Out of football since being cut by the Jets last September, former Rams and Giants linebacker Alec Ogletree was visiting his buddy Robert Quinn at Halas Hall earlier this month — watching Quinn’s sister, Jasmine Camacho-Quinn, win a gold medal in the 100-meter hurdles at the Tokyo Olympics.
“Just was gonna be here for a couple days and then go back to Georgia,” Ogletree said. “My agent called me and asked me where I was at. I said, ‘I’m in Chicago.’ He’s like, ‘Uh, don’t leave. They want to sign you.’
“Just right timing, I would say. I’m appreciative of the opportunity to come in here and still get a chance to play and show them I can still be here.”
Ogletree already has made the most of the opportunity. He had an interception in his first practice with the Bears last Thursday, then three on Friday, one on Saturday and one more on Sunday to give him six interceptions in four practices. Ogletree is a long way from proving he deserves a roster spot — he was signed only after reserves Josh Woods (quadriceps), Joel Iyiegbuniwe (hamstring) and Christian Jones (COVID-19 list) missed practice time. But he’s taken a giant first step by getting the attention of the coaching staff.
“He’s doing great,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said. “What a credit to him to come in here and we’re down on some numbers at inside linebacker and all he is doing is making plays. You can’t ask for more than that.”
Ogletree, a first round draft pick by the Rams in 2013, started seven seasons in the NFL before his career stalled. The Giants cut him after the 2019 season. The Jets signed Ogletree during Week 1 last year but cut him after two games. He was all but out of football before the Bears called.
“You’re a free agent and you’re just out there in the market and — especially with COVID and stuff now, things are a lot different than they were before,” Ogletree said. “It’s definitely a lot of unknowns — and when you have that, you can have a bad thoughts. But you just have to keep the faith and keep believing that you are special and you can do it and given the right opportunity, the right chance, things can work out for you.”
In that regard, Ogletree couldn’t have asked for a much better opportunity. he joins a Bears defense with a Bears’ defense that has plenty of playmakers. And with starting inside linebackers Roquan Smith (groin) and Danny Trevathan (knee) not practicing Tuesday, Ogletree was getting first-team reps with Jones.
“It inspires me to come here and do my part,” Ogletree said. “You have guys that have been around, make plays, that are big-time players in this league. For me, it’s about playing at the same standard as those guys, doing my part and making sure I’m ready to go. It’s been a little [while] since I’ve had a front like that. But it’s definitely inspiring.”
Ogletree, who turns 30 on September 25, feels he still has it (“I’m like a good wine. I feel like I get better with age.”). And like any player in his position, he’s motivated to prove disbelievers wrong.
“At a certain point, you have little bit of pride, and that’s one of the things I learned this offseason,” he said. “You’ve done things in this league — good, bad, whatever — but it’s what can you do for me now?
“I kind of understood that, and it helped shape my mindset in terms of getting back in the league. I wanted to come in and show I can still do it. I never lost it. People can say different. But if I believe in myself, that’s all that matters to me.”