AL HAMNIK: Young Bears safety thrown into the Lions' den

2012-12-29T17:30:00Z 2013-01-07T23:32:04Z AL HAMNIK: Young Bears safety thrown into the Lions' denAl Hamnik Times Columnist nwitimes.com
December 29, 2012 5:30 pm  • 

This is your first speaking part in the school play, your first date without Mom or Dad as the chauffeur.

Yes, Anthony Walters is just as nervous today.

The Bears' reserve safety is making his first NFL start in place of the injured Chris Conte, and against a Detroit team that lives and dies with the pass.

"I don't look at it any differently than I have been while I was doing special teams," Walters said, putting on a brave front.

You can bet the 4-11 Lions will fill Ford Field with footballs today like Frisbees at the beach.

Matthew Stafford is 305 yards shy of becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to register back-to-back 5,000-yard seasons.

Favorite target Calvin Johnson needs 108 yards to become the first wide receiver in league history to get 2,000 yards in a single season.

As talk of job insecurity throughout the Bears organization and the sense of urgency hoover over Halas Hall like a toxic cloud, Walters' debut may also determine his future.

He's just a kid, too naive to know whether he should be thrilled or scared to death. And so he spent the past week smiling, a lot.

"(Stafford's) averaging over 300 yards passing a game and Calvin's not having that, but is probably pretty close," Walters said, jokingly. "They throw the ball around a lot and they're very good at it.

"They're better than their record."

You've heard it a hundred times. Chicago must win, then hope Green Bay beats Minnesota.

The Bears have returned eight interceptions for touchdowns. Stafford averages nearly 50 pass attempts per game. You do the math.

"Whenever a team throws that much, you'll have more opportunities," Walters said. "It is exciting to have that opportunity to make a play."

The second-year pro from Delaware, an undrafted free agent, could use a breakout game for his otherwise empty resume.

Having Lance Briggs, Julius Peppers and Charles Tillman in the same lineup certainly can't hurt.

"Those guys can help take some of that pressure away," Walters said. "All I have to do is be where I'm supposed to be.

"We scored two defensive touchdowns last week, so I think those guys help relieve that pressure. Whenever we play like that, we usually win the game."

The Bears now have nine defensive touchdowns and are 6-0 in those games. But until the win over a very bad Arizona team, the 'D' hadn't scored since Nov. 4.

Please make note of that.

Walters says he has closely watched the defensive starters during his time in Chicago and hasn't hesitated to ask questions from the back row.

"There's an understanding," he added. "This has been a defensive organization for a long time. We need to step it up the rest of the way.

"At least, one more time. Hopefully, many more."

He said that, still smiling.

But will he be smiling around 3:30 this afternoon?

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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