Entering his third NFL season, Bears outside linebacker David Bass knows that nothing in the NFL is guaranteed and he can’t take anything for granted.
Right after Bass finished speaking to a group of kids at a camp in the Chicago area on Wednesday, he was kind enough to hop on the phone to talk with me.
He will be hosting his second annual Pro Player Football Camp on Friday July 17 and Saturday July 18 at St. Josephs High School in Westchester. The free event will run from 10 AM-2 PM and kids ages 7-15 will take part in the two-day camp.
Two current teammates, defensive end Cornelius Washington, offensive lineman Michael Ola will be at the event as well as former defensive end Israel Idonije, who still resides in the Chicago area. Bass reached out to current Bears tight end Blake Annen and former Bears cornerback Jerry Azumah as well.
On the first day of the camp, Bass said the kids will go through drills and learning techniques at their respective positions. Saturday will be about having fun he says where the kids will take part in flag football, 7-on-7 and they'll end the day with a barbecue, autographs and pictures.
The hot topic right now in the NFL is with two players, New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback C.J Wilson and how they lost fingers from July 4th mishaps with fireworks. Wilson lost his index and middle finger on one hand while Pierre-Paul had his right index finger amputated and suffered a broken thumb.
I asked Bass what he thinks about when he is off the field. Here's what he had to say.
“Everything from diet to where I go to who I hang with. I just try to put myself in a safe environment or positive position. I don’t ever want to get caught in a situation where I'm the cause or the effect to put my career in jeopardy," Bass said.
Bass roomed with Wilson as a rookie in Chicago in 2013 and said he was shocked to read about what happened to Wilson after his mom sent him the link to the article.
"I don’t know the JPP situation too well," he said. "C.J. was my old roommate during my rookie year. It's an unfortunate situation. I hope there’s a way he can bounce back and continue to play. I know you don’t need fingers to go out there to make plays and make tackles. I wish him the best."
The 6-foot-4, 256-pound Bass has seen plenty of changes this offseason with a new general manager in Ryan Pace, new head coach in John Fox and a new scheme which has him playing a different position in Year Three. However, he is confident in his game right now.
"I like the position change being a 3-4 outside linebacker. I’m still working at it trying to learn everything I can so I can be as successful as I can," he said. "The position gives me a better chance of making the team and be out there come game time. I like the new coaching staff, they like to have fun and jump around it’s not an all business, uptight atmosphere.”
Even though Bass has never played outside linebacker at any point in his football career, he said for the most part other than dropping back into coverage it’s the same as defensive end.
"We're in a two-point stance, still defending the run and containing, still rushing trying to get to the passer," he said. "The only new thing that we added to it is drops and that will be new to a lot of us. I’ve been watching film and practicing to get it down and try to make it become second nature.”
Arguably the biggest play that Bass made in his two-year career is something he says he believes he can build off of at outside linebacker. The play I'm referring to was his 24-yard interception return for a touchdown in a Week 11 win over Baltimore in 2013. Bass became the first Bears rookie defensive lineman since Jon Norris in 1987 to record an interception.
“Absolutely. Any play you make on Sunday's, Monday’s or even Thursday’s that’s going to give you confidence that you can play in this league," he said. "If you can tell yourself you can play in this league everything else will fall into place. Anytime I can make a play that solidifies to me that I belong in this league.
Proving His Worth
The Bears claimed Bass off waivers following the 2013 preseason and he went onto to appear in 12 games making one start that year. Last season, he appeared in eight games and had to battle his way back onto the team after being waived on Oct. 7. He spent the entire month of October on the practice squad before being signed back to the active roster on Nov. 3.
Bass proceeded to record 10 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble over the final five games of the season. He had sacks in both Week 15 and 16. He said what he went through can be summed up as "an experience."
"I didn’t like what happened because I wanted to play, but I know it’s a part of the game so I didn’t take it to the head and down myself," he said." I kept training and competing to work and eventually I was brought back to the active roster."
Spending his first NFL off-season and training camp with Lamarr Houston, Bass says he's glad to have him as a teammate again and feels lucky to have played with some other great defensive ends in his career.
