While the Bears' quarterback competition's conclusion grabbed headlines over the weekend, another competitive position battle wrapped up.
Tashaun Gipson Sr. beat out Deon Bush to be named the starting safety opposite Pro Bowler Eddie Jackson for the Week 1 matchup against the Detroit Lions. Gipson found out when safeties coach Sean Desai called him into his office.
"I couldn't have been more excited for that opportunity to show that I belong here in such an elite defense with tremendous talent all around," said Gipson. "Man, just coming in, plugging in and fitting in. The thing that drives me right now is just coming out here not to show that I belong, but more so to come out here and do my job."
Gipson nodded to the turbulent environment in which this season will begin and expressed excitement that football season is here. Despite entering his ninth year in the NFL, Gipson feels a childlike joy for the sport he plays.
"I know they say baseball is America's sport," said Gipson, "but man, football is really, in my opinion, where it's at. For us to be able to go out there with live bullets, for it to be actually here upon us, man, is just a surreal feeling, man. It's like, take you back to your kid days, man, when everything was just fun and just loose. And that's kinda how I feel right now.
Gipson arrived in Chicago understanding that he would have to earn his spot. He battled through the back injury that ended his season last year for the Houston Texans.
"It just was one of the things where I just said 'I'm going to go out there and do what I need to do,'" said Gipson. "The coaches' decision is not in my control, but I can control what I can control, so between the white lines, clearly, I did enough for them to feel comfortable enough with putting me in there."
Gipson expressed respect for Bush, who received a big chunk of the first-team reps during practices open to the media.
"Deon is a good player," said Gipson. "Deon is going to have his time, but I never got into the logistics of all of that. That's the type of stuff I'll leave to the media, whoever keeps track of that. I don't even know if the coach is even keeping track of that."
Gipson had respected Jackson's abilities long before he arrived in Chicago. He cites Jackson's instincts as an unteachable skill and sees him as the ideal partner in the defensive backfield.
"He's coming into his prime," said Gipson. "He's only in his fourth year. If I walked up in the locker room and if you stepped on the field, you would think that he's a seven, eight-year vet. That's just kind of how he carries himself. So for him to be able to be only going into his fourth year, I mean, it's kind of crazy. So I don't know if you credit that to Alabama or the Florida water, man, but whatever it is, I'm happy that he's on my team."
With his place secure, Gipson has turned his attention to the Lions. He has faced Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford twice before, even recording an interception against him in 2013. He also has a healthy respect for the Lions receiving corps, including Pro Bowler Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr. and Danny Amendola.
"Golladay, he's one of the more underrated receivers in the league, in my opinion," said Gipson. "Jones is still a capable receiver and, obviously, Amendola in the slot, so they have everyone they need at every position they need. So that's on the back end, the back-seven to go out there and control the tempo. That's what we have to do. We know what's across from us, and we're excited for the challenge."
While striving to prove himself in Chicago, Gipson said his focus is on doing his job and covering his assignments.
"There's plenty of playmakers everywhere," said Gipson, "so no need for me to stress and strain, to do nothing above the things that I need to do to go out here and help us win games. That's the beautiful thing about playing in a defense like this with guys like this: You plug in, and you just do what they ask you to do, do it at a high level and go from there."