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Awww, the Bears love football too

October 16, 2012|By Jack M Silverstein | For RedEye

I don't know about you, but when the Bears have a bye week, it throws me off. As a man retired from fantasy football and my old pick 'em league, the rest of the NFL's games just don't resonate with me like they once did. I'm like a man without a country in the middle of the Olympics.

But the same freedom from team-related responsibility that leaves me squirming turns NFL players into the happiest boys on the block.

"I just enjoy sitting back watching pro football knowing that I don't have to play that day," 37-year-old long snapper Pat Mannelly said. "You're watching it as a fan. There's no stress while you're watching it. That's what I enjoy the most."

Mannelly was one of many Bears who spent the bye week consumed by what is apparently the best kind of football: other people's. Tight end Matt Spaeth walked away impressed by Washington rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III after his 76-yard touchdown run against Minnesota.

Jovial special teamer Eric Weems? "All I do is watch football. Eat, sleep, everything—football."

He would have had a fun time with safety Chris Conte, who spent Sunday geeking out on the RedZone channel at home in California with his dad. Meanwhile, fellow safety Anthony Walters was home in Philadelphia, where his mother expressed disappointment in the Eagles' collapse to her couch-dwelling, Chicago Bear son. "I don't know what you want me to say," he said, laughing. "Don't turn the ball over."

Some players watched friends or old teammates. Conte shared Mrs. Walters' frustration in the Eagles— his old college teammates DeSean Jackson and Mychal Kendricks suit up for Philadelphia. Mannelly spent a lot of time watching Northwestern because he played against Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald when Mannelly was at Duke and Fitzgerald was at Northwestern. Offensive guard Chilo Rachal got a chance to watch his old San Francisco teammates but he spent most of the bye week "more so spending time with my kids."

Family and friends also were on the mind of special teams ace Blake Costanzo, who kept a close eye on his cousin Steve Maneri, a tight end with Kansas City. But the best game Costanzo watched last weekend? That would be Paramus Catholic vs. Don Bosco Prep, a huge high school football showdown in Costanzo's home state of New Jersey. Why that game? His friends coach at Paramus.

Monday saw the Bears back at Halas Hall, and at 4-1 with the Vikings now 4-2, the team remained focused on Detroit. They are happy, healthy and in first place, and to a man expressed excitement not just at getting back on the field Monday, but of simply getting back on the practice field with their friends. Though to some, it's even simpler than that. In the locker room after lifting, Walters said he was most excited for "being able to have a job to come back to, really."

"It's like, 'All right, you got a break, and now it's back to work,'" he said. "This is one of the best jobs that I can think of in America, so I'm fortunate."

And with that, he picked up his towel and walked to the shower.

Special contributor Jack M Silverstein covers the Bears for RedEye. Say hey @ReadJack.

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