Second year officially begins for Ryan Pace and Matt Eberflus.
How will the Bears crawl out of the NFL’s worst record and start the true rebuilding process remains to be seen. However, it began on Monday with the arrival of players for the 2023 NFL training camp. OTA’s were voluntary. Now the real season begins in earnest.
General Manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Eberflus met with the media. Justin Fields and DJ Moore represented the offense. Eddie Jackson and Trumaine Edmunds spoke on behalf of the defense.
Justin Fields spent time in Florida working out with his wide receivers. He “just wanted to bring some of the guys down there and get together before camp and just work out a little bit, hang out a little bit. It was good getting some of the receivers and tight ends down there. Just working out and spending time together.”
Moore talked about his objectives for 2023: “Not really goals, but coming from where I came from, I just wanna win here. Everyone wants to win. The whole main goal in the NFL is to win. Go above .500, make the playoffs and start the postseason 0-0 and go from there. That’s the main goal.”
Fields added, “we’re just focused on winning games to be honest with you. I know that’s going to come, to be honest with you. So I’m not worried about I guess putting pressure on. I don’t feel pressure to pass more or anything like that. I think that’s just naturally going to come with everybody getting more comfortable with the offense and the players around me. So yeah.”
Eddie Jackson: “I’m ready. It’s just trying to get back with the team and turn this thing around. That’s what it’s about. Mostly. We already know what we’ve been through. So this is just a new identity man. Just try to turn this things around man and I feel like we’ve got the guys and the pieces to do that this year.”
We have a lot of new pieces, a lot of new faces. So I just want to turn this thing around. That’s the main goal.-Eddie Jackson
Jackson, one of the most tenured players on the roster emphasized his motivation for this season. “It motivates you a lot because it’s very frustrating. Nothing about me is a loser. I hate losing. I don’t like it. I feel like it shouldn’t be acceptable. So just come in here working day in, day out, year in, year out and just getting this thing to where we know it can be. Like I said, I feel like this year is one of the best years I’ve felt where we have a lot of key pieces where we really can do it. We really can turn it around. We have guys who care about football in that locker room, guys who go out there and they bust their tail. Even in OTAs, most guys slack off. But you don’t see that. I didn’t see that this OTAs. Even though I wasn’t out there in the beginning. But just the feedback I got and when I was out there and watching film, just seeing our guys flying around was a different feeling.”
Former Buffalo Bill Tremaine Edmunds discussed taking a leadership role on the team and how he would accomplish that. “I think any time you have young guys in the building, they lean toward the older guys as far as guidance, as far as leadership and those types of things. Even guys like Eddie who were here before me and TJ got here. I leaned on Eddie for a lot of stuff because it’s two different types of coaches. I’m coming from a different team and just trying to understand what the Bears culture is and understand the things he started here prior to myself getting here. That’s definitely important. But just making sure I’m leading those young guys, making sure the older guys who have tasted a little bit of success are leading the younger guys, so they can feel what that feels like. I think experience is the No. 1 teacher. So it’s guys who have been there, guys who have played in those games, guys who know what it takes to win should definitely speak up and be the leaders on the team.”
Edmuds looks forward to his new role. ” I’m very comfortable in that. I was in that role in Buffalo and nothing’s going to change hear, you know I take full responsibility you know what I’m saying, that’s my character. You know I’m a natural born leader and I know that I’m going to make guys around me better just because of what I’m going to put out there on the field each and every day so obviously being a leader you now when you say one thing you get a lot of fingers being pointed back at you but we have a lot of good leaders in the room man and I’m excited to get to work with them now officially at training camp. You know obviously we already had our time in the spring but obviously now we’re getting closer to the season so it’s not nothing new to me.”
A lighter moment (sort of) came when the conversation turned to the Netflix special “Quarterbacks”.
Pace admitted that he’d only seen one episode so far. Fields watched the entire series. “I don’t think a lot of people realize how much work goes into being a quarterback, especially on the mental side of things, just how much we have to prepare and kind of know everybody’s job. But I think that’s one thing everybody realized and it really just gave everybody our perspective of what we go through, our everyday lives and how much we have to prepare for things.” Pace noted that he’d be reluctant to have the omnipresent cameras required to film a Hard Knocks type of show.
The biggest challenge will be coach Flus taking Poles slew of newly acquisitions and molding them into a team. Flus noted, “I would say that we’re in a day-to-day business, right? So we’re looking to enhance our players Day 1 all the way through training camp and see where they are and let it fall where it is. Certainly having better skills and having more players at each position that are in that upper part of the league is certainly helpful.”
Pace touted new offensive lineman Darnell Wright as an example of the work the rookies need to do as they join the NFL. “There’s a technical piece, in terms of just little details to improve, there are different habits that you have in college that you got to clean up that aren’t going to work as well in the league. And then the mental part of it too. There’s a mental toughness part, like in terms of those hard days, tough opponents that you want to make sure you’re locked in and loaded. Just knowing your assignments and playing fast. Usually, it starts a bit slow in terms of executing at a high speed and as you get more comfortable, you can play it faster. That’s what we look for, an I do want to give that kid credit. This offseason he busted his butt. He’s down. He lost weight. He lost body fat, He actually crushed the conditioning test. Like didn’t break a sweat. So he’s focused. He cares. He wants to be really good.”
Both coach and GM have matured a lot in a year. “We know each other,” says Eberflus. “The staffs know each other better. We’ve been able to implement our culture into the building through the scouts, through the coaches, everybody, and then the addition of Kevin coming in has been awesome, so yeah, we’re in a better spot, for sure, just the nature of having the experience and the additions we’ve had.”
Poles concurred. “Yeah, the same thing. The energy’s outstanding in this building. Everyone’s on the same page. I think everyone loves coming to work and working with each other. I think the big thing is once you get that, now you’re on that second lap, all of the tweaks, you go through all of these and say, OK, we need to change these and adjust that. You can start tightening stuff up, and we’re going to continue to do that all the way through. But that’s exciting because I thought the process early was good, but we’re going to improve to make it great.”
It’s easy to be optimistic in July. Let’s revisit this in November.
note: Darnell Mooney addressed the media on Wednesday – here’s a highlight of what he had to say about having something to prove last season and the way things turned out: “Yeah, that one, that Washington game was crazy. I’ll always remember that one. But yeah I mean it wasn’t the way I was planning it to go. I was expecting for it to continue on from my sophomore season and just continue to ball out. I feel like I did everything I could. From my standpoint I’m just trying to get open and just do my job. It’s a team thing. You have some things that are just not working out entirely — a new offense, a new everything. Everything is like new. I just remember my Year 1 to Year 2 of just knowing the offense. It was like easier to go, easier to play, so not a lot of thinking, it was actually just playing. Like how can I defeat this defender. And the rhythm of the offense as well. So I think it will be better this year for sure.”