Now healthy, Dvoracek looks to make an impact

LAKE FOREST, Ill. – After spending his entire rookie season on injured reserve, defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek had today’s date circled on his calendar since shortly after the Super Bowl.

The Bears kicked off their offseason conditioning program Tuesday at Halas Hall, and no one was more eager to participate than Dvoracek, who is expected to compete for a starting position next to former Oklahoma teammate Tommie Harris.

Dusty Dvoracek appeared in two preseason games as a rookie before being placed on injured reserve.

“It’s a great opportunity,” Dvoracek said. “The coaches and management will decide who does what, but this is definitely a big opportunity for me. I’m looking forward to it very much.”

A third-round pick, Dvoracek was part of a draft class that included key contributors Devin Hester, Mark Anderson and Danieal Manning. But the 6-3, 303-pounder hurt his foot in training camp and was placed on injured reserve Aug. 28 after appearing in two preseason games.

Dvoracek has since been cleared to participate in offseason activities without limitations.

“I’m 100 percent healthy,” he said. “My foot feels great. I haven’t felt this good in a long time. My body’s had a long time to rest and relax and I’m just ready to go.”

Dvoracek is a strong, physical and aggressive tackle who can collapse the pocket. Last year one draft guide described him as “tougher than nails” with “a thick, country-boy build.” An adept bull rusher, he plays with great power and lower body explosion.

In four-plus seasons at Oklahoma, Dvoracek registered 136 tackles, 44 tackles for loss and 16 sacks while starting 27 of 49 games played. As a senior in 2005, he established career highs with 44 tackles, 18 tackles for loss and recorded the first interception of his collegiate career.

Missing all of last season was difficult, but Dvoracek is convinced that he’s better prepared to contribute in 2007 than he was a year ago.

“I love football,” he said. “It’s no fun to sit out a whole season, but I learned a lot. I learned how the Bears system works. I got to know the players, how everything works at the NFL level.

“Coach (Lovie) Smith told me every week, ‘You’re not going to be a rookie next year.’ I’d have to go to meetings and I did everything with the team to get my rookie year out of the way, and it helped me a lot. I watched a lot of film, learned a lot of things and I’ll be ready to go.”

Last season, Dvoracek studied tape of opposing offensive linemen, especially those in the NFC North knowing that he would face them twice a season. He also focused on working in the weight room under the direction of Bears strength and conditioning coordinator Rusty Jones.

“I took that time not only from a mental aspect, but I lifted like crazy with Rusty Jones and I definitely feel stronger,” Dvoracek said. “And mentally, I’m more ready to go this year than I was last year.”

There’s something else that’s different about Dvoracek that’s much easier to see. He recently had his shoulder-length hair cut off by Harris live on television in Oklahoma City.

Dvoracek will donate 10 inches of his hair to Locks of Love, a non-profit organization that provides wigs to financially disadvantaged children who’ve lost their hair due to a variety of different medical conditions.

“I wanted to cut my hair and I wanted to do something good, so this was a good excuse to do that,” Dvoracek said. “Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t have hair. It helps to have wigs, so somebody’s going to get to wear my lovely locks.”