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Christian Tupou played rugby to stay in shape until Bears called

OaklRaiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor (2) throws as Chicago Bears inside linebacker JBostic (57) defensive tackle Christian Tupou (64) defensive tackle

Oakland Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor (2) throws as Chicago Bears inside linebacker Jon Bostic (57), defensive tackle Christian Tupou (64), and defensive tackle Zach Minter (76) apply pressure during the third quarter of an NFL preseason football game in Oakland, Calif., Friday, Aug. 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

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On Tuesdays and Thursdays around 4 p.m., Bears defensive tackle Christian Tupou would meet a few dozen guys at Natomas Park in Sacramento, Calif.

They would play Tupou’s first love — rugby — until dark.

‘‘The training from rugby is nonstop running,’’ said Tupou, who grew up with the sport central to his Tongan heritage. ‘‘It’s really good, substituting a lot from running football shuttles. I’m practicing a sport. Better than sitting and running circles for 21/2 months.’’

Tupou moved back to Sacramento when the Bears waived him Aug. 30. While waiting for an NFL phone call, the 6-2, 290-pounder from USC lifted weights three days a week and played pickup rugby. He manned the eighth position, the forward at the rear of the pack.

‘‘There are no pads, so you have to know how to hit,’’ he said.

Until the Bears re-signed him Oct. 8, Tupou didn’t know when his next football opportunity would come.

‘‘Especially in this line of work, you have to expect the unexpected,’’ he said. ‘‘That was my mind-set. . . . It’s definitely in the back of my head, but I have so much invested in my life, I’m not going to give up after being let go once.’’

The Bears activated him from the practice squad for their game against the New York Giants. With Henry Melton and Nate Collins out for the season and Stephen Paea having missed the last two games with turf toe, Tupou is likely an insurance policy. But he’s back in the league after staying in shape.

‘‘That should be the mind-set of
everybody in this line of work,’’ he said. ‘‘You shouldn’t give it up if we’re not getting a call in one month. Or two.’’

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com

Twitter: @patrickfinley



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