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Montez Sweat embracing 2023 roller-coaster ride that brought him to Bears: 'It's a blessing to be here' 

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Montez Sweat posted 72 quarterback pressures along with a career-high 12.5 sacks in 2023 to earn his first Pro Bowl selection.

He played for two teams. He was traded once.

His former coach was fired. His new head coach was on the hot seat.

Amid it all, the Chicago Bears standout secured a four-year, $98 million extension. It was hardly a boring year for the 27-year-old edge rusher, but he's embraced the twists and turns.

"Man, it's been a roller coaster," Sweat told Friday at Pro Bowl Games practice. "A roller-coaster ride. Just gotta enjoy the ride. Some slopes gonna be kinda tough, sometimes it's gonna be dropping and sometimes it's gonna be fun. I've just been embracing it. It's a blessing to be here."

Currently, Sweat's in Orlando, Florida, as a member of the NFC Pro Bowl Games team. On Sunday at the all-star finale, he'll wrap up his whirlwind fifth season. It began with him playing some of the best ball of his career for the Washington Commanders and head coach Ron Rivera. Sweat's time in Washington ended abruptly for him when he was shipped to Chicago ahead of the trade deadline.

Looking back, Sweat believes he's now where he should be, but he admits it was a gut punch when he was traded.

"I was definitely discouraged, disappointed when I got traded," he said. "Nobody wants to get traded; just an asset, a bond, a value."

The trade led to his aforementioned extension, though. The pay day offered alleviation and, in Sweat's mind, better play.

"Yeah, just like any athlete who wants to get paid and get that money secured, it was a big relief," he said. "I think it allowed me to play more free and more loose."

Rivera, who began coaching Sweat in his second pro season, was fired as Commanders head coach at season's end. Sweat's new head coach in Chicago, Matt Eberflus, remains and he's plenty happy about it.

"I like coach Flus. He's a player's coach," Sweat said. "He puts his playmakers in a position to make plays. And he's a funny guy."

After his somewhat surprising revelation about "Flus," Sweat chuckled. Though his feet are in Orlando at the moment, he realizes he's found the right spot in Chicago after one crazy 2023 season.

"Do I look back on it, yeah," Sweat said of the trade working out in his favor despite his initial discouragement. "I feel like it was what God wanted."

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