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Bears nose tackle Stephen Paea looks to build on strong 2012

Nose tackle Stephen Paeis looking build 21⁄2 sacks 30 tackles he had 2012. | Sun-Times MediLibrary

Nose tackle Stephen Paea is looking to build on the 21⁄2 sacks and 30 tackles he had in 2012. | Sun-Times Media Library

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Updated: August 4, 2013 11:36PM

BOURBONNAIS — Nose tackle Stephen Paea is as big as he has been. He has added five to seven pounds of muscle and is hovering around 297 pounds.

‘‘It’s just how your body feels, and for this system you don’t have to weigh that much,’’ Paea said.
‘‘But I feel comfortable in that weight, and I’m fine with it.’’

Paea, a second-round pick in 2011, had a breakout season in 2012, starting 14 games, notching 21/2 sacks and making 30 tackles. Nose tackle can be a thankless position, but Paea embraces his role and said he feels ready to have an even better season next to Pro Bowler Henry Melton.

‘‘It’s just being comfortable in our system,’’ Paea said. ‘‘This is my third year in the same system.’’

Paea has had a strong camp, too. He has been virtually unstoppable in one-on-one drills, and his goal is to see more time on passing downs. Defensive end Corey Wootton has moved inside in the Bears’ nickel package, similar to Israel Idonije in the past.

‘‘Like [defensive coordinator] Mel Tucker says, whoever can rush will get in the nickel package,’’ Paea said. ‘‘I feel like Corey had [seven] sacks or something like that last year, and he deserves to be in that nickel page. But we’re just out there competing. Everyone is competing.’’

Wootton matters

Coach Marc Trestman was encouraged by Wootton’s limited participation in practice Saturday, but the Bears definitely will be cautious with his hip injury.

Wootton said he’d like to play in the Bears’ preseason opener Friday, but he’s still feeling some discomfort.

‘‘It will be day-to-day,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘It was good to see him out here taped up. . . . We’ve got the day off [Sunday], and we don’t practice until Monday afternoon. We’ll see where he is after a couple of days of treatment.’’

A place for Pope

Trestman said this will be a big week for new tight end Leonard Pope, an eight-year veteran.

‘‘He had a good workout for us [last week],’’ Trestman said. ‘‘He’s just getting started. It will be a big week for him as he grows in our offense and gets to know our locker room.’’

Pope is appreciative of the opportunity after a long wait in free agency.

‘‘We’ve got a great set of guys with Martellus [Bennett] and Steve Maneri and those type of caliber guys,’’ Pope said. ‘‘[Tight ends coach Andy] Bischoff is a great coach, and I’m just happy to be around all them.’’

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