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McMichael reflects on year with Pats

Defensive tackle Steve McMichael spent 13 illustrious seasons with the Bears from 1981-93, but he entered the NFL with the New England Patriots as a third-round draft pick in 1980.


Steve McMichael entered the NFL with the New England Patriots as a third-round draft pick in 1980.

"I came to practice like the wild man I was portraying at the University of Texas," McMichael recalled during a recent visit to Bears training camp in Bourbonnais. "Nobody appreciated it. That's why they weren't winning."

McMichael was released by the Patriots before the start of his second season after playing hard both on and off the field.

"I would fight in practice and I would stay out all night in the Combat Zone," McMichael said, referring to an adult entertainment district in Boston. "But if you can perform, go experience life, young man. The coaches called me up. They said, 'Steve, we think you might be able to be a second-stringer in the league, but we think you're the criminal element, so get out."

Looking to replace injured defensive tackle Brad Shearer, the Bears signed McMichael to back up future Hall of Famer Alan Page, who was in his final NFL season. Soon after McMichael arrived in Chicago, he was summoned to a meeting with owner George Halas.

"The first thing Halas tells me up in his office is, 'Son, I've heard what kind of (expletive) you are in practice. Don't change," McMichael said.

With Papa Bear's approval, McMichael stepped onto the Bears practice field with the same nasty demeanor that led to his departure from New England.

A pictorial look at current and former Bears with ties to the Patriots.

"This is what I say about a pack of wild dogs: when one of them is mean, they're all going to be mean," McMichael said. "And that's when you get good in practice. That's when you're practicing game tempo. The receiver running full speed in a game, the pass isn't behind him because he wasn't doing that in practice. That's the value of things like that.

"I learned what I could and couldn't do on Sunday practicing like that. I wasn't going to swim a guy as tall as [Keith] Van Horne. And if it's a little guy, I better get him out of my way.

"When you're on the Serengeti on safari in a Jeep and there's a rhinoceros blocking the way, don't jump out of the Jeep and run into him. Stay in the Jeep and ride it around him as fast as you can and kill the quarterback."

McMichael did that frequently with the Bears—he still ranks second in franchise history behind Hall of Famer Richard Dent with 92.5 career sacks, an impressive feat for a defensive tackle. McMichael also holds the Bears record with 191 consecutive games played and was voted to two Pro Bowls while helping the team win six division titles and one Super Bowl championship.

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