Bears

Bears: NFL may be a breeze for Fabuluje after life struggles

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Bears: NFL may be a breeze for Fabuluje after life struggles

Tayo Fabuluje got the call of a lifetime on Saturday when Bears coach John Fox informed the TCU tackle that the Bears had selected him with their sixth-round pick, the 183rd overall. Recounting the moment afterwards, the emotion was right there in his voice and the words came out in a torrent:

“It's a dream come true,” said Fabuluje, a 6-7, 353-pound lineman who’d attended TCU and BYU in addition to sitting out all of 2013 working three jobs to help his family. “I broke down into tears when I heard the news. It's a day at one point I didn't see coming. I didn't think it could happen for me, when bad things are going on in my life.

“Like I've told people before, you kind of lose sight of the good things in life when you're down and you're struggling and you're trying to dig yourself out of a hole. Being in a top-flight position today, being a Chicago Bear is just a dream come true. I don't think anybody could write this up. This is something that is God-given and it's just a blessing and amazing. I don't have words that can explain how I feel today. I'm just truly blessed and thankful for the Chicago Bears organization and all the good people that have been around me and helped me get here to where I am today.”

[MORE: Bears address safety with Penn State's Adrian Amos]

That Fabuluje, born in Nigeria and brought to the United States as a youngster, was able to have this day perhaps speaks to a “character” level not many can reach.

Fabuluje was 5 when his father was deported back to Nigeria after being implicated in a truck-theft ring. The son rarely has contact with the father now.

The father had been the family provider and Fabuluje’s mother Debra had not worked before the deportation. She struggled to make ends meet but did it by engaging in petty theft, to the point where she was sent away to prison in 2012 and is still incarcerated.

“She never worked and my dad provided everything,” Fabuluje said. “When he was taken out of our lives she was like a deer in the headlights. She didn’t know what to do and she got around some bad people who steered her down the wrong path. Everything she’s ever done was to only help her family succeed. That’s why she’s doing time.”

Fabuluje, who redshirted at BYU in 2010, transferred to TCU in 2011 but had to sit out because of transfer rules. He started 12 games in 2012 but had to quit football in 2013 and worked three jobs to help his sister Tosin.

“I worked those three jobs because I knew I had to help out to support my sister, who was in a hard time with my mom going away to have to do some time and all that type of stuff,” Fabuluje said. “She had trouble finding work, so I had to do that to keep my family afloat.”

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After the year away from football, during which he moved back to Utah to live with friends, Fabuluje returned to TCU for the 2014 season, started 12 games and was an All-Big 12 second team selection.

Good enough for that call Saturday.

“They were telling me that one of the first things they're going to do when I get there is going to throw me on the scale, and we all got a good laugh out of that,” said Fabuluje, who changed his eating habits and has his weight down from 360 into the 330’s. “I'm not worried about it. I've got my weight in check. I'm just ecstatic and ready to get started."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Can the Bears pull off an upset at home against Tom Brady and the Patriots?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Can the Bears pull off an upset at home against Tom Brady and the Patriots?

Chris Emma, Matt Zahn and Gabe Ramirez join David Kaplan on the panel.

0:00- NBC Sports National NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh joins the panel to discuss the Bulls’ terrible defensive performance as well as Zach LaVine’s impressive season debut.

11:35- Khalil Mack is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Patriots. Can the Bears pull off the upset against Tom Brady?

23:50- NBC Sports Boston Patriots insider Tom E. Curran joins Kap to talk about how New England views the Bears and discuss how Matt Nagy’s team can exploit the Patriots’ weaknesses.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below.

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Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday with Tom Brady, Patriots looming

Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday with Tom Brady, Patriots looming

Khalil Mack appears in line to play Sunday with Tom Brady, Patriots looming

Khalil Mack participated in the Bears’ final practice of the week on Friday, clearing the way for the edge rusher to play Sunday against the New England Patriots. 

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported earlier Friday that the Bears expected Mack, who hasn’t missed a game in his career, to play after suffering an ankle injury early in Week 6’s 31-28 loss to the Miami Dolphins. Mack is officially questionable for Sunday’s game at Soldier Field. 

Mack had little interest in discussing his ankle with the media on Friday, passing on answering questions about his readiness for New England. Coach Matt Nagy, though, said he thought Mack “looked pretty good” during practice on Friday. 

Mack didn’t record a sack against Miami and was held to just one pressure, per Pro Football Focus. The Dolphins’ gameplan was to commit plenty of resources to stopping Mack, but he wasn’t effective even when he had one-on-one pass rushing opportunities as the game went on. 

“He was (affected),” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “I can't put a percentage on it, but he definitely was.”

Having Mack available — even if he’s not full strength — will be critical for the Bears’ defense to have a chance at keeping Tom Brady from lighting up the scoreboard. The key for the Bears will be to generate pressure on the 41-year-old quarterback without blitzing, which is something Fangio’s defense was successful at prior to Sunday’s wacky loss to the Dolphins. 

Brady’s passer rating is 138.4 when he’s blitzed, per Pro Football Focus, while when under pressure his rating is 87.2. That’s still pretty good, but it’s worth noting that all of the six interceptions he’s thrown this year have come when he hasn’t been blitzed. And only one of the eight sacks he’s taken has come when he’s been blitzed. 

The point being: If the Bears feel like they have to start blitzing to generate pressure, they can expect Brady to pick them apart.  

“You could say all of that but ultimately (Brady’s) a gamer,” Mack said. “He’s going to take those hits, and you gotta be able to deliver them but also have coverage over the top. It’s going to be real important for us.” 

The good news for the Bears, perhaps, is that New England’s tackles have struggled at times this year. Left tackle Trent Brown has allowed 17 pressures in 234 pass blocking snaps, per Pro Football Focus (about one in every 14 snaps). And starting right tackle Marcus Cannon is out with a concussion, giving way for backup La’Adrian Waddle, who’s allowed eight pressures in 78 pass blocking snaps (about one in every 10). 

So the opportunities will be there for Mack, Leonard Floyd, Akiem Hicks and the Bears’ pass rush to affect Brady on Sunday.

A bigger injury concern?

While cornerback Prince Amukamara (hamstring) was a full participant in Friday’s practice and will play Sunday, slot corner Bryce Callahan suffered an ankle injury during Thursday’s practice and did not participate Friday. He’s officially questionable for Sunday. 

Callahan “did his ankle,” Nagy said, toward the end of Thursday’s practice, and he felt worse as the day went on. Nagy characterized Callahan’s absence from Friday’s practice as “precautionary.”

Callahan’s availability may be more of a pressing concern than Mack’s, given how well the Patriots’ offense has played since slot receiver Julian Edelman returned from a four-game suspension to begin the season. While his numbers aren’t eye-popping (11 catches on 16 targets, 111 yards, 1 TD), New England’s offense has scored 38 and 43 points in his two games back. 

“Brady has always had a guy in the slot that he’s comfortable with; whether it be (Wes) Welker, (Danny) Amendola or Edelman,” Fangio said. “It’s a big part of their offense. They haven’t missed a beat, but I really think it’s helped their offense and played a big part in them basically averaging 40 points in the last three weeks. I really appreciate and respect how good of a player he is and has been.”

If Callahan isn’t available, Sherrick McManis could be the next man up at slot corner.