Shea McClellin wins the award for “body transformation” of the 2014 Bears offseason, but there’s another linebacker with a new number who looked a bit different at OTAs and minicamp: Khaseem Greene.
The second-year ‘Will’ linebacker “came into camp a bit heavy” last summer, Phil Emery said during the season. Greene, who measured in at 241 pounds at the Combine, started four games last season in Lance Briggs’ absence. He had 28 tackles, and an interception against Minnesota, but, like fellow rookie Jon Bostic and the rest of the defense, struggled.
Looking to make that “second year leap,” Greene slimmed down in the offseason, working out in Cincinnati with trainer Clif Marshall and NFL players Luke Kuechly, Rey Maualuga and Mohamed Sanu. He also was in Florida with Brandon Marshall and other Bears teammates.
“I think the biggest thing for me was just my nutrition, watching what I put into my body and getting to a weight where I really want to be at and feel real comfortable at, which allowed me to fly around and move a little differently than I did last year,” Greene said as minicamp wrapped up at Halas Hall last week.
Greene has worked as the second-team weak-side linebacker behind Lance Briggs. “I like to play behind Lance,” he said, “He’s taught me a lot, showed me some things.” Greene will also work to solidify his roster spot by participating on special teams.
In addition to getting his nutrition in check, Greene had an on-field trait he focused on during the offseason to improve at linebacker and on the coverage teams.
“My big thing was working with Clif on explosion,” he said. “Those type of little things that you don’t get to work on every day.”
Greene said he has an ideal goal weight to reach for the season, though he wouldn’t disclose it. He’s not going to be in the Bourbonnais conversation at linebacker that will involve McClellin, Bostic and D.J. Williams, but a quicker, more lean Greene helps the defense.
“You’ve got a young Khaseem that is running quicker, faster than he ever has before at practice,” linebackers coach Reggie Herring said. “He’s lost some weight and he’s starting to look like the guy that they drafted two years ago as far as movement skills. He’s having success.”
Greene agreed with his position coach that he is getting back to the physique he showed off at Rutgers, where he was a two-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year.
As a rookie, though, times were tough for Greene, whose Pro Football Focus grade was -9.6. He sounds like a player with a chip on his shoulder heading into training camp
“This offseason has been really good for me because I’m comfortable now with the scheme, what’s going on with the defense and also with myself, knowing that I belong here,” he said. “It’s pretty much now or never. It’s time to show everyone else I belong here and silence any doubt, or anything that goes on that I don’t know about or that I’m pretty sure I can imagine is going on, because it’s always going to happen.
“Just being able to run around my teammates and show those guys I can be accountable to them as well, it’s been pretty fun.”
Assuming Greene makes the 53-man roster, Week One against the Bills will have special meaning for him. Greene changed his number to 52 to honor his former Rutgers teammate, Eric LeGrand, who was paralyzed on the field in October 2010 and has been an inspiration to many in his recovery.
“I can’t really put it into words. The fact that I’m blessed enough to be in this position and I get to honor one of my closest friends in such a way is an honor itself,” Greene said. “I can’t even tell you how it’s going to be that first game, but it’s going to be special.”