A healthy Charles Snowden could be a sleeper contributor for the 2022 Chicago Bears

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Charles Snowden is finally healthy after a debilitating ankle injury and ready to earn his NFL stripes with the Chicago Bears.

Charles Snowden was once on a linear path to the NFL. The “tall, thin basketball player” turned football player was rising up the NFL draft ladder into the middle rounds after starting out as a part-time player as a freshman who made 13 tackles.

By his senior year, it was “hard to separate Charles Snowden and U-Va. football” according to his college coach Bronco Mendenhall. Snowden led the team in sacks and earned second-team all-conference. He had caught the eye of scouts including former Chicago Bears General Manager Ryan Pace.

Snowden’s college career ended prematurely when he suffered a broken right ankle in his third to last college game versus Abilene Christian. Snowden missed the Cavaliers’ final two games of the 2020 season and tumbled out of the draft.

Chicago Bears: Healthy Charles Snowden could be a sleeper in 2022

Pace remained interested enough to bring Snowden in as an undrafted free agent and stow him away on the Bears practice squad last season. He was on the active roster for two games despite never being fully healthy.

“It probably wasn’t until week seven, week eight of the season where I finally felt like 95% back myself with the ankle and especially as an edge rusher, where you have to kind of bend and put your ankles in awkward situations,” Snowden told FanSided’s Da Windy City Podcast in a lengthy interview. “It definitely was tough at first, but it’s definitely feeling 100 percent now.”

Snowden was hanging on for his NFL life as the ankle slowly healed. The Bears were suffering through a miserable 6-win season and players were coming and going. Snowden somehow made it through.

“Every day, my fingerprint works to get in the building, It’s a great day,” Snowden said. “But it’s always that, that balance of I’m excited, I’m grateful I’m here. But I know there’s more to be done.”

The challenge now is to impress a new coaching staff and regime. The Bears defense has shifted from a 3-4 to a 4-3. Snowden is being asked to play with his fingers in the dirt at edge rusher and to add weight. He got up to 261 pounds during minicamp from 245 last season.

“My biggest thing is always been gaining that weight while also maintaining my speed and mobility and all that,” Snowden said.

Opportunities to prove himself should be there for Snowden. Roquan Smith appears to be a training camp holdout. Robert Quinn, who led the Bears in sacks last year, might want to play elsewhere.

Meanwhile, Matt Eberflus is on the lookout for hungry players who fit his system. Snowden has gotten the message.

“I’d say the biggest difference is that these coaches have a very clear-cut idea of what they want our, our identity to be. They have made it very clear that we will be the hardest playing, high effort, most in shape team in the league,” Snowden said.

And Snowden has a game plan for how he plans to impress the coaching staff.

“My biggest thing right now my biggest focus where I’m gonna stick is just being a great special teams player and just continuing to improve as an edge rusher,” Snowden said.

Snowden has beaten the odds to get this far. The Bears could use a surprise or two to help them be competitive in 2022 on both sides of the ball. Snowden is an under-the-radar candidate to keep an eye on as training gets underway this week.

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