By Larry Mayer
When Bears cornerback Tim Jennings was demoted from the starting lineup late last season, he didn't pout, stomp his feet or feel sorry for himself.
Jennings instead displayed determination and resolve, regaining his starting job after just one week and responding with an excellent performance in the season finale. The gritty 5-8, 185-pounder compiled eight tackles, one tackle-for-loss and an interception in a 17-13 win at Minnesota.
Bears cornerback Tim Jennings tackles Packers receiver Greg Jennings in the 2010 NFC title game. "He showed that he's a pro," said defensive backs coach Jon Hoke. "He knows that decisions are made and there was no reason to go hang his head. He felt, 'I've just got to go back out there and play and prove that I deserve to be there.' Obviously he did that."
Six months later, Jennings isn't resting on his laurels. He feels that he must continue to prove himself, especially after the Bears bolstered the cornerback position by signing free agents Kelvin Hayden and Jonathan Wilhite and drafting Isaiah Frey and Greg McCoy.
"You saw the moves they made in the offseason," Jennings said. "We brought in some corners, we drafted some. The guys have a lot of talent. It's just going to make me step up my game a little bit more and get me to go out there and continue to work hard and get better at some things."
A physical tackler who excels in run support, Jennings is working on generating more takeaways. He has intercepted several passes in offseason practices, including a spectacular diving pick last Wednesday.
Jennings originally signed with the Bears in 2010 after spending his first four NFL seasons with the Colts. He re-signed on March 13, a few hours before he would have become an unrestricted free agent.
"It feels good just to be part of the team," Jennings said. "I like it here. I like it a lot. I like the group of guys we have out here. It's fun to have the opportunity to go out there and continue to play with the ones and just compete to continue to prove myself and get better.
"It's a good chance to come out here each and every day and do what you like to do so much."
Jennings knows that he will be challenged in training camp by Hayden, his former teammate with Colts, and is ready to battle to retain his starting job.
"It's going to be real competitive because I know some of these guys, I know them pretty well," Jennings said. "Overall, we made a great improvement in the secondary whether I'm out there or not. It's going to get me to continue to work on some of the things I need to work on. It's going to be a competitive camp."