If you’re contemplating the best story of the Bears’ 2021 training camp it has to be inside linebacker Alec Ogletree.
Thursday I asked him to capsulize the emotional and physical roller coaster ride he’s taken over the last four weeks.
“It’s been a journey, for sure,” he said. “I’ve been blessed and it hasn’t all been smooth, for sure, but I am here now, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to be here and get a chance to play. I had been training to be ready to play and hopefully get a call, but when the call came, it definitely came out of the blue.
“I didn’t think anything of it when I was up here visiting (Robert Quinn). They (Bears) called my agent, he asked me where I was at, and he was like, ‘Well, don’t leave. They want to sign you.’
“I just try to cherish the opportunity to be in this league because I was on the outside looking in, and you see a lot of guys that struggle on the outside. To come back into this league and play and do what I love to do, I just try to take it day by day and enjoy the moment of being here with the guys.”
This is a winding tale involving a number of Bears players and coincidences.
Two years after drafting Quinn in the first round, the Rams used their first rounder on Ogletree, beginning a close friendship between the two and a sterling NFL career for both.
Halfway through the final year of his rookie deal, the Rams gave Ogletree a $42.75 million extension including $21.3 million guaranteed.
Then shockingly, the Rams, facing a salary cap squeeze, dealt Ogletree to the Giants six months later.
The signature moment of his 2018 season came Week 13 with two interceptions, including a pick-six off Chase Daniel in an overtime upset of the Bears.
After the 2019 campaign, the second in a row in which he played just 13 games, the Giants, facing a complete rebuild, released Ogletree.
On the street as the pandemic roared across the country, he was unable to find work, but the Rams, unable to adequately replace Ogletree after he was dealt, signed Bears free agent linebacker Leonard Floyd.
Ogletree had a cup of coffee with the Jets to start 2020, but by Oct. 10 he was out of the league. It seemed possible, if not likely, his career was over.
Then came that shocking call at Quinn’s house.
What nobody saw coming next was Ogletree picking off six passes in his first four Bears practices. How did he do it after almost a year away from the game?
“I’m wiser,” Ogletree said. “I’ve seen a lot of coverages, a lot of defenses, played in pretty much anything. So I kind of know how things work and stuff like that.”
That feels like a bit of an understatement now, doesn’t it?
Still, Ogletree was left on pins and needles just like the lowest of undrafted rookie free agents right up until Tuesday’s 53-man roster deadline.
Surprisingly he told me had no idea what was next when the team sat him in the final exhibition last Saturday evening. He wasn’t sure if he would make the roster right up until Tuesday’s deadline.
“I didn’t want to assume anything or feel like I’m owed this, no matter what I’ve done,” Ogletree said. “So you just try to, like I said, just enjoy the moment, just be in the moment and live every day as well as you can.”
Has all of this left him something of a philosopher?
“You’re not always going to have the right opportunity to do something, even though you think you should, but when you do have the opportunity, it’s what you do with that opportunity while you’re there,” Ogletree said. “I just tried to take it day by day, didn’t want to hold anything back. Just tried to come out and be me and capitalize on the opportunity that the Bears gave me.”
Happy endings are always nice, and while no one is happy Danny Trevathan landed on injured reserve, Ogletree will now be starting for the Bears on Sunday Night Football in less than two weeks.
Talk about a road well traveled.