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Sweat, Johnson excited for first Pro Bowl nod

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Defensive end Montez Sweat and cornerback Jaylon Johnson each earned invitations to the Pro Bowl Games on Wednesday night for the first time in their careers. "Blessed" was a feeling both star defenders used to describe their emotions on receiving the nod.

"It means a lot, my fifth year in the league," Sweat told reporters Thursday. "Something that every player aspires to get. I've been working a long time to get to this point where I am, and I'm still not satisfied."

Coach Matt Eberflus, general manager Ryan Poles and other Bears football personnel surprised Sweat and Johnson with the news.

Eberflus called Sweat into an impromptu meeting, telling the pass rusher that the group was "trying to find ways for you to rush the passer, get after it, get off the chips" before revealing a screen featuring a graphic with the Pro Bowl news.

"It was pretty surreal," Sweat said. "Coach hit me up and told me he had to go over the gameplan, and I'm like, 'What?' So yeah, I kind of figured something was up. But yeah, they presented me the Pro Bowl. I was really at a loss of words. I'm blessed to get my first one."

It's been almost 10 weeks since the Bears acquired Sweat in a trade with Washington. Through eight games with the Bears, Sweat has registered 6.0 sacks, increasing his season total to a career-high 12.5 sacks. He currently leads both the Bears and Commanders in sacks and would be the first player in NFL history to do so.

Playing in a game for the Bears just five days after the trade, Sweat has had minimal time to reflect on the quick in-season adjustment. But, the Pro Bowl selection helped put things into perspective.

"Things are definitely starting to slow down as the year is coming to an end," Sweat said. "You get to analyze the whole year from start to finish, and to say that I'd be a Pro Bowler now, I wouldn't have guessed it. But I'm nothing but thankful and blessed for it."

For Johnson, becoming a Pro Bowler in his fourth season with the Bears is special. He noted that "everything has worked out perfectly this year."

"What's it mean to me? Still trying to put that into words," Johnson said Thursday. "Honestly, just blessed, fortunate to be in the position to have the voting, to have the favor go my way. Just blessed."

Johnson is experiencing a career season when it comes to takeaways. The Utah product is tied for a team-high four interceptions on a Bears defense that leads the league with 22.

While Johnson is excited to head to Orlando in February for the Pro Bowl Games, he's still eyeing one more accolade this season — All-Pro.

"Both of them are still prestigious awards," Johnson said. "So I mean, as far as All-Pro goes, that's the one I want more. But it was definitely still a good feeling to have. I think I'll be able to soak it in more after the season is over with and then when I start planning to get down there. But right now I haven't seen too many graphics or anything come down about it so it hasn't fully hit me yet. I kind of just soaked it in internally, but I haven't seen too much extra."

The Bears were back on the practice fields at Halas Hall as they continue preparing to close out the 2023 season against the Packers in Green Bay.

The cornerback also voiced support for his fellow first-time Pro Bowler and discussed what Sweat's presence has meant to the Bears locker room.

"Just a big contributing factor," Johnson said. "Him just coming in bringing a different energy — kind of indescribable. We didn't necessarily know that we needed it until he came and it's like, 'yeah, this is kind of somebody that we needed.' Not just on the field – of course it's great having him on the field – but just a good guy in the locker room to have, to be around.

"He's a heck of a guy. I feel like you just kind of gravitate toward him and he gravitates toward us as well. So it's been a good relationship, but him having an award as well, him having success, I think makes it all better."

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