Returning to Soldier Field for the first time since leaving the Chicago Bears over a year ago, Houston Texans defensive back Danieal Manning will have to hold back the emotions while he plays his former teammates, as he tells ESPN Chicago.
Drafted by the Bears in 2006, Manning ended up spending five seasons with the team, proving to be a key player both on defense and special teams. But the 30-year-old left for Houston before the 2011 season, rejecting an offer to return to Chicago that he perceived to be unfairly low.
Speaking about playing against his teammates, many of whom he still keeps in touch with, Manning acknowledged that it won't always be easy to distance himself personally:
To be honest guys, I can't even imagine what's going to happen. I know right now, as this week started to approach, I'm trying my best not to make it too personal. I'm trying to stay focused. I try not to play it like we have to out-play their defense, and stuff like that, just make sure I'm doing what I need to do to put us in a winning position.
Manning may not be telling his teammates that they don't need to out-play Chicago's defense, but that may be the case. The Bears' defensive unit has played a dominating brand of football so far this year, leading the league with 28 takeovers and seven defensive scores.
All of that should put some serious pressure on Houston, but the Texas will likely be prepared as arguably the one team in the league that can claim to match Chicago's defensive prowess. With a focused Manning and one of the best defenders in the league in J.J. Watt, it should be fun to watch those two defenses battle on Sunday.