LAKE FOREST – The instincts, Shea McClellin insists, are there.
But the work that remains before the former first-round draft pick considers himself a full-blown linebacker after spending his first two years with the Bears at defensive end, McClellin understands, is fairly obvious.
McClellin spent the first day of OTAs moving between the "Sam" and "Mike" linebacker slots, getting his first on-field taste of what his career will now look like. The opening day of drills continues a transformation that not only includes where McClellin plays, but also how he looks doing it.
McClellin's personal trainer Scot Prohaska tweeted photos last month, highlighting a physical change that has included McClellin dropping 11 pounds (from 263 to 252) and eight percent body fat (from 18 percent to 10). McClellin said Tuesday that the Bears have set his target weight at between 245-250 pounds.
With the physical change almost complete, the rest will take place in the linebackers meeting room and on the field. While Tuesday demonstrated there's still plenty to be put into practice, McClellin – who made 10 starts at defensive end and registered four sacks last year – said the move to linebacker puts him at a position that is a "natural fit."
"I think (playing linebacker) is what I should be doing and I'm very excited about it," he said. "As a player, you're going to do what they tell you to and I was fine with playing (defensive) end. They wanted me to rush the passer and I think that's one of my best strengths and so I was fine with it."
But immediately after last season ended, McClellin was informed that the Bears planned to move him to linebacker – a position he hadn't played full-time since high school. He immediately began to work on the transition, making both physical and mental adjustments that would make the move smooth.
He got into the playbook and looked to linebacker Lance Briggs for assistance, looking for any help that could aid him in the adjustment. Although he remains a work in progress, his teammates sense that the move could be the right one for McClellin.
"He's an athlete, he's an athletic linebacker," Briggs said Tuesday. "And athletic linebackers can play in this league."
After two seasons that he admitted "weren't the best", McClellin believes a fresh start at linebacker could be positive. There will be adjustments to be sure, going from moving forward to playing more upward and lateral. Asked what specifically he has to work on, McClellin answered with a quick response.
"A lot," he said. "It's not just one or two things. It's a lot."
While McClellin is fully prepared to make the jump to linebacker, at least one of his teammates admitted Tuesday that the transition McClellin finds himself in the midst of isn't one everyone could make.
"The cool part is that he's athletic enough to do it," defensive end Jared Allen said. "It's one of those things where the more things you can do in this league, the longer you'll be around. Obviously, they feel he has worth coming back off the edge.
"But for me, if I had to move to linebacker, I'd be cut. It's not happening. I'm a one position type of guy."