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DT Nate Collins makes an impact in his first game action with the Bears

WashingtRedskins v Chicago Bears

Washington Redskins v Chicago Bears

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Updated: December 4, 2012 6:16AM

Nate Collins, who has appeared in 14 career NFL games, could barely control his emotions Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.

“It’s funny, I was overly excited.’’ said Collins, a defensive tackle. ‘‘At one point, I had to tell myself to calm down because I felt I was going to make myself pass out. I was so juiced to play.”

Collins had a rough offseason, drawing a one-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. He was inactive for the next five games, before getting his first chance to play last Sunday.

In 35 snaps, Collins had five tackles and four quarterback pressures.

“Nate was killing it. He played well,” Bears starting defensive tackle Henry Melton said. “

Bears defensive line coach Mike Phair said that coach Lovie Smith tells players that how they practice will determine if they play.

“That’s the mindset coach Smith has,” Phair said, “so everyone is just fighting to get reps.”

Added Smith, “We think he’s a pretty good player.

“Deserved an opportunity to get that uniform, and he did some good things in the game.”

Collins didn’t get much interest when he was a free agent.

“I feel the suspension might have been a huge part. It’s one of those things, some organizations don’t want to deal with different problems and don’t want to give guys second chances,” he said. “That’s life.”

He just wanted to get into a training camp and get some preseason game tape. But he stood out at training camp, and beat out Brian Price, whom the Bears traded a seventh-round draft pick to get from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

And even though he hasn’t played, Collins said he hasn’t been frustrated.

“I was very excited,” he said. “I love this defense. I feel it’s a great defense. The coaches and players are all top notch.”

Collins, though, is grateful that he was able to play Sunday and prove himself in a game and not just in practice.

“It’s something great to be a part of. It’s to the point where, everyone wants to not feel left out,” he said. “I just want to be a part of what we got special going on here.”

Collins may get a chance to keep his momentum and be active again. But he said his mindset won’t change.

“I just go hard in practice, and my biggest thing is, it just helps you get ready for games,” he said. “You just never know what’s going to happen. A guy could wake up sick on game day.

“The worst thing you can do is miss out on an opportunity because, in your head you say, ‘Oh, I’m not going to play this week.’ You just want to be ready.”

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