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Knock on wood: Dvoracek tackling season while healthy
By Bob LeGere | Daily Herald Staff

Dusty Dvoracek

 

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Published: 9/19/2008 12:12 AM

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Dusty Dvoracek's 12 tackles in the first two games are more than the next two Bears defensive linemen combined.

What's more impressive is that the nose tackle is usually the player who gets double-teamed on running plays.

But for Dvoracek, just being healthy is more important than statistics.

The 2006 third-round draft pick missed his entire rookie season with a foot injury, and then, in the season opener last year, he suffered a season-ending knee injury.

He also missed the first two weeks of this year's training camp with a strained calf that he injured while working out. It limited him to just one preseason game, but he's been 100 percent since the real games began, though he still isn't satisfied.

"I definitely see places I can get better," the 6-foot-3, 303-pound Dvoracek said, even after making 9 tackles against the Panthers. "But the first two games are down, and it's just good to be healthy and still playing."

No Bears defensive tackle had as many as 9 tackles in any game last season.

"That was excellent. I didn't realize that he had that many plays," said Bears defensive coordinator Bob Babich. "He brings a lot to the table, not only on the field, but his aggressiveness, the way he attacks, those type things."

Dvoracek's outstanding performance in the first two games hasn't surprised Babich or anyone other Bear because of the way he performed in the preseason last year when he won the starting job.

He had 5 tackles in the 2007 opener, including 1 for negative yardage, before tearing his left ACL.

"When he played last year in the first game, he had an excellent game," Babich said. "We (just) needed to get him on the field. It's been a shame that he hasn't been able to be on the field as much as he would have liked or we would have liked him. But he's on the field now, and he's doing a good job."

Because of injuries, Dvoracek has never played a regular-season game at Soldier Field, even though he's in his third season.

"I can't wait to run out of the tunnel and get going," he said. "I'm feeling real good, and we've got a big challenge this week with Tampa."

The Bucs' offense is similar to the Panthers' offense, which the Bears held to 216 total yards last week.

Tampa Bay has the league's No. 1 rushing offense in average yards per carry. Five-foot-9, 225-pound Earnest Graham, the power portion of the Bucs' running back tandem, is averaging 8.3 yards on 25 carries, thanks to a career-long 68-yard TD run last week. Warrick Dunn doesn't seem to have lost much, even at age 33, averaging 4.9 yards on 21 carries

"It's a big challenge for us defensively, especially stopping the run; that's kind of where it all starts," Dvoracek said. "That's our main focus for this week."

As well as the Bears have played defensively, as a group they weren't pleased with their performance in the second half last week, when they allowed the Panthers to overcome a 17-3 deficit.

Dvoracek said the defense had opportunities to prevent the comeback but didn't take advantage.

"When we're in position to make plays, we have to make them," he said. "We had a few missed tackles, and we definitely wish we could have had a few plays back. You just have to make those plays when you get a chance this Sunday."

So far, Dvoracek has been making as many plays as anyone.