Bears' Ha Ha Clinton-Dix comes long way in a short time

Gene Chamberlain

Mitchell Trubisky's pass came on a line straight at Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in practice Sunday, resulting in an interception.

If it had been a game, it would have been a first for Clinton-Dix as a pro — a touchdown return. He's never had a pick-6.

It was the kind of play Clinton-Dix came to Chicago to make in games.

"Just to be around a lot guys that know how to get their hands on the ball and score touchdowns, it just put me closer to them," Clinton-Dix said. "And I'm excited."

Clinton-Dix had about as slow a start to training camp as anyone, watching from the sideline on the Physically Unable to Perform List. He finished as one of the surging Bears on defense.

"Ha Ha's having a good camp," Bears coach Matt Nagy said. "I love his mentality. He's come in and bought in completely into our culture. He's a team player. He's done everything we've asked — and more. And he's fit right on in with that defense. And so, those guys ... we've got pretty good players on the other (defensive) side of the ball."

Clinton-Dix adjusted to his new surroundings not when he came off the PUP list, but well back in OTAs before the knee sprain put him on the sideline.

"He joined in right away and I think he was kind of feeling (his way) in the early part of OTAs," Nagy said. "Once he realized the communication and how these guys are he sees that we like to have fun out there on defense, so he bought right on in and he's just being himself."

Clinton-Dix is having more fun than he's had since 2014.

"I haven't been part of a group like this since I was a rookie in the league," Clinton-Dix said. "Being able to be around this many guys with this much talent, elite players in the front seven, it'll make my job a lot easier."

The defensive talent on the roster has awed Clinton-Dix.

"It's this group of guys, man, it's the character that these guys carry on this team that you don't have too often throughout the league.

"It's a special group here. I've been saying that since I got here. And I'm just glad to be a part of it."

Clinton-Dix is in Chicago on a one-year $3.25 million prove-it contract. Whether they'll be able to keep him is a difficult question to answer, since they'll also have to get a new contract for his sidekick at safety, former Alabama teammate Eddie Jackson.

Although he draws plenty of compliments for his start, Clinton-Dix sees plenty of ways he could get better in the system of new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano.

"I can get better, I've got a lot of things I can work on," Clinton-Dix said. "Just sitting down, talking to coach Pagano, who reminds me of (Alabama) coach (Nick) Saban, he never allows us to get too comfortable and he's a defensive back coach.

"We were just speaking on some things that I can work on today. So we got a few more games of preseason left and you know it's time to roll."

Making plays on the ball has never been a problem for Clinton-Dix, even if he hasn't scored on interception returns like Jackson has three times the past two seasons. He has 14 career interceptions, all with the Packers.

Clinton-Dix said the Packer game won't be exciting because it's his former team, but because it's the first with his new team.

"The excitement is being a part of this group," Clinton Dix said. "You don't get a chance to win in this league. It's a very short window.

"And to be able to be a part of this here and to start where we left off last year, man, I'm excited about that opportunity."