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Gutting It Out Is Just What Jason Peters Does

Bears left tackle Jason Peters isn't about to let a dislocated finger get in the way of this week's game with Cleveland after what he's fought through to reach this point.

When you're 39 years old, didn't start training camp until a few weeks into August and did it with a new team, the last thing Jason Peters would worry about is a measly dislocated finger.

The Bears left tackle shrugged this injury off and played last week against Cincinnati and now for his reward gets to face the Cleveland pass-rush edge tandem of Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney.

"Yeah, I thought I broke it but I just dislocated it," Peters said.

"When I looked down it was going to the left so I was like, 'damn.' I didn't realize what happened because when I hit him I thought it was my hand but when I grabbed it and looked down it was my finger."

Considering he went into last week's game with limited practice only due to a quad injury, Peters was no worse overall for the wear.

"It's cool. You know just a little soreness, finger just a little sore but nothing major," he said.

Gutting it out is a part of line play as it was in 2004 when Peters started in the NFL with Buffalo as an undrafted free agent out of Arkansas.

"I think that speaks to who he is," Bears coach Matt Nagy said. "He's tough. He’s tough. That says a lot right there. Without saying a lot verbally, his actions are speaking to these players, like, he showed up and he played that entire game, and he fought through a lot of things there.

"So I appreciate that from him. I know everybody else does and he's a leader on that offense."

Peters has had more than a couple of minor injuries to worry about and the first was his conditioning, considering he lacked the usual offseason work or even part of training camp. He's still working at this.

"Pool work, I actually just came out of the weight room now," he said. "I do a lot of core work. I run in the pool in the morning, I get here early. Probably about 35, 40 minutes just to get your legs and stuff up under you without working your legs on the field so that way you've got your legs when you go on the field but you're still getting your cardio in.

"You know, when you're younger, your energy level and your cardio is out the roof. When you get older you get fatigued a little bit faster and your recovery time is short, versus when you're younger. You just gotta do more cardio to get your body and stuff used to going to hard in a long period of time."

He's also had to adjust to playing with new teammates. Playing alongside left guard Cody Whitehair was a plus because of the experience factor. The two veterans are always talking together in games and practice to work on communicating with blocking assignments but it goes beyond this.

"A great guy, hard worker, very smart," Peters said about Whitehair. "He's always in the right position with his footwork."

Trouble is, that footwork was different than Peters was used to playing with someone else.

"I fell a couple times in the L.A. game just trying to get in sync with him because with him he likes to kick out his left leg deep to stay square so you know I'm used to the guys reverse-staggering and stuff," Peters said. "So I'm just getting used to playing beside him with his footwork. But he's a great wing guy."

And then there is the adjustment to playing with Justin Fields, scrambler, as opposed to Andy Dalton, pocket passer. 

Peters has blocked for scramblers before, most notably Michael Vick, and last week didn't take Trey Hendrickson far enough outside. It resulted in a strip sack. Fields recovered it, a key play in the game as it turned out.

Normally it would have been plenty far enough to ride the pass rusher to the outside but Fields turns and tries to escape the pocket to the side or back instead of stepping up, much like many scramblers do.

"I've just got to adjust, I've got to take more kicks when Justin is in there just to cut off his pursuit angle because he's going to bail out and try and make a play," Peters said. "That's what he does, you know, making plays. So two different quarterbacks, you've got one that pushes up and then you've got one that's trying to get outside the pocket if he gets a little pressure up front."

It's a point of emphasis this week in practice.

"Yeah, I'm definitely going to work on that all week, just kicking more and getting more depth," Peters said. "That way when he bails out of the pocket he's got a clean pocket vs. you know just kind of short setting and taking on the bull because Andy's going to be on the spot and then pushing up."

One thing Peters didn't have to do at age 39 was prove to himself he could still play.

"I know how I can do it or I would've stayed home," he said. "It's just the point of, football shape is a whole different ballgame. Just running and doing gassers. You're out on the field working against a bag versus a live guy.

"You got one (defensive) guy coming in for two or three plays, maybe five plays on a 10-play drive. Then you have another guy come off the sideline full-tilt ready to roll. I'm six, seven plays in and now you've got a fresh D-end. It's just stack—you've gotta keep grinding and stacking the plays over and over and over."

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