Fan voting for the Pro Bowl opened on Tuesday, and Bears CB Kyle Fuller should be a popular choice.
The only player in the league with more interceptions than Fuller’s four is Falcons second-year CB Damontae Kazee, who has five. Only three players have more pass breakups than Fuller’s 10. Last year Fuller had 22 pass breakups, and only the Lions’ Darius Slay (26) had more.
But don’t expect to hear the soft-spoken Fuller campaigning for himself, even if he has earned strong consideration. Fuller was asked if it was too soon for him to start thinking about what would be his first Pro Bowl berth.
“I won’t really think about it at any point,” said Fuller, who admitted that he “probably” deserved to at least be in the conversation.
Why not think about it?
“Because it won’t do anything for me,” said Fuller, who has taken reticence to an elite level.
The 2014 first-round draft choice (14th overall) out of Virginia Tech admitted being voted to the Pro Bowl would be an “honor.” He was the third sibling to play at Virginia Tech and go on to the NFL, following the lead of older brothers Vincent and Corey. Younger brother Kendall, a cornerback with the Chiefs, made it four NFL Fullers.
In addition to his own four interceptions, including one vs. the Bills in Week Nine, Fuller broke up two passes in that game that were intercepted by teammates Leonard Floyd and Adrian Amos. Floyd returned his deflection for a touchdown.
The Bears’ veteran defensive backs coach Ed Donatell, who has been Fuller’s position coach since 2015, diplomatically declines to say whether the five-year veteran is having a better year than he did in 2017.
“I think both years have been good,” Donatell said. “He’s getting the interceptions this year, and those are helping our team. He’s been steady all year, and he’s working at his trade. I don’t judge how good the season is, I judge on how much he’s doing to help our team win, and he’s doing things that are helping us win games.”
Fuller and the Bears will face one of their toughest assignments in prime time Sunday night against the Vikings in a Soldier Field showdown for first place in the NFC North. Minnesota WRs Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs are one of the NFL’s top tandems. Thielen went over 100 yards in each of the Vikings’ first eight games, and he has 78 receptions for 947 yards and seven touchdowns. Diggs (58-587-4) is expected back after missing one game with a rib injury.
“It’s one of those games you get excited about,” said Fuller, without showing a trace of excitement. “So we’ll be looking forward to it.”
Donatell says Fuller’s cool and calm off-the-field demeanor changes in the heat of battle.
“Yeah, he’s low-key,” Donatell said. “(But) he’s an aggressive player for being a soft-spoken guy. He gets pretty competitive and fierce in the game.”
Fuller has come a long way from 2016, when he missed the entire season following arthroscopic knee surgery in the preseason. Based on that, the Bears didn’t pick up his fifth-year option, but they signed him to a four-year, $56-million deal that included $19 million guaranteed after he rebounded in 2017.
Maybe that’s why Fuller seems so content.
“He’s happy,” Donatell said. “He feels good that he’s a Bear for a long time, and he can take on a higher leadership role on this team and in this organization.
Or maybe it’s knowing he’s prepared for whatever comes his way on game day because of the work he puts in during the week.
“It’s really about his hard work in practice every day,” Donatell said. “That’s what leads to production, and he’s sold on that. This guy watches a lot of film, so when he sees something during a game, he can feel confident when he’s breaking, knowing it’s the right thing to do. It all starts with preparation. It has nothing to do with luck or guessing or anything like that. Those things don’t work.”
Talking little and making big plays is what works for Fuller.