"I reached out to him [Houston] when they signed him last year and got to link back up," he said. "I pay attention to him [Houston] and the other defensive ends on how they carry themselves on and off the field. I’ve been fortunate to play with some great defensive ends in Julius Peppers, Jared Allen and Corey Wootton. I’ve been taking in all I can.”
A St. Louis native, Bass stayed there all through college as he attended Missouri Western State. He lived in St. Louis County which is just south of Ferguson as we know has been all over the news for bad reasons lately. Bass was featured in a Sports Illustrated story last September where he said "when they don't know who you are, all you are is black."
“I like it. It’s a good city, " he said referring to St. Louis. "A lot of people don’t , they think it’s dangerous to go there. It has its ups and downs. I made it out, a lot of people make it out and have success which gives St. Louis a better name other than the crime and things of that nature.”
Bass made sure that he was onto big things after a successful collegiate career at Division II Missouri Western State where he set school records with 50 consecutive starts and 40.5 sacks for the Griffons. However, it wasn't until his junior year that he realized that the NFL was a legitimate possibility.
"I always dreamed and hoped of making it, but it wasn’t until my junior year where I broke out. I was named Preseason All-American went out and had what I feel was my best college season," he said. "Then I received all the accolades that I did and I said ["hey if I’m one of the best in Division II, Division II people succeed in the NFL, I can do what they do and I can make it]." It’s possible at least.”
Bass is only the fifth player from his school to reach the NFL with Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein and Washington running back Michael Hill, two others still in the league.
Brandon Marshall's Departure
A teammate for his first two pro seasons was wide receiver Brandon Marshall. They became very close after Bass was invited with a group of Bears to Marshall's house in Ft. Lauderdale to train last off-season. He said the two connected on many levels including spiritually.
"He’s [Marshall] like a big brother to me. I hated the move when they traded him to New York, but I wish him the best," he said. "I don’t know where the media got their facts, but I think he is one of the most passionate guys I’ve ever played with. I could always look at him to see how he is going to lead by example or to listen to him to get you motivated. He’s a great player and leader.”
Bass said the team hasn't had any big training events this offseason like the one Marshall hosted, but a large group of Bears players have been training at Halas Hall prior to camp.
Future Of The Bears
Many experts aren't very high on the Bears this season and I always think that's good motivation for a team. Bass said he figured they would be ranked low because of the season they are coming off of and high expectations they had last year.
“We are going to be ranked low because of last season," he said. "However, it’s a new year, new beginning, so people can write us off but all that matters is what goes on in our locker room, meeting room and what we take into the game. We believe in ourselves and that’s all that matters.”
Grateful For An Opportunity
To be a part of a franchise like the Bears established in 1919 and has the most retired numbers (14) in the league, Bass says he is definitely still in awe of his famous surroundings at times.
"I try not to be. There are times when I got family members in town we walk around Soldier Field or tour the practice facilities," he said. "Or if I’m by myself and just catch myself reading all the facts and quotes and history on the Bears. It’s amazing and I’m very fortunate to play for one of the most legendary teams there is.”
Bass went back to Missouri Western State to earn his bachelor's degree in criminal justice. He received his degree on May 9th and on May 20th he spoke to a group of 21 Bears rookies at Halas Hall to speak about the importance of education.
On the field, he said his ultimate goal is to win a Super Bowl and to get to a Pro Bowl and just to have fun while he's in the league. Off the field, he wants to use every connection possible to further his career.
“Off the field while I’m in the league I want to use this platform to meet and connect with, a lot of people that I wouldn’t get to connect with, talk to and hang out with if I wasn’t in this situation" he said. "I want to help talk to kids and try to make a difference where I can.”
With the Bears, Bass has appeared in 20 games with two starts, totaling 33 tackles, four sacks, a forced fumble, and an interception return for a touchdown.
The 24-year-old is a breakout candidate in 2015 at a position, outside linebacker that's filled with competition. Keep an eye on Bass. He has a chance to be a star real soon.