Collins made the 53-man roster after he stood out in training camp and in the preseason but had been inactive or unavailable for every game this year up until Sunday. Collins was suspended for Week 1 for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy on the offseason.
Collins made an immediate impact in the middle of the defensive line as he registered three tackles in 35 snaps against the Panthers.
Bears coach Lovie Smith said Collins earned his playing time on the practice field where the defensive tackle's effort never waned despite not dressing on game days.
"Each week we normally dress seven defensive linemen. We have 10 on the roster so three aren't dressing," Smith said. "I just think if you practice well, as Nate Collins has been doing ... giving us a great look, and we think he's a pretty good player. He just hasn't had an opportunity to play. Amobi Okoye has been doing some good things. Not his best work the last couple weeks, so it was as simple as that. Nate had a better week of practice and deserved an opportunity to get that uniform, and he did some good things in the game."