CHICAGO -- For Kevin Pierre-Louis, a 28-year-old on his fourth team in four seasons, this is the kind of opportunity that can potentially alter his career trajectory or leave him with the label of qualified backup and standout special teams player for the remainder of his career.
The Bears appear to be down to two reserves at inside linebacker for the final three games as Pierre-Louis will step in Sunday at Lambeau Field for Roquan Smith, who was placed on season-ending injured reserve with a torn left pectoral muscle.
Pierre-Louis will play alongside Nick Kwiatkowski, who will make his sixth start this season and 20th of his career with Danny Trevathan still sidelined with a left elbow injury. Trevathan has not been placed on season-ending injured reserve, but he has not returned to practice, and the Bears could be holding out for the possibility they reach the playoffs.
Pierre-Louis entered the league as a fourth-round pick by the Seahawks out of Boston College in 2014. His last start came with the Seahawks in Week 6 of the 2015 season when he made 11 tackles in a 27-23 loss. It was so long ago the details are fuzzy for him.
But he played well replacing Smith after the opening drive in last Thursday's 31-24 victory over the Cowboys with five tackles, one stop for a loss, two passes defended and a hit on quarterback Dak Prescott. Pierre-Louis prides himself on being ready, and his play, along with Kwiatkoski's, is evidence that inside linebacker is perhaps the deepest position general manager Ryan Pace has assembled.
Trevathan is coming out of contract as is Kwiatkoski, who will wear the green-dot helmet with the speakers to get the calls from the sideline Sunday. The Bears potentially could benefit with 2021 compensatory draft picks if one or both depart via free agency. Looking ahead to the offseason, Pace is unlikely to sink big money into a second inside linebacker with the investment the franchise has in Smith, the 2018 first-round draft pick.
The Bears signed Pierre-Louis to a one-year contract for $805,000, a minimum-salary deal that counts only $645,000 against the salary cap. He signed in May, two months after the Jets released him, choosing not to pay him $2 million in the second year of a $5.25 million contract after minor injuries limited him to nine games in 2018. There were other options for him in free agency, but he had connections at Halas Hall, including coach Matt Nagy and inside linebackers coach Mark DeLeone from his time with the Chiefs and believed that made it a strong fit.
So that's how Pierre-Louis is approaching a career crossroads with a chance to enhance his resume with strong game tape at the end of the season.
"That's a possibility," Pierre-Louis said. "But the best thing I can do is just one step at a time and do my job."
He had what DeLeone termed "meaningful" snaps on defense for the Chiefs in 2017 when he totaled 35 tackles. There's a trust factor -- the Bears say Pierre-Louis has been one of the team's better practice players all season.