The Bears defense will face a tough test in Sunday's season opener against a high-powered Falcons offense led by quarterback Matt Ryan, the reigning NFL MVP.
But that obstacle is no more daunting than the one inside linebacker Danny Trevathan overcame to get back on the field for the Week 1 game at Soldier Field.
Inside linebacker Danny Trevathan ranked third on the Bears with 73 tackles last season despite playing in only nine games.
A little over nine months after suffering a ruptured patellar tendon in his right knee in a Nov. 27 loss to the Titans, Trevathan will return to action Sunday against the Falcons. His recovery is so complete than he isn't even listed on the injury report.
"It's a good sign," Trevathan said Thursday after practice. "I've been feeling good. I've been working my tail off and they've been doing a good job of getting me reps and getting me ready and prepared for Week 1."
Having rebounded from a similar injury he suffered to his other knee in 2014 when he played for the Broncos, Trevathan knew exactly how to approach an arduous rehab.
"Nothing worth it is ever going to be easy," he said. "Going through all that, it's all about your mindset and how you want to come out of it. I came in with the right mindset that I wasn't going to let this defeat me. It was just another bump in the road. My team needs me and I need to be out there. Football is my life and that's my job and I take it very seriously."
Trevathan signed with the Bears last year after he won the Super Bowl with the Broncos the previous season. In Denver, the 6-1, 239-pounder transformed himself from an unheralded sixth-round draft pick into the leading tackler on a championship defense.
Early in training camp, Trevathan candidly admitted that he felt he underachieved in his first year with the Bears in part because he hadn't worked as hard in the months following the Broncos' Super Bowl championship as he had during previous offseasons.
Asked Thursday what he wants to prove this season, Trevathan said: "Personally, I just want to continue to better my play and be a leader on this team and knock some people out and let people know this defense is for real and this team is for real."
"Special teams, offense, defense, it doesn't matter," Trevathan said, "we're going to hit you from all three corners and we're going to play four quarters and it's going to be a rough house in here."
Trevathan has been practicing, but he did not play in any of the Bears' four preseason games. So Sunday will mark the first time he'll make an actual tackle since last November. To say that he is eagerly anticipating that moment would be a bit of an understatement.
"I'm looking forward to knocking somebody out," Trevathan said. "We've been simulating here, running through tackles here, taking care of our guys but still giving them a little thud. But that first tackle come Sunday is going to be very special. It's going to be good. I'm just looking forward and I thank God for the opportunity to come back out here."
Trevathan is excited about rejoining a defense that played very well throughout the preseason.
"They're lights out," he said. "We're flying around. We've got a better understanding of this defense. We've had some key players come in, guys stepping up, young guys. It just looks good and our goal is to keep that rolling into the regular season, keep it going into the post [season]."
Bears coach John Fox is happy to have Trevathan back on the field.
"He's got speed," said Fox, Trevathan's coach in Denver from 2012-14. "He's a tenacious player. He brings some experience. He's a guy I'm familiar with. Our coaching staff is too because he played for us last year. He's a big part of us. It's definitely better to have him in there."
The Bears could have an easier matchup in their season opener than the Falcons, but Trevathan welcomes the challenge of facing the defending NFC champions.
"I wouldn't have it any other way," he said. "If you want to be the best, you've got to play against them. It's a good opportunity for us to come out swinging. Our backs are against the wall. A lot of people think we don't have any chance. I like it that way.
"We know what they've got and they know what we've got. It's going to be a head-on collision Sunday and the best team will come out."