In a typical season, the football talk in early June would normally center around organized team activities or OTA’s. Coaches would be talking about new players on the squad. Players would be discussing the resumption of training. However, 2020 has proven to be anything but normal. Even talk of the pandemic took a back seat this week to the national, and now global reaction to the murder of George Floyd.
“The last week and a half has been emotional for all of us.” coach Matt Nagy said on Wednesday June 3rd. “Football is extremely secondary. We have to get life right. Talking to some of the guys, helped me into deciding on Monday to spend our allotted two hours to listen and to let our players know how much I and we support them.That starts by listening. “
It was a very powerful and emotional meeting, and resulted in the decision to cancel Tuesday’s meetings.
Akiem Hicks spoke candidly to the media and told his reaction. “I wasn’t excited to get on that call. I didn’t think anything positive was going to come from it. I felt like it might be a control situation, and control the narrative.” It turned out he couldn’t have been more wrong. “It was totally different,” Hicks admitted. “I watched young black men, young white men, older coaches from all across the United States. Watching everybody reveal themselves and express their real feelings out in the open. Everybody let those feeling go and shared from the heart, and shared their real experiences. As a team there was a level of healing, and coming together. It was a positive call. It changed my perspective.”
When the two hours ended, we were all very emotionally drained in a good way. There was a lot of emotions that went on. There was a lot of anger. There was a lot of fear in the conversations, there was disgust. There was sadness. There was compassion, hurt, surprise. It was probably the most powerful two-hour meeting that I have ever been in and will ever be in.”-Matt Nagy
“There were thank you’s for being able to have a platform to talk in a protective setting. There were a lot of thank yous that I can tell my story and be heard. We collectively communicate together. Every one has an opinion. Everyone has a feeling. And then we come together united. That’s what we believe in.” Nagy went on to mention some of the local organizations that the team supports. He also added that players can bring ideas at the start of upcoming meetings.
It wasn’t long before the subject of Colin Kapernick came up, whether he would support kneeling during the national anthem. “We’ll talk it through, and we’ll see. I’m going to sit back completely listen to what our player’s opinions are, and what they want to do. I just really believe in that, I stand by that. I don’t want to speak for them. Whatever we decide to do, we’ll do that. It’s about creating change and affecting change.” This comment took place prior to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell doing a mea culpa, and accepting responsibility for not doing more during the controversy in 2017.
Hicks commented, “At the beginning there wasn’t a lot of support for Kapernick. The picture was painted in a way to make him the aggressor. It’s unfortunate that the young man had to sacrifice his career to bring attention and light to it. There have been several guys that I talked to that feel like they wish they had done something different at the time. That they wish they had been more supportive, for fear of their jobs, as it did happen to Kapernick.”
I hope something positive comes out of the protest. This is different. There are a lot more ethnicities out on the front lines, and speaking out and standing up.”-Akiem Hicks
“You can’t live in fear,” says linebacker Danny Trevathian. “Sometimes it takes time to learn how not to fear. Accept it, but don’t fear it. I feel like we all could have done a little bit better. I did what I felt was important. That was taking a stand. I joined the social justice committee. Football is football. Wrong is wrong, and right is right. It costs nothing to care about one another. We can’t keep ignoring stuff and putting it under the table. We have to be men about it and deal with it, and actually take actions without fearing the repercussions.” He made a point of saying how he wanted to set an example for his children.
You can’t help but feel, and see what’s going on. What if I didn’t have football? Those situations we cannot ignore. That’s not OK. You’ve been through so much anger, It boils over. I have to take the right steps. I’m not ignoring it. I’m thinking about stuff right now. I get emotional. I feel like I could do a lot more. We just want to be heard. We just want to be treated fair. I have to look my daughters in the eye and explain what’s going on. I don’t want them to fear anything.”-Danny Trevathian
Eventually, the discussion did pivot to the 2020 Bears. One reporter asked about newly acquired free agent linebacker Robert Quinn. Nagy replied, “We see a really smart, high energy football player, that does a really good job at getting after the quarterback. It’s been a challenging time for him to continue test himself and learn this new scheme, and he’s excelled at it. The feedback were getting from the coaching staff on who he is and how great he wants to be at his position is fun.”
Trevathian thinks the defense will be phenomenal. “I feel like right now is the time where we create that communication. Keeping that contact with one another will be the deciding factor between which team comes out victorious. We have the people on this team, on this defense to be one of the ones that stands out. We have to push one another and call each other out.”
In regards to the upcoming competition and quarterback between Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles, Nagy commented, “they will be judged on efficiency, productivity, within the special situations that you have. Based on first and second down, are you making the adjustments at the line of scrimmage to be able to pick up a blitz? How accurate are you with specific throws? Are you playing smart in the red zone? What is your mentality? What is your communication like at the line of scrimmage with the wide receivers when you’re going two-minute, no huddle? The most challenging part of losing out on the offseason is, is there improvement?” He also stressed, “it will be important to have both quarterbacks playing with the same wide receivers and tight ends against the same defenses.”
Lastly, Hicks was asked from a personal perspective how he was doing? He thanked the reporter for posing the question, and went on to say, “It is a really interesting thing to be on this call. I don’t see one face that looks like mine. But what I do see is a lot of people that I have interactions with on a daily basis, that have treated me with respect. That have been honest., and that have worked with me on a lot of the things I’ve done over my four years here. Racism doesn’t exist in every situation. Have I experienced it or encountered it in my thirty years? A lot of times. I can’t live my life or do my job, if the first thing on my mind is, ‘this person doesn’t like me because the color of my skin.’ Now, do I experience it, or do I ever feel it? Yes. But I have to interact with every single one of you. To have that mindset, It wouldn’t do me any justice.”