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Rehabbing Bears DT Nate Collins does know squat

Chicago Bears defensive tackle Nate Collins (93) celebrates with outside linebacker Lance Briggs (55) defensive end SheMcClell(99) after sacking New

Chicago Bears defensive tackle Nate Collins (93) celebrates with outside linebacker Lance Briggs (55) and defensive end Shea McClellin (99) after sacking New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 6, 2013, in Chicago.(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

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Updated: April 19, 2014 6:22AM



Everything about the process of doing squats felt great to defensive tackle Nate Collins — the weight on his back, the bend of his knees, the upward extension of his legs.

And, of course, the confidence he gained from it.

“I feel like I have my confidence back and that’s the biggest thing … to rehabbing effectively,” Collins said. “Lately, I’ve been up there pretty heavy in weight.”

Recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament can be a gradual, frustrating process. While his teammates were down in Florida playing paintball, boating, posting group selfies on social media and training last week, Collins toiled away at Halas Hall.

Those efforts will furiously continue. The Bears need him to be a viable part of their defensive line in 2014, especially if Henry Melton leaves in free agency.

“The last thing I want to do is be too selfish or too anxious to get back out there and not be ready for everything that really counts,” Collins said.

The Bears have faith in Collins, who tore his left ACL in Week 5 against the Saints. Collins, 26, signed a one-year deal worth $730,001. The extra dollar is important. It means it’s not a minimum deal, which allows the Bears to re-sign him before free agency opens if they have the available salary cap room.

It’s also a sign that the Bears see potential in Collins, who played very well in place of an injured Melton (torn ACL) last season. Collins was actually having his best game against the Saints, getting a sack and two tackles before the tear.

“They want to make sure I can get through a season healthy and this injury isn’t going to slow me down,” Collins said. “I just have to go through this rehab and show that I’m going to come back better, and next year around this time, there will be different types of contract talks.”

Collins sees the Bears as “a good spot,” which is part of the reason why he signed two days before free agency opened. He values his role in defensive coordinator Mel Tucker’s defense.

“I feel like a lot of guys in the league, they might be good players but they might be better in certain spots,” Collins said. “I feel like I fit in perfectly for their mold of how they want guys to get the job done.”

The Bears definitely value Collins’ ability to handle either nose or three-technique tackle.

“The more you can do, the more you can help,” Collins said.

The defensive line will feature new faces — ends Lamarr Houston and Willie tackle Jeremiah Ratliff is signed from the get-go — and may include an old one if Israel Idonije’s free-agent visit goes well Tuesday.

Collins said the Bears couldn’t remain stagnant after what transpired in 2013. He’s just eager to be part of what they believe will be a significant turnaround.

“We took a step back on defense,” Collins said. “We want to get back to the old Chicago defense like everyone is used to.”

For Collins, that starts with getting healthy.

“I know for a fact that I’ll be ready for camp,” Collins said.

“Rehab is going great. I’m taking it in big strides right now.”

Email: ajahns@suntimes.com

Twitter: @adamjahns



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