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Florida DT Dominique Easley has first-round talent, but injuries make teams wary

NEW ORLEANS LA - JANUARY 02:  Dominique Easley #2 FloridGators celebrates after sacking Teddy Bridgewater #5 Louisville Cardinals first

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 02: Dominique Easley #2 of the Florida Gators celebrates after sacking Teddy Bridgewater #5 of the Louisville Cardinals in the first quarter of the Allstate Sugar Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 2, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Dominique Easley

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Updated: May 3, 2014 5:00PM



Florida defensive tackle Dominique Easley took a break from moving up the draft board to move.

He left his apartment this week and said he did some of the work himself.

“I’m picky about my stuff,” Easley said.

His right knee is healthy enough to do so.

After saying his surgically repaired anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus were around “80 percent” after his pro day April 17, Easley adjusted those numbers to “85 to 90 percent” this week. He could be well enough to participate in spring minicamps.

That’s good news for the Bears if they decide to draft a safety or linebacker in the first round.

The 6-2, 288-pound Easley, who has first-round skills, could be available in the second round.

Ideally, he’s a three-technique tackle in a 4-3 system — a position the Bears are desperate to fill, be they fortunate enough to land Aaron Donald in the first round or someone else on the second day.

“A lot of teams want me as that under tackle,” he said, “just disruption, that’s the main thing, and the ability to change direction.”

Easley tore up his right knee during a non-contact drill three games into last season, two years after tearing the ACL in his left knee 12 games into the season.

In four college years, Easley had 72 tackles, 51/2 sacks and 18 tackles for loss.

“I did like him a lot before the injury,” ESPN analyst Jon Gruden said. “For a 4-3 defense, if you’re looking for an under tackle, a run defender, an all-around inside presence . . . I think Easley is a very good prospect.

“I thought he was certainly a top-50 player in this draft before the injury.”

The Bears own the 51st pick.

Picking a rehabbing player is “a tricky slope,” general manager Phil Emery said Thursday.

“There are a number of players we like that are rehabbing from injuries, so it’ll be, where we’re at in the draft and who else is on the board,” he said.

“My preference would be not to. But if we did, it would be because we felt like, through consulting with our physicians, our team doctors, that player would be ready to go this fall.”

Easley said this year’s injury was tough but became a “blessing” because he knew what the proper steps for recovery looked like.

“Look at how I came off the last ACL,” he said. “That all speaks for itself.

“I’m coming off even better.”

The Bears wanted to see Easley last month, so they sent a traveling party that included defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni to his Gainesville, Fla., workout.

Easley called the former Syracuse and Connecticut coach “a good guy” who “knows where I’m from” after recruiting in Staten Island, N.Y.

Easley grew up loving basketball and track and didn’t play football until his freshman year in high school. He didn’t take it seriously until two years after that.

“At my pro day,” he said, “I wanted to show them that I’m still able to move and bend and change directions real good.

“In interviews, I’m trying to show them who I am as a person.”

Next week, he’ll start to show one team who he is as a player, too.

“I can’t wait for the date to come,” he said. “It’s exciting for me to get back on the field.”

Easley plans to watch the draft lying around the house with his 1½-year-old son, Dominique II.

“I’m not into that whole party stuff,” he said, knowing, nonetheless, that he could have much to celebrate.

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com

Twitter: @patrickfinley



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