Why Bears are viewing OTA misstep as positive experience for young team

·4 min read

Why Bears' OTA misstep could be positive sign for young team originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

LAKE FOREST – For the most part, the reaction to the Bears losing a day of OTA practice for violating the NFL’s rules against contact during the offseason program.

Any missed time could be critical for a young team installing new schemes under a new regime. But the Bears were back at work Wednesday at Halas Hall, and the feeling was that the stripped OTA was, by in large, a good sign for a young Bears team still early in its NFL evolution.

“I don’t actually see it as a big deal,” Eberflus said Wednesday about the NFL scrubbing Tuesday’s practice. “What I do see is this: As I see our team, our football team has to be able to adjust, adapt and overcome and pivot in situations. So how we handled this situation was awesome. Became our guys are like, ‘Ok, that’s fine, and boom, pivot to the next thing and boom, and go. And that’s what we’re going to have to do. We’re going to have to do that to win games. That’s what I was excited about. Adversity’s going to come. It’s how you deal with it that matters.”

Eberflus said the Bears had a few plays that the NFL Player’s Association flagged early in OTAs. No fines were issued for the infraction.

The continued infractions could be viewed as a sign Eberflus' H.I.T.S principle is taking hold. However, the Bears need to learn to dial it back when it's Bears on Bears. That's something they have improved on over the course of OTAs.

“Well, I think I stated before with that principle, with our principle that we believe in, in that the hustle can be there, and it is, and you can see that," Eberflus said. "You guys were at practice. The guys run. They run on offense. They run on defense. And man, we run.

“But the intensity part. The focus part of intensity can be there but not the physical part until we get the pads. Once we get the pads on in training camp, that’s when we’re going to focus on how we play the intensity piece. That cannot be done this time of year. So, we could do the hustle part. We’re excited about where we are with that. There’s guys, they’re flying around, they’re really moving to the ball, it looks fast to me.”

Eberflus and new general manager Ryan Poles stripped the Bears’ roster down this offseason and have injected youth into it as they begin a lengthy rebuild.

Those young players are eager to show they can be part of the long-term solution in Chicago, which can lead to stepping over the line during offseason work.

“You’ve got to look at our situation right now,” tight end Cole Kmet said Wednesday. “We’ve got a lot of young guys. New coach, new everything. Guys are coming in to prove themselves, including me. So, when someone says you’re going 100 percent, you’re going 100 percent. I’m not going to ease up, first of all, because I don’t want to get hurt. That’s how you get hurt; you’re not going 100 percent.

“And guys want to show what they’ve got. When you run that line … we don’t have as many vets as we’ve had in years past. Naturally, we’re a younger team. It’s kind of just where we’re at right now. Guys are learning.”

The education of the young Bears will be vital to the success of the rebuild. Losing critical practice time in the offseason is a big deal for a team that’s not expected to make much noise this fall.

But the Bears are choosing to view this misstep as part of the necessary evolution for a young team hungry to grow up fast.

“We’ve got a bunch of young guys on the team, and I know me coming in as a rookie, and my second year also, you want to prove yourself any chance you get,” defensive tackle Justin Jones said. “So, I can’t really fault players for going too hard or being overly aggressive because this is your dream, this is what you came here for. You came here to play football, so once you get the opportunity, you want to show them that I’m supposed to be here.

“So, when you get penalized for it, I chalk it up to the game, honestly. At the end of the day, these guys are going to show what they can do. We’ve got some really good rookies here, really good young guys who are really good at what they do.”

The loss of an OTA day is minuscule in the grand scheme of things. And if it means that Eberflus’ H.I.T.S principle is taking hold, they can only view it as a sign that the young Bears may very well survive, and perhaps thrive, on hustle, intensity, takeaways, and smarts in 2022.

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