There is a strange twist facing safety Sherrick McManis as he attempts to play a ninth straight season for the Chicago Bears at the age of 32.
McManis, who turns 33 in December, finished last year on the bench with a groin injury lasting five weeks. Provided he's healthy, he would return a reputation for special teams play matched by few over the last decade in the NFL.
However, McManis is facing the fight of his life just to make this roster because free agent safety acquisition Jordan Lucas plays the same position and is also a quality special teams player. The Bears also have kick/punt coverage standout DeAndre Houston-Carson playing backup safety, as well as Deon Bush.
The ironic twist lies in where McManis plays and what most NFL special teams players are able to do for their teams.
Players on special teams generally are backups and are told they must do everything they can as special teams players to be worth keeping on the roster. It's not everyone who can play special teams effectively.
In McManis' case, the Bears know he's a special teams star but if he is to make the roster it will be because he has the unique ability to do what the other special teams/defensive back candidates for the roster can't do and that's play every single secondary position.
Versatility rules when it comes to reserve players.
McManis was never good enough to be a starter in the secondary with the Bears, but he was always good enough at it to be active on Sundays because if someone got injured you knew he had the experience to fill in and could step in and play virtually anywhere.
McManis became a safety last year. Prior to that he was a cornerback, and the Bears at one point put him at slot cornerback. It was there he started in the NFC playoffs in 2018 after Bryce Callahan suffered a season-ending injury.
Whether McManis can still be so useful in the secondary at his age is the question he'll have to answer at training camp. The injury last year was alarming because it's the kind of thing which happens more often to older players trying to push their bodies beyond the limits.
McManis has made 124 tackles as a Chicago Bear since that last season of the Lovie Smith era. The longest tenured Bear has made 50 of those tackles on defense.
Strangely enough, it's there where the special teams ace is going to find the necessary qualities to make this roster again.
Sherrick McManis at a Glance
Key Numbers: McManis went from 2012 until 2018 before making his first Bears interception. His only other career interception came for Houston as a rookie in 2010.
Roster Chances: 3 on a scale of 1-5 with 5 being the most.
2020 Projection: 9 special teams tackles, one pass defensed.