Healthy Paea poised for big things in 2013

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears list starting nose tackle Stephen Paea at 300 pounds in the club's 2013 media guide, but Paea said on Monday he never played above 291 pounds until this offseason, when he added five pounds of muscle to his frame and tipped the scales at 295 when the team reported to camp last week.

Paea is fresh off a productive second NFL season when he recorded 30 tackles, 2.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles-for-loss in 14 starts. Those numbers were a stark contrast to Paea's rookie season when he managed to suit up for just 11 games as he battled back from a devastating knee injury he suffered in the week leading up to the 2012 Senior Bowl. The Bears still moved up to draft Paea in the second round at No. 53 overall.

But with a healthy offseason under his belt, Paea could be poised for bigger things in 2013. He has won the majority of his one-on-one individual matchups over the first two padded practices, and overall, seems to be one of the toughest Bears defensive linemen to block because of his combination of size, strength and speed.

"First off, I didn't have any injuries, knock on wood, coming off the season," Paea said. "This is the heaviest I've been, and the quickest. I'm in the best shape I've been in. So I'm doing something right here, you know."

A dominant three-technique defensive tackle pass-rusher at Oregon State with 14 career sacks, Paea claims to be comfortable with his role the past three years as a nose tackle, a somewhat less glamorous postion than three-technique. Paea especially enjoys being paired inside with Pro Bowl defensive tackle Henry Melton, who has 13 sacks the past two seasons.

"You know what, at the three-technique you've got to produce, and Henry is doing that," Paea said. "I'm not a selfish player. If Henry is producing at the three-technique and I'm producing at the nose, we can make a hell of a team."