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ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Detroit Lions defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch didn't get to sleep in after playing high school football or slack off in the summer while growing up in Iowa.
Vanden Bosch was put to work at a family construction business, hauling blocks and bricks along with wheeling concrete around as needed.
"It wasn't easy," he recalled Wednesday. "As hard as I worked, I don't think I'll ever work as hard as my dad did and does still. The only thing I know how to do is go back to work. With dad ... he threw out his back and still went back to work."
Then and now, Vanden Bosch plays with a relentless abandon on each snap -- whether the lights are on or not. Every time he's on the field for practice, for example, Vanden Bosch puts his hands on the ball carrier, even if he's lined up on one side and the play goes the opposite way for a long gain.
"Literally, he does that every time," marveled teammate Willie Young, a second-year defensive end. "Me and Cliff Avril were just talking about him the other day when we [were] doing individuals and he was going at it like he was trying to make the team. We were saying when we're 10-year vets in the league, we hope we have that same energy. He's that guy you hear your high school or college coach say, 'That's the guy you need to study.' And, you should see him in the weight room. It's crazy. I can't keep up with him."
That's why the Lions made signing him a top priority last year.
Detroit coach Jim Schwartz got to know Vanden Bosch well as defensive coordinator with the Tennessee Titans. Vanden Bosch, who was drafted by Arizona in 2001, had a career-high 12 1/2 sacks in 2005 with the Titans and 12 in 2007.
Schwartz said Vanden Bosch has been a "DNA match" for the Lions on and off the field.
"It wasn't just his leadership or his work ethic, but his talent and the way he plays rubs off on a lot of other guys," Schwartz said. "We have some really good young players and we combined them with some good veterans, guys like Corey Williams and Kyle Vanden Bosch. Kyle has been everything we needed. None of that really means anything if he's not productive, and he's been very productive this year."
Vanden Bosch didn't practice Wednesday, following a program set up after he had neck surgery in December to help him be at his best for games.
It has worked well.
Vanden Bosch has five sacks, three forced fumbles, and a recovered fumble, proving the time off each week has helped him make plays when they matter most.
"Certainly, it keeps me fresh," he said. "Any time you have a neck injury and have neck surgery, I think there's a concern that you just want to limit the pounding during the week. I can't argue with the success it has given me on Sundays. I feel good and I'm able to go out there and be productive to help this team win."
The Lions (6-2) play Sunday at Chicago (5-3) in a game that'll give them a two-game lead over the Bears or put them in a second-place tie behind Green Bay in the NFC North.
When Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler watches film, he sees No. 93 playing with what he called an "unbelievable engine" from start to finish.
"He is going to go from the first play to the last play," Cutler said. "Really good against the run as well as third down getting off the edge. So you know the two guys [Vanden Bosch and Avril] on the edge create a lot of problems."
The guys in the middle of the defensive line, Ndamukong Suh and Williams, are pretty good as well. The entire unit is taking advantage of having a healthy Vanden Bosch on the field after he was limited to 11 games last year.
"I feel great," Vanden Bosch said. "After eight games, I don't think anybody feels great, but I don't feel any different than I did Week 2 or 3. It's kind of been the design of the way coach Schwartz has handled my practice schedule."
Titans defensive end William Hayes said Vanden Bosch taught him how to be a pro.
"The guy has the best motor that I've ever seen in my life," Hayes said. "I think the year he left he played one game like 70-something plays, and you didn't see him take off one play. That's hard and really rare to find in this league. And the one thing I really try to take from him is just play every play like it's your last."
NOTES: K Jason Hanson didn't practice Wednesday because of an injured left knee and the team worked out potential replacements after practice. ... RB Jahvid Best likely won't play against the Bears on Sunday, almost a month after his third career concussion.
TAMPA/HAYNESWORTH: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have claimed Albert Haynesworth off waivers, one day after the defensive lineman was released by New England.
General manager Mark Dominik confirmed the move Wednesday, saying the Bucs more than likely would not have been interested in the 350-pound Haynesworth if the team had not lost Gerald McCoy for the season this week because of a torn right biceps.