Chicago Bears' McManis doesn't mind being 'special'
Nobody gets drafted into the NFL aspiring to be "just" a special-teams player.
Cornerback Sherrick McManis was no different when the Houston Texans selected him in the fifth round (144th overall) in 2010 after a decorated career at Northwestern.
The Chicago Bears traded for him just before the 2012 season, and he played some cornerback early on with little success. But McManis, who turns 30 next month, has carved out a niche for himself as an exceptional special-teamer.
Since 2012, his 68 special-teams tackles are more than any other Bear. The Peoria native led the team in special-teams tackles in each of the previous two seasons, finished second in 2012 and '14 and third in 2013. He had 12 solos last year, twice as many as the next Bear.
"I don't think you come in and get drafted (hoping) to play special teams," said the 6-foot-1, 192-pound McManis. "But for me, whatever role I was given, that's what I embraced. That's a role I was given early in my career, and I've been able to excel in that role and succeed, and it's helped me get to eight years so far."
Eight years is an eternity in the NFL, and McManis also is the longest-tenured Bear, even though he played his first two seasons with the Texans. As a rookie in Houston, he had his only NFL interception and also returned 10 kickoffs for 205 yards.
But he has had much more success thwarting kickoff returns, one of many reasons he was named a team captain this year.
"I take it seriously," McManis said. "The team voted me as one of the captains. That's a huge honor, and I don't take that lightly. For me, it's just all about being authentic out there and being real with my guys and being out there to help them, and them helping me as well."
McManis missed just five games in the previous four seasons, but he has been sidelined by a hamstring injury since the Week 6 game at Baltimore. He was back at full practice for the first time Thursday and said he will play Sunday.
Before the injury, McManis recovered a muffed punt against Pittsburgh in Week 3, his third career special-teams fumble recovery. In the same game, McManis blocked a Steelers field-goal attempt that led to a Bears field goal.
But statistics represent just a part of McManis' value to the Bears, according to special-teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers.
"Sherrick is a really good person," Rodgers said. "He works really hard, and his work ethic is contagious to other players. He's had a lot of success in this league as a special-teams player. Some of those things that have gone into those performances other players have picked up.
"He spends time with the younger guys. He helps our group grow anytime that he's around."
McManis' prize pupil is second-year safety DeAndre Houston-Carson, who says the veteran has taken him under his wing. Houston-Carson has come on strong in the captain's absence, and he leads the Bears with 9 special-teams tackles.
"I love seeing 'DHC' out there making plays," McManis said. "I've been trying to do what I could while I couldn't be on the field. Just coaching him up, coaching everybody up, just doing as much as I can off the field to help them go out there and be successful."
Getting McManis back on the field Sunday against Detroit will do even more to help the Bears' special teams.
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