It’s hard to miss Tremaine Edmunds.
Even if he is nearly 100 yards away in the opposite end zone, the 6-foot-5, 250-pound linebacker clearly stands out. But he nearly turned invisible on a play in the red zone during the Chicago Bears’ second OTA practice on Tuesday.
Quarterback PJ Walker was trying to lead his unit to a scoring drive in a two-minute drill. Walker fired a pass over the middle of the field and, to his surprise, Edmunds intercepted the pass and immediately started running towards the opposite end zone. His defensive teammates followed behind the new Bears middle linebacker and they all posed for the imaginary cameras.
“Yeah, just trusting what I saw,” Edmunds said about his interception. “Coach got a good call and I was able to make a play on the ball. Everybody was pretty much doing their assignment and I was able to make a play.”
Now a few months removed from Edmunds signing his four-year, $72 million deal with the Bears, the picture is crystal clear that adding Edmunds to the middle of this Bears defense was the right move for the organization.
It’s not only what Edmunds is capable of doing on the field, but how he interacts with his teammates on and off it. He was drafted in 2018, but is still only 25 years old, and how he carries himself is well beyond his years and it’s already resonating with coach Matt Eberflus.
“He really takes command in the defensive room and he gives great suggestions and he’s very smart,” Eberflus said. “Obviously he has the size and the range and the speed and all those things that he has physically. But I would just say the leadership.”
The Bears lost their leader on defense when general manager Ryan Poles traded Roquan Smith to the Ravens. Even though there was still some veteran leadership in Eddie Jackson, Justin Jones and Jaylon Johnson, the void still needed to be filled.
And for the Bears organization, who has always had a strong legacy at linebacker, it’s fitting that they have a leader and impact player at that MIKE linebacker position, again.
Edmunds didn’t just become a leader overnight. His five seasons in Buffalo helped him to better understand his teammates and what it takes to be a successful leader.
“Each year, I’ve continued to learn about more and more, every year and every step,” Edmunds said. “I think that’s what leadership is. I’m not the type of guy – you don’t know everything. You got to learn from other guys. You got to see different ways guys want to be led. Not in particular want to be led by see different ways of how they learn. Some guys learn different from other guys. Part of being a leader is you have to see that from your teammates.”
In Buffalo, Edmunds made it two Pro Bowls while totaling 565 tackles, 6.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and five interceptions in five seasons. Also, in that span, Edmunds played in eight playoff games — something that is unfamiliar to a good portion of this Bears roster.
Last season, the Bears’ defense finished last at sacking the quarterback and were ranked 31st at stopping the run. A lot different from the Bills caliber of defense that Edmunds grew accustomed to playing in since he entered the league.
Still, Edmunds is excited about his potential in this Bears defense, and understands that the playoff games and the success he has experienced, individually and as a team, will be a gradual process.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day. I told somebody that today,” Edmunds said. “There’s going to be mistakes that have to be corrected, that’s what this time is for. It’s not about going out there and being perfect from Day 1 or Day 2, each day we have to continue to build. It’s like a journey. We have to keep taking that journey because at the end of the day once we fulfill the dreams that we have and the goals we set forth to ourselves, it’s going to feel a lot better just knowing where we started from. I’m excited about it, I know the guys are excited. We are just building each and every day.”