LAKE FOREST | Jonathan Bostic hopes to make the most of his opportunity.
The Bears have been known for middle linebackers from Bill George to Dick Butkus to Mike Singletary and Brian Urlacher.
Now Bostic, a rookie from Florida with a reputation for big plays and big hits, makes his first NFL start Sunday against the Washington Redskins in place of D.J. Williams, who is out for the season with a ruptured pectoral tendon.
"Every week I'm preparing like I'm the starter, anyway," Bostic said Monday. "It's just really the fact of how it kind of happened.
"You always hear 'next man up, anything can happen,' but the situation that happened, it's kind of like, man, these things really do happen."
Williams went out against the New York Giants in the third quarter after trying to make a tackle. Bostic, a second-round pick, had started every preseason game because Williams suffered a pulled calf muscle early in training camp.
"He hasn't spent a lot of time out there but he has played," Bears coach Marc Trestman said.
"He's in the next-man-up situation, he doesn't have the experience certainly that D.J. has, but he has speed and he's an explosive young man."
Bostic made an immediate impression in the preseason opener with an interception and TD return against Carolina.
"He's been with us a long time," Trestman said. "He's been with us in the minicamps and training camp and he had a lot of playing time in the preseason.
"So having been with us and understanding what the NFL is about, six weeks will be a benefit to him."
Bostic has had to make an adjustment to playing mostly zone pass defense with the Bears.
"Florida we were a big man-to-man team," he said. "We just do more things differently than what we did at Florida."
Bostic's education in the NFL involved more than a new system. He's had to curb the way he plays after drawing a $21,000 fine in preseason for a hit on San Diego wide receiver Mike Willie.
It was another example of Bostic trying for the big play, and he's learning the adjustment.
"You've got to let the big plays come to you," Bostic said. "You can't try to go out there and try to force a big play because that's when mistakes happen."
Bears cornerback Tim Jennings said the loss of Williams is difficult to overcome.
"He's played some good ball for us, but I'm excited about Bostic," Jennings said. "I know he put on a show this preseason.
"I know a lot of guys are excited about Bostic, to see what he's going to be doing."
The Bears' defense did receive some good news Monday when nose tackle Stephen Paea was able to practice for the first time since suffering a toe injury in Week 4 against the Detroit Lions.
"He worked out here today so we're optimistic," Trestman said. "He'll have the rest of the day off and tomorrow and be ready to go."
Defensive tackle remains the biggest Bears depth concern after losing Henry Melton and Nate Collins for the season to torn anterior cruciate ligaments.
In a roster move Monday, the Bears added defensive end Tracy Robertson to their practice squad, a spot that came open when defensive tackle Christian Tupou was moved to the 53-man roster.