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A.J. Klein vows to make most of opportunity with Bears

Bears linebacker A.J. Klein
Bears linebacker A.J. Klein

Shortly after arriving at Halas Hall Wednesday, new Bears linebacker A.J. Klein introduced himself to his new teammates during a defensive meeting.

The 10-year NFL veteran was acquired from the Ravens Tuesday along with 2023 second- and fifth-round draft picks in exchange for linebacker Roquan Smith.

Klein has appeared in 136 NFL games with 81 starts for the Panthers (2013-16), Saints (2017-19), Bills (2020-21) and Ravens (2022).

"I've been around this league for a long time," Klein said. "I don't know how many older guys there are in this locker room, but I think it was important for me to introduce myself and try to make a good first impression and let those guys know that I'm here to help win games."

Selected by Carolina in the fifth round of the 2013 draft out of Iowa State, Klein has been in the NFL long enough to know what type of impact losing veteran leaders such as Smith and Robert Quinn—who was traded to the Eagles last week—can have on a young defense.

"I can understand it's got to be tough on some of the guys," Klein said. "First and foremost, I want to be a good teammate and be cognizant of the situation that's going on. The guys have been nothing but great. The guys have been coming up and introducing themselves. It's going to take me a long time to learn names, but everybody's been very welcoming."

Klein joins the Bears having registered 454 tackles, 44 tackles-for-loss, 15.5 sacks, eight forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and four interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown.

He was a regular contributor with the Panthers before becoming a full-time starter upon signing with the Saints in 2017. He joined the Bills in 2020 and was named AFC defensive player of the week after recording 14 tackles, one sack and three tackles-for-loss in a Week 12 win over the Chargers.

Klein's longevity in the league is due in part to his versatility and football intelligence.

"I've always prided myself on being smart and understanding defensive schemes and being a guy that's in the film room," he said. "I think being able to play multiple positions has helped me a lot."

The Bears hit the Halas Hall practice fields Wednesday afternoon as they get ready for Sunday's matchup with the Miami Dolphins at Soldier Field.

Asked what type of player the Bears are getting, Klein said: "One that's got a lot of experience. I've played a lot of football and I take pride in that. I've been versatile and played a lot of different positions and I bring confidence as well. I'm confident in my abilities, confident in this kind of scheme. I'm just looking to make an impact and help out. I don't know if it's going to be this week, next week or three weeks from now, [but] whenever I get my opportunity, whenever I get a chance to play, I'm going to show them that I'm a good player and I deserve to be here."

Tuesday's trade capped a whirlwind few weeks for Klein. He joined the Giants practice squad Oct. 3 and then was signed by the Ravens three days later. He played in Baltimore's 27-22 win over the Buccaneers in Tampa last Thursday night, spent the weekend in North Carolina with his kids, returned to Baltimore and then was dealt to the Bears.

"It's been a pretty crazy four weeks for me," Klein said. "It's been a quick turnaround, but luckily I'm used to a 4-3 defense, which is good to be back in this kind of system. I should pick it up quick, which is nice. It's simpler for me because I've been playing in it for so long."

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