Chicago Bears' Jones-Quartey hitting it big
Chicago Bears safety Harold Jones-Quartey is full of surprises.
It was a pleasant surprise last season when, as an undrafted rookie, he started four games for the Bears, especially since he didn't join the team until a week before the season opener.
Not surprisingly, Jones-Quartey went undrafted out of tiny Division-II Findlay (Ohio), but he was signed by the Arizona Cardinals, who waived him in the final cutdown.
The Bears quickly pounced, signing him the next day.
Just five weeks into his Bears career, the 5-foot-11, 210-pounder started after Antrel Rolle was injured.
"It was tough, but I give credit to my coaches," Jones-Quartey said. "They were on me, and they were putting a lot on me, and they were coaching me hard.
"Antrel went down, and I had to step up, and I thought I performed all right. (But) I got benched and then later on in the season I performed a little better, so I'm excited for my second year."
But in his second start, Jones-Quartey lost the job, only to win it back in the final two weeks. The whole whirlwind experience of getting thrown in the deep end helped him, but so did the luxury of an off-season to familiarize himself with the playbook and his new surroundings.
"He strolled in here -- I don't even remember what month it was -- and had no off-season, no training camp," Bears coach John Fox said. "So he's been playing catch-up. This year, having the full off-season plus all the playing opportunities during the regular season, I think he feels a little more comfortable now."
It's like night and day for Jones-Quartey who is starting alongside Adrian Amos in the Bears' final line of defense.
"He came in and he was learning on the run," said Bears defensive backs coach Ed Donatell. "We gave him some game action, then we let it marinate for a little bit and brought him back.
"If you'll get the ball for us, we've got a place for you in our defense."
Jones-Quartey had 1 of the Bears' meager total of 8 interceptions last season, but his ability to deliver big hits is his calling card.
For now, the starting job belongs to the 23-year-old, who started his Findlay career playing wide receiver in addition to safety. But he's not taking anything for granted.
"I don't think about it like the job's mine," Jones-Quartey said. "But my job is to come out every day and be the best I can be, have energy, make the checks and play football every single day.
"It's a one-day-at-a-time business. You can't look in the future; you can't look in the past. You have to look at what's in front of you."
Jones-Quartey's preference is to hit anything in front of him as long as it's wearing a different-colored uniform.
"I want to say I'm tough," he said. "I'd probably say that's my No. 1 trait, I like to think I'm a tough player. I'm athletic and I'm physical. And smart, definitely."
Smart enough to pick up a new system on the fly and wind up in the starting lineup.
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