By Chris Emma–
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (CBS) — During a transitional 2015 season, Willie Young never wanted out of the Bears organization, but he certainly wasn’t completely comfortable. Having been brought to Chicago as a 4-3 defensive end, Young was forced to embrace a role as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
All season long, Young playfully denied that he was an outside linebacker — “I’m a defensive end,” he would say over and over — but it was an indicator to his discomfort. After Jared Allen was traded as a concession to his lack of fit in the new role, Young stayed the course and was second for the Bears with 6.5 sacks.
Now, Young’s agent has been negotiating with the Bears on a contract extension.
“I would like to be here long term,” Young said Wednesday. “I would like to finish my career here in Chicago.”
Transitioning to a new position and new schemes created a challenge of its own for Young last season, but that difficulty became greater because Young was coming off a season-ending Achilles injury in 2014.
Young didn’t have an offseason to work with the new Bears defense. He was thrown into the fire because of the circumstances of his injury. It was similar to when he was drafted as a seventh-round pick to the Lions in the 2010 NFL Draft.
“I had to figure out how to survive with what was given,” Young said.
Coming off a career year in 2014, Young was dealt a difficult situation in 2015. He made the most of it, even while denying his place at outside linebacker. Young became more of a fit there over time, as he has the size and abilities to make an impact and took to the tutelage of defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and outside linebackers coach Clint Hurtt.
Young’s place on this 2016 Bears team is becoming more clear, though the team drafted Leonard Floyd ninth overall to play opposite Pernell McPhee. Young is entering the final season of his three-year deal handed to him by former Bears general manager Phil Emery.
Despite the uncertainty, Young is embracing his chance to guide Floyd. He sees a lot of similarities between himself and Floyd.
“The sky’s the limit for him,” Young said.
Young is entering a unique situation this season. Still, this is what he wants.
Chicago is where Young wants to be, but he’s still not claiming to be a linebacker — just try asking him.
“I can’t hear you,” Young joked. “Huh?”