Chicago's enforcer

Bears defensive lineman Israel Idonije leads the NFL in blocks this season. (Sun Media File)

Bears defensive lineman Israel Idonije leads the NFL in blocks this season. (Sun Media File)

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:32 AM ET

You've got to hand it to Izzy Idonije -- he's certainly making the most of his playing time.

While he's still not starting on defence, Idonije has become the biggest star of the Chicago Bears special teams, next to kick returner Devin Hester.

Through five weeks of the season, the four-year NFLer has already blocked three kicks, which not only leads the NFL but is more than any other team has managed.

It's just the latest chapter in the incredible story this 26-year-old continues to write.

Kids from Brandon who don't play football until Grade 12 shouldn't be leading the NFL in anything. But there's Idonije, picking off field goals and extra points like he's picking cherries.

"It's like he's got a broom in his hand," is how fellow Bears D-lineman Tommie Harris described it to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Idonije blocked kicks in three straight games -- two field goals and a convert -- a streak that came to an end in a victory over the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field this past weekend.

"It's just another thing I can do," Idonije said from Chicago yesterday. "We've got a nice little blocking system. We should have had one against the Packers, too, to continue our streak. But Lach just missed it."

That would be Brian Urlacher, the Bears linebacker who often gives Idonije a push from behind on field goals.

"Lach pushes on my back, and then I have two knockers (that's what special teams co-ordinator Dave Toub calls them) on my right and left, and basically we just go get it," Idonije said. "All of us working together, getting your hand up and just try to get in the way. Really, I have the easiest part of the job. I just have to put my hand up."

Truth is, Idonije's job is anything but easy.

He has to keep his defensive head in the game, just in case he's sent in, like last Sunday when an injury called for him to play in nickel situations.

And he's got to be ready for virtually all the special teams, which the Bears are starting to be known for the way they used to be known for defence.

There's Hester, who's already scored nine return touchdowns in his career, piling them up faster than anyone in NFL history. You'll often find Idonije leading the way with his devastating blocking, which earned him the nickname "the enforcer" in the Chicago Tribune.

And now there's the NFL's most feared kick-blocking unit, led by the 6-foot-6, 275-pound Manitoban.

Don't think the Bears aren't noticing the big man's contributions. According to the Tribune, Idonije set a team record for special teams points, as judged by the coaching staff, against Detroit 10 days ago.

The way Idonije tells it, he and his teammates take enormous pride in what they do.

"Absolutely. It's gotta be about a mentality. We take pride in returning kicks to the house. Our field goal block, we rush every snap. We don't take snaps off. And being able to pin teams deep in their own zones, we take a lot of pride on specials.

"I'm just doing what I do. When I get on defence, try to make plays. On special teams, try to just cause problems and help my team win on Sundays."

There's the rub. Idonije's individual exploits didn't mean as much when the Bears got off to a 1-3 start.

Last weekend's win over Green Bay quickly erased any disappointment about the end of his blocked kick streak.

"When you lose, you gotta focus on what we did wrong," Idonije said. "When you win, let's fine tune it and keep winning. The coaches are happier. When you're winning, it makes for a fun environment at the office."

It's an office Idonije is looking more and more comfortable in all the time.


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