How Bears changed OTAs to help players this NFL offseason

How Bears changed OTAs to help players this year originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

No matter how prepared or how experienced a coach going into their first year as an NFL head coach, there are some things that must be learned on the job. That’s no different for Matt Eberflus and the start to his tenure with the Bears. Eberflus came into Halas Hall determined to install his H.I.T.S. program and start building a culture around hustle, hard work and accountability. By and large, it was a success. Players bought in and fought through a difficult season, even as their 10-game losing streak dragged on and on. For a team that went 3-14, things were surprisingly chipper and there was uniform belief that as a group, they were on the right path

But there were still some bumps in the road. For instance, with Eberflus running intense practices to set his standard, there was too much contact in last year’s OTAs. The Bears eventually had an OTA taken away since the intensity and contact levels of their practices was deemed too high. So this year, the players have been drilled to practice hard一 but not so hard that anything they do would be construed as full contact. It’s been made clear that players are expected to stay on their feet.

There have been other, more specific changes, that Eberflus believes has helped his players develop in this early stage of the offseason. For one, the team has dialed back the intensity of their run installs. This year, Eberflus has decided to take a “jog through” pace, which may seem antithetical to the “intensity” part of his H.I.T.S. ideals, but should help with the “smart play” part. The team is taking things more slowly, and the intensity isn’t dialed up as high, but at a slower speed Eberflus says the team can lock in their specific run fits better.

“It’s been invaluable for the young guys,” Eberflus said. “(Rookie offensive tackle) Darnell (Wright) is really picking it up a lot faster because of the pace of it.”

That is not to say that the Bears will take things easy breezy throughout the summer, or that practice is significantly cushier this year than last year. There’s still an uptempo pace between segments and the Bears are still repping their players plenty in 7-on-7 and individual drills. The pace will pick up as the summer goes on, too. But for now, Eberflus seems to recognize that practice doesn’t need to be full go all the time, right out the gate.

“When we get to training camp it’ll be more full speed,” Eberflus said. “We’ll rack those plays when we get into pads in training camp.”

Overall, Eberflus said the team is trying to run things the right way, from start to finish. He believes everything is running better, not only because he’s learned but his coaches and players have learned what to expect.

“This is their second time going through it. Experiences. There’s nothing like experience, so us just going through it a second time together, I think it’s very helpful.”

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