Bears' Greene finds linebacker more to his liking
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In his only two seasons as a college linebacker, Khaseem Greene either won or shared the Big East defensive player of the year award.
The Bears' fourth-round draft pick also forced an NCAA-record 15 fumbles in his four years at Rutgers, where he began as a safety but grew into a linebacker.
"My first year I played at 210, then I was 215, and the next thing I know I was 225," Greene said. "I got into that college weight room and … it wasn't bad weight, I was just (getting) big, and coach (Greg) Schiano told me the bigger I got the closer I'd get to the ball.
"We needed more speed at the linebacker position, and he saw it, and boom, he switched me."
And, boom, the Rutgers defense got a lot better with Greene putting up some impressive numbers.
It wasn't just because of Greene, but in his first season as a linebacker he contributed 141 tackles, 10th in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision, and the Scarlet Knights were No. 8 in scoring defense and No. 9 in pass defense.
They had ranked No. 62 in scoring defense and No. 55 in pass defense a year earlier.
Last season Rutgers was No. 6 in run defense, No. 10 in total defense and No. 4 in scoring defense. Greene led the Big East with 136 tackles, just the sixth player to lead the conference in back-to-back seasons.
His switch from safety to linebacker helped the Scarlet Knights' defense improve, but the move also benefited the player.
"The main thing it's done for me is help me become a better coverage linebacker and also gave me speed so that my reaction time was a little bit quicker," Greene said.
But there still are linebacker techniques Greene is working to perfect.
"I just have to get used to playing more with my pad level down, and I'm working on that with (linebackers) coach Tibbs (Tim Tibesar) and (defensive quality control) coach (Sean) Desai," he said.
"Those guys are doing a good job of coaching it up. At safety, you're so used to everything coming to you and having time to do things. As a linebacker, it's see it, react, go."
In addition to his record 15 forced fumbles at Rutgers, Greene had 11˝ sacks, 35 quarterback pressures and 7 interceptions.
Like Bears Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Tillman, Greene has a knack for separating opposing running backs and receivers from the ball. Tillman tied an NFL record last season with 10 forced fumbles and has 39 in his 10-year career.
"He's the master at it," Greene said. "I have to try to catch up, and that's not going to be an easy task. But he's a great guy to learn from. (You're) talking about somebody who changes the game in one play. It's going to be fun to learn and try to take after him when it comes to causing turnovers."
Like Tillman, Greene practices the art of the forced fumble.
"It's just become second nature, when you're so used to doing it," he said. "We used to train at practice, we would do ball-disruption circuits, just strip it, punch it.
"When you make that second nature, it just happens naturally. I think a lot of the times I just do it without thinking. I see an opportunity and go do it."
•Follow Bob's NFL reports on Twitter @BobLeGere, and check out his Bear Essentials blog at dailyherald.com/sports.
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