Bears players had chance to air grievances before offseason originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Monday was locker clean out day at Halas Hall, but it turned out to be a late Festivus celebration too. Bears players and coaches got together for exit meetings as usual, and players got a chance to air their grievances after a disappointing 3-14 season.
“There's a lot of things we've gotta correct as a team,” said Justin Jones. “A lot of players were able to address some of their grievances and issues they had throughout the season and everything. I thought that was huge for the coaching staff to hear some constructive criticism from the players and vice versa."
Jones believes the opportunity for players to voice their frustrations is healthy for both players and coaches, and he appreciates that’s the way the Bears operate. It’s not necessarily unusual for teams to give players an opportunity to share concerns about the previous season, especially for team captains like Jones. It’s not necessarily a given either.
“A lot of guys are on one-year deals here, so the season didn't go the way they planned it to,” Jones said. “Some guys are frustrated, some guys just want clarification on certain things. You have to give them the answer they are looking for, you have to tell them exactly what it was and the thing they could have been better at.”
The Bears have had an open-door policy all year for players to talk to staff about their concerns or to ask questions, and Jones believes environments like that are better for the players. It helps clarify where they stand in the organization and can reassure them that a coach’s plan for a player is really in the player’s best interest. Jones said it was also helpful for players to be reminded of that open-door policy before leaving for the offseason.
“When you're going through a tough season and stuff like that, players tend to look at themselves and are like 'What am I doing wrong?'” Jones said. “With that being said, you kind of have to reiterate like 'Hey, my door is always open if you want to talk.' Reiterate 'Hey, things aren't going the way we planned, I know it looks kind of bad right now, but if you really need to understand where you stand, come and talk. Really make it just that, don't make it seem like 'Oh it's a punishment if you come to the office' but instead 'Hey it's tough right now, come talk to me and we can hash it out right there.’"
Jones had gripes of his own this year. He said the Roquan Smith and Robert Quinn trades not only affected the play on the field, but affected the locker room in ways outsiders wouldn’t understand. He was upset with the play of the defensive line as a whole and bristled at the idea of playing more defensive end next year. Undoubtedly things did not go the way he planned, and yet he said he would have still signed with the Bears, even knowing how things turned out this season.
“I love Chicago. When they first called me, I was like, 'Damn, it's gonna be cold out there.' I ain't gonna lie, I played a game that was in 10 degree weather, I feel like I could do anything now. This locker room, the guys in here, it makes it so much better. You wouldn't think we were losing just the way the morale was on the team. Kudos to the guys in here, because they make this shー fun. Losing is not fun, but the guys make this fun. Guys come into work fun, and I appreciate those guys for that.
“We just laid the foundation, so it's tough right now, but at the end of the day, we're gonna get some pieces in here. We're gonna get some good guys in here, man. We're gonna do it crazy. We have a lot of good talent here already and we've got a lot of good talent we're gonna build on. Justin Fields, having a quarterback like that, having your franchise quarterback like that? A lot of people are still looking for theirs. We found ours. That's No. 1 right there already. Defensively, we get a lot of guys healthy, I feel like we're going to be a force to be reckoned with. We get (Eddie Jackson) back, we get Jack Sanborn back, we get Jaylon (Johnson) back, you know, guys like that, it's gonna be huge. Get some help in the draft. There's a lot of one-year deal guys that probably won't be here next year, so we've gotta make sure we fill those holes and make sure we get some really good guys in for that. I think we'll be OK. I'm really excited about that.”
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