AL HAMNIK: Bears' well-traveled backup having the time of his life

2013-10-12T18:30:00Z 2013-10-14T15:19:13Z AL HAMNIK: Bears' well-traveled backup having the time of his lifeAl Hamnik Times Columnist
October 12, 2013 6:30 pm  • 

CHICAGO | Landon Cohen is that friend of a friend who can fix your leaky pipes for a third of the cost.

The sixth-year defensive tackle isn't ashamed to be an "off the street" member of the injury-wracked Bears. He found a niche, however temporary, and embraced it.

"Just being what they brought you here to be," Cohen said of his fill-in role. "They had an idea of what they wanted me to do and it's up to me to do that."

The defensive line, amid growing criticism, can't stop people. It has only eight sacks in six games, while the team is allowing 373 yards per game.

Health-wise, the roster reads like a Blue Cross plan.

Middle linebacker D.J. Williams (ruptured pectoral muscle) and defensive tackles Henry Melton (ACL) and Nick Collins (ACL) are gone for the season. Nose tackle Stephen Paea has been sidelined with a painful turf toe, opening the door for Cohen.

Defensive end Julius Peppers, without a tackle in three games, has just eight total and one sack and it's anyone's guess what's wrong with him.

Tackle Corey Wootton has been ineffective.

End Shea McClellin lacks the strength to move blockers.

Hello, Mr. Cohen. Warm bodies welcomed.

"You always got to stay positive," he said. "You hate when guys go down but it's the NFL. Anything happens, and the next guy's got to be ready to roll."

Until the Bears phoned, work had been scarce for the 6-foot-1, 300-pound Cohen. Brian Urlacher's been on the field more, and he's retired.

Signed in late September when Paea's toe became inflamed, Cohen had appeared in only 25 games -- one start -- since being drafted by the Lions in 2008.

He then bounced around with Jacksonville, New England, Seattle, New England again, Arizona, Philadelphia and Dallas.

Cohen has waved good-bye more than a sailor at port.

"I don't really get into strengths and weaknesses," he said. "You just got to go out there and be the best you can be. It's the NFL. Everybody's good."

You might think Landon Cohen is tired of living out of a suitcase; tired of moving around the country like a fugitive and sleeping in airports.

All this for minimum pay.

"What else would I be doing in my 20s?" Cohen asked. "I'm 27 years old. What would you be doing in your 20s, if you could?"

Dude, what wouldn't I be doing?

Cohen doesn't seem to mind his current lifestyle, as unpredictable as it is.

"I'm still in my 20s, man. I have a girlfriend, no kids. I had a little dog and I'm enjoying life," he said. "I love everything about the game."

The rap on today's kids is they give up too easily and pout when things don't go right. Cohen has found a way to cut through that frustration and disappointment.

"If I can be an inspiration to somebody, let it be that," he said. "But my attitude in life is I can do whatever I put my mind to if I stay the course.

"It's really simple."

The guy off the street has spoken.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at

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