Former Bears QB Jim McMahon recalls tough practices in 1985 season

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Alex Shapiro
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McMahon on '85 practice: 'We beat the hell out of each other' originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

“Iron sharpens iron.” It’s a phrase from the bible that you hear a lot in football. The idea is when the best offensive players compete against the best defensive players, everyone improves. Jim McMahon recently joined the Associated Press’ Pro Football podcast and recalled some of the Bears’ practices from the 1985 season. As you can imagine, with players like Mike Singletary, Walter Payton, Richard Dent and McMahon facing off from opposite sides of the ball, things got pretty intense.

“We played pretty much four games a week,” McMahon said on the podcast. “Wednesday, Thursday, Friday we always had pads on. Every situation was a live situation. There was no buddy-buddy periods where, ‘Hey, this is what we’re going to do, take it easy on me.’ Everything was live.

“You know, Mike Ditka and Buddy Ryan were feuding pretty much every day, and so they took it out on us. It’s amazing to me that we won so many games, because we beat the hell out of each other in practice for the seven years that I was there.”

On the other hand, maybe the Bears would have won even more if their practices weren’t so hardcore. Over his seven-year career with the Bears, McMahon never completed a full season. He suffered an unbelievable amount of injuries over his career, from his numerous concussions to kidney lacerations, to his infamous torn rotator cuff after a dirty hit from Charles Martin. While nothing could prevent that latter injury, it’s fair to wonder if a lighter practice load could have protected McMahon better throughout his career. And if you’re wondering why the two coaches would be at odds with each when the team was so successful, McMahon shared his theory.

“I think Buddy thought he was going to get the head job in ‘82. Then, all of a sudden, Mike Ditka’s the head coach. It was my first year as well, so I entered into that the same time that Ditka did… I just remember defensive guys telling me that Ditka walked into a defensive meeting once on one of the first days and Buddy says, ‘Get the hell out of here, I run the defense.’

“It was really a tale of two teams. They did their thing, we did our thing, and we came together on Sunday and won.”

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