The days of Johnny Knox fretting over making the Bears' 45-man gameday roster are over.
After catching 45 balls for 527 yards and 5 touchdowns in an impressive rookie campaign, it's easy to forget Knox wasn't originally scheduled to see the field. He was supposed to be inactive when the Bears opened up the 2009 season at Green Bay, but a quad injury to Devin Aromashodu opened the door for the fifth-round selection to jump into the rotation at wide receiver. Knox immediately paid dividends, hauling in a 68-yard reception against the Packers, one of numerous big plays made by the Texas native throughout the year.
Knox's follow-up season in Chicago presents several unique challenges. The receiver is no longer an unknown commodity and will be watched closely by opposing defenders. Knox must also learn his third new offense in three years, and it's probably safe to say the system employed by Mike Martz is way more complicated than anything Knox encountered under Ron Turner or at tiny Abilene Christian.
"It'll take me a real game in the preseason to get that real good feel for the faster pace," Knox said this week at Halas Hall. "I got a good feel for it now because I got a jump start during offseason workouts. Last year I had to come in during camp and try to learn the offense, but now I'm a lot closer to knowing the offense than I was last year. I know how things work just from playing last year."
An encouraging development considering Knox found a way to make an impact in 2009 despite a somewhat limited understanding of the playbook. Martz is known to have a low tolerance level when it comes to players failing to execute their assignments, so while it's likely Knox encountered a few speed bumps during the offseason workouts, he's performed well enough to be firmly entrenched in a starters' role.
"It's a big opportunity going with the [first team]," Knox said. "But if I was one, two or three, I'd still be trying to take the same approach whether I was starting or not."