BOURBONNAIS, Ill. When youre 6-6 and 265 pounds, its hard to be overlooked in polite society. But the NFL is not polite society and Israel Idonije is being overlooked.
For the past two seasons hes been the other end from Julius Peppers on the Bears defensive line. Now hes bordering on forgotten man status with the first-round drafting of Shea McClellin, whose ability to rush the passer will be the most watched element of training camp outside of the play of the tackles assigned to block him and others.
The prospect of an organization investing its highest draft choice in your position is never a totally good thing for job security. But Idonije has seen it before and takes absolutely zero professional offense at the move.
Its 10 years now and every year theyve brought in someone, Idonije told CSNChicago.com, laughing Its just part of the business.
Its not personal. And yet, it is so completely personal in every way.
Its business and you cant take it personally, he explains. And thats tough to do because the game is personal and you put all your heart and your soul into being able to perform. Youre in the gym, lifting, working, and youre successful because you do take it very personally. You carry that and your job very personally.
So when things happen, you have to make the situation be that youre not going to let that affect your focus or production. Then it becomes self-defeating.
Idonije, who signed a one-year contract this offseason to remain a Bear, does not defeat easily.
His work through his Israel Idonije Foundation has aided thousands in Africa with medical aid while navigating the difficult regulations and hurdles involved. He has helped childrens education through the Foundations IZZYz KIDz program.
Idonije in fact has had near-annual opportunities to be self-defeated by efforts of the Bears to address their pass rush.
He was one of those efforts himself, coming in 2003 to the practice squad and earning his way onto the regular roster in 2004 primarily through his play on special teams.
In that span he has seen the Bears draft and import ends ranging from Claude Harriott and Adewale Ogunleye (2004) to Mark Anderson (2006) to Dan Bazuin (2007) to Henry Melton (2009) to Corey Wootton (2010) to Mario Addison and Nick Reed (2011)
Thats just the way of the NFL.
Ultimately to be a successful team, it has to be that way, Idonije said. You have to bring in younger guys who are going to carry on the tradition and culture of your team. All you can do is continue to work hard and focus on yourself. You cant focus on the situation, just get a little bit better and continue to grow.
The best thing for the Bears will be for Idonije to play with the impact that he did when he finally locked down a starting job in 2010 and produced eight sacks, followed by five last season.
That will mean a raised bar for McClellin to clear for playing time. Because regardless of his No. 1 draft status, McClellin is being given nothing by a team with designs on a Super Bowl.
Shea's going to have to earn everything he does on the field, said GM Phil Emery. That's his place. Could he be a starter? Possibly. He'd have to beat Izzy out. Could that be as a role player? Possibly, but he'd have to earn that.