LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton still remembers one particular encounter he had with St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford when the two squared off in college in the annual Texas vs. Oklahoma "Red River Rivalry."
"I got a personal foul on him, actually," Melton said "I'm not going to do that this time. I think I had a little forearm to the face. It was a rivalry game."
Melton plans to harass Bradford in the context of the rules this time around. The Rams' quarterback has been sacked six times this year as St. Louis has suffered multiple injuries on its offensive line, most notably at left tackle where the Rams might be forced to start a third-stringer this weekend.
"Just hit him," Melton said. "I did it in college. I plan on doing it again."
This is not uncharted territory for Melton, who tasted success in the early stages of last season before going five straight weeks without a sack in the middle portion of the year. However, Melton finished strong in 2011 with four sacks in the final five games and ended his third year leading all NFC defensive tackles with seven sacks. Melton has picked up right where he left off to the tune of three combined sacks versus Indianapolis (2) and Green Bay (1) through Week 2.
The key question for Melton will be whether he can keep the momentum going and avoid a drop-off in production. After all, this is a contract year for Melton, whose original rookie deal expires after the season.
“It’s just having another year underneath my belt," Melton said. "Just knowing really what’s going to go on the rest of the year and how they’re going to play me and how we’re going to play other teams. It’s mostly mental. Especially playing that position, you get torn down physically. Then you’ve got to stay on track mentally to keep yourself in shape and keep making plays.
"I came in kind of real under the radar last year. Teams did start noticing what I was doing. I got double-teamed sometimes, but you really can’t make any excuses. You’ve just got to make your plays.”