Bears' Kwiatkoski Ready In Rewarding Opportunity

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LAKE FOREST, Ill. (670 The Score) -- Since arriving to the Bears as a rookie four years ago, linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski has prided himself on being ready when his number is called.

Kwiatkoski was brought to the Bears a reserve presence at inside linebacker, but that hasn't stopped him from preparing like a starter. He has played in 52 games during his NFL career and started 17 despite never being planned for the first-team defense.

When Danny Trevathan went down with a gruesome elbow injury on Nov. 10, Kwiatkoski was called upon as the Bears' starter at inside linebacker once again. He has made the most of this chance, which happened to come at the end of a contract year.

"I've been here so long with him, you don't want to see it," Kwiatkoski said of Trevathan's injury. "But, for me, I'm not really thinking about the future. It's just an opportunity for myself."

In last three games, Kwiatkoski has posted 18 combined tackles, two tackles for a loss, a sack and an interception. He has worn the green dot on his helmet as the primary caller for coordinator Chuck Pagano's defense and filled the void of Trevathan admirably.

"Danny's an amazing player," outside linebacker Aaron Lynch said. "But Nick is there. He's filled in every spot and more. He's doing an amazing job. He's a baller."

Said cornerback Kyle Fuller: "He has a niche for it. I've seen it. I've always seen it. It's not too much of a surprise."

There are greater stakes to Kwiatkoski's opportunity. He's set to become a free agent this offseason, and so too is Trevathan. As the Bears take inventory for these next few seasons, they're facing a decision between Kwiatkoski and Trevathan.

Kwiatkoski, 26, would likely be a more cap-friendly alternative for the Bears to Trevathan, who turns 30 two weeks after hitting the open market. As the Bears position themselves for a looming cap crunch, does Kwiatkoski's natural fit in place of Trevathan have long-term implications?

That's a question general manager Ryan Pace must answer as he makes plans for his Bears defense. The decision could extend beyond Trevathan and Kwiatkoski and to whether the Bears bring back safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and what Pro Bowl safety Eddie Jackson's contract extension could look like, among other factors.

"I just want to go out there, play well, do what's best for the team," Kwiatkoski said.

For now, Kwiatkoski just knows he controls his performance as the Bears' starter down the stretch and that he has a chance to prove himself for his next contract -- whether that's in Chicago or elsewhere.

He's been preparing for this all along.

Injury report: The Bears' injury report remained unchanged from Monday to Tuesday: tight end Ben Braunecker (concussion), receiver Taylor Gabriel (concussion), offensive tackle Bobby Massie (ankle), defensive back Sherrick McManis (groin), tight end Adam Shaheen (foot) and Trevathan (elbow) didn't practice.
Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.