LAKE FOREST – There are stories like this one all over the National Football League when a season begins, and the Bears have two of them.
Jason Peters was brought in after training camp started to help the team fill their open spot at left tackle when back issues eventually forced second round pick Tevin Jenkins to get surgery. As one of the key concerns for the team heading into the 2021 season, the 39-year old’s arrival in Lake Forest was one of the stories of training camp for the team.
But at the same time, another player who was on the outside of the NFL looking in to start training camp is continuing quite a story of his own with the Bears.
Alec Ogletree, a former first round pick who was a second-team NFL All-Pro with the Rams in 2016, signed with the Bears on August 4th. He started 13 games with the Giants in 2019 but was released after the season, and only saw two games of action with the Jets before being cut last October.
But with strong showings in practice and then in two preseason games, Ogletree locked up a spot on the squad. Then with Danny Trevathan going on the IR with a knee injury, the middle linebacker is now a starter as the Bears head to California to face the Rams on Sunday night in their season opener.
“It’s been a journey for sure,” said Ogletree of the last month. “I’ve been blessed enough to make it into my ninth year in this league. It hasn’t all been smooth, for sure, but I am here now, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to be here and get a chance to play.”
Ogletree did that a lot in the first seven years of his career after being taken 30th overall out of Georgia in the 2013 NFL Draft. In that time, he played in at least 13 games in six of those seasons, and would have done so in 2015 had it not been for a leg injury that limited him to just four games.
In 2016, Ogletree returned to make a career-high 136 tackles including nine for loss with 11 pass deflections that earned him a second-team All-Pro selection.
The linebacker was traded to the Giants in 2018 and started 26 games for the team, and even recorded three interceptions against the Bears in a pair of games. But opportunities were scarce after the 2019 season and remained that way until Chicago called in early August.
“I had been training to get ready to play and stuff and hopefully get a call,” said Ogletree. “It definitely came out of the blue, I didn’t think anything of it when I was up here visiting and stuff. Like I said, they called my agent, he asked me where I was at and I was like ‘We’ll I’m in Chicago.’ He was like “Well, don’t leave, they want to sign you.’
“It was definitely perfect timing, I guess I would say. Things are aligning properly, I feel like, for me and my family and stuff.”
Things worked out perfectly for the Bears, too, as Ogletree filled in well when Trevathan was dealing with his knee injury. After making a few standout plays in training camp practices, including a few interceptions, the linebacker recorded seven combined tackles in preseason games against the Dolphins than Bills. In the contest against Miami, he also had a tackle for loss along with a pass deflection
Now he’ll lineup alongside Roquan Smith against his former team on Sunday, getting an unforeseen chance to take the field in Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season.
“I just try to cherish the opportunity to be in this league, because I was on the outside looking in,” said Ogletree. “I’ve seen a lot of guys struggle on the outside, and for me to have an opportunity to come back into this league and play and do what I love to do, I just try to take it day-to-day and just enjoy the moment of being here with the guys and being able to do what I love.”