Geno Hayes signed a one-year contract with the Bears in April, the veteran linebacker knew that he’d be assigned a different jersey number than the one he wore with the Buccaneers.
But even though Hayes is no longer wearing No. 54—that number apparently was already taken by one of his new teammates—he feels comfortable in a Bears defense that’s similar to the system he was part of in Tampa.
“It’s a great fit,” Hayes said. “They’ve still got that old-school Tampa 2 kind of scheme and I love it.”
Hayes was selected by the Buccaneers in the sixth round of the 2008 draft out of Florida State. He appeared in 56 games with 42 starts in four seasons with Tampa Bay, recording 334 tackles, 36 tackles-for-loss, seven sacks, four interceptions, 16 pass breakups, four forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
After playing in nine games primarily on special teams as a rookie, Hayes became the Buccaneers’ starting weakside linebacker in 2009, replacing 11-time Pro Bowler Derrick Brooks. Last season Hayes started 13 of 16 games played, registering 86 tackles, seven tackles-for-loss, one interception and two forced fumbles.
A valuable backup, Hayes can play either outside linebacker position. With middle linebacker Brian Urlacher sidelined the past few days with knee soreness, Hayes has worked with the No. 1 defense at the strongside position in place of Nick Roach, who has slid inside to replace Urlacher.
“I’m here to help the team in any way, shape or form,” Hayes said. “If they want me to come in and play special teams, I’ll play special teams. If anybody goes down, I’d be the guy to step up and help out. I’m here to help the team any way.”
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