By Will Burchfield
Joique Bell is back in the NFL after being cut by the Detroit Lions in February, and his former comrades are happy for him.
“Joique’s one of my all-time favorite people. He’s just a tough, hard-nosed guy, was a great tone-setter for us. Got one of those unique personalities, and a heck of a football player,” said Jim Caldwell, who coached Bell in 2014 and 2015.
“It’s great for Joique to be back, playing the game that he loves,” Brandon Copeland said, describing his former teammate as both a mentor and a jokester. “He was always looking out and always trying to help the younger guys along.”
But Bell is a Bear now, a Chicago Bear, and the Lions are putting all friendships on hold ahead of their trip to Soldier Field on Sunday.
“Whoever lines up across from me in the Bears uniform, if they got the ball in their hands, I’m just trying to hit ‘em,” said Tahir Whitehead.
It remains to be seen how much (if at all) Bell plays on Sunday. Rookie Jordan Howard has been named the Bears’ starting running back in the wake of Jeremy Langford’s injury and Bell, having signed on Wednesday, is new to the team’s offense.
“I’ve only seen him for two days,” said Bears coach John Fox on Thursday during a conference call with Detroit reporters. “He practiced, but we had some guys in to workout. We needed to sign a guy just from a depth standpoint. I see a guy that’s got pretty good elusiveness. He adapted pretty fast, I know he’s football smart.”
Safety Glover Quin, a teammate of Bell’s from 2013-15, is planning for a high-impact reunion.
“If he gets in the game, we gotta treat him just like he’s a Chicago Bear. He’s not a friend during the game, he’s a Chicago Bear and we’re trying to take him out,” Quin said.
“You know you’ll probably talk smack to each other after the game, but while you’re in it and the bullets are flying, all friendships go out the window,” he said.
The Lions defense is looking to get back on track after surrendering 34 points to the Green Bay Packers in Week 3. Quin said the unit needs to play faster. Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said it needs to stiffen up on third down. Either way, the Lions can’t afford to lose sight of the task at hand.
“Me personally, and us as a defense, we’re not so tied up in the excitement of playing against Joique where we’re losing focus of the big picture that we’re playing against the Chicago Bears,” Copeland said. “If you get too tied up in competing against Joique then you forget about the other ten guys on the field at the time.
“It’s a business trip for us and Joique would have it no other way.”