Opening Statement: Obviously, we’re getting started today on the Bears with our preparation. We’ll go through today through Friday, we’ll travel out there on Saturday afternoon. You talk about this team, you start offensively with (Bears Head Coach) Matt (Nagy) being an offensive-minded head coach. When you talk about his team, one thing is they’re balanced. They do a very good job being run and pass balanced. They’re very committed to the run. You see a lot of effectiveness in how they can go ahead and stay with it and set up other aspects of their game. They have three talented quarterbacks. All three have played this year. All three can make plays in different ways, whether it’s the young guy (Bears Quarterback Justin) Fields, who’s obviously a guy who’s got a strong arm, very athletic, very talented, has the ability to make a lot of big plays outside the pocket, does a good job keeping his eyes down the field and taking shots. You talk about (Bears Quarterback Nick) Foles getting in the other day. He’s obviously a very experienced guy, can push the ball down the field, very good arm. And obviously, (Bears Quarterback Andy) Dalton is a very accomplished player in this league, really knows how to take the profit, move the ball down the field consistently. That’s something this team really does as a strength is they have a lot of extended drives. One of the top teams in the league in having drives over 10 plays long, so they can stay on the field, they can capitalize, they have good schemes, they have good systems, they have good coaching. They’re a team offensively that likes to stay balanced and make plays.
When you talk about them defensively, there’s obviously a lot of similarities from (Broncos Head Coach Vic) Fangio’s defense, who was here before, and some similarities we’ll see from the Chargers defense off that tree, as well. They’re really doing a good job using their tools up front. Obviously, (Bears LB Robert) Quinn is one of the top sack leaders in the league, but there are multiple players up front that can really get after you. This front is really built to build a wall, set the edge where they can get after you in the pass rush, get up the field and really penetrate. I expect (Bears DL Akiem) Hicks coming on back this week to finish out the year. He’s a guy that can make an impact in the middle, very similar to some of the other guys we’ve seen in recent weeks – talking about (Eagles Defensive Tackle) Fletcher Cox, a guy who’s got big size and length, can play to his strength as well as his athleticism and slip on by you. These guys can make plays at all three levels right there.
Then in the kicking game, right now they’re doing a really good job in the return game. Tabes (Bears Special Teams Coordinator Chris Tabor) has always had good special teams. It always really starts with the return aspect of the game. They’re very aggressive, they’ll return punts that are sometimes coming out of the end zone, so they’re always looking for the homerun swing. They’re going to be very aggressive at different times when the situation calls for it to get a return started – that’s kick return or punt return. They have some talented specialists as well and look to go ahead and spin the dial using some multiples on their part to keep you guessing. In all three phases, we need a good week of preparation to go out there to Chicago and play together as a team. That being said, I’ll open up to any questions you have.
Q: Where do you stand with guys on the COVID list? Anybody coming back today?
A: Pretty much out of the building right now. (Defensive Lineman) Dexter Lawrence (II) just popped COVID for us. (Defensive Lineman) Danny Shelton, (Tackle Nate) Solder and (Safety Julian) Love have all been on the COVID list. Now, all three of those guys would have the ability under the new protocols or guidelines to play in the game if their symptoms improve and they’re able to play physically. Timetable-wise, all three would be able to play.
Q: What about (Defensive Back) Keion (Crossen), (Wide Receiver John) Ross (III) and (Cornerback) Adoree’ (Jackson)?
A: Keion’s back in the building with us now. He’s already started ramping up with the trainers. Adoree’s back and he started ramping up with the trainers, as well. Ross is also getting back in the building and he’ll be with the trainers, as well. All three of those guys are kind of in the ramp up period. Today being a lighter day for us on the field on a Wednesday, they should all have the opportunity to build in and see if we can get them to the game.
Q: Where do you stand with your quarterback situation?
A: We’ll prepare both guys, similar to last week. We’ll prepare both guys, both guys will have their share of the load this week in practice as far as sharing some reps. I would expect to see both guys play.
Q: What do you mean by ‘expect to see both guys play’? You’ll be alright with switching quarterbacks mid-game?
A: If that’s what’s best for the team.
Q: Who do you think will start?
A: We’ll see how they practice.
Q: Any consideration on bringing anybody else in at that position this week?
A: No. We’ve talked about it with the personnel department, but no.
Q: Do you have a plan to do half and half?
A: No, but as we go through the game plan, obviously we’re going to bracket some different things together if we think one thing is better for one guy, one is better for the other guy. We’ll see how they practice and how we’ll go into the game.
Q: You guys are officially eliminated from the playoffs. Has anything changed these last two weeks in how you proceed or how you approach games, anything like that?
A: No. No, we prepare our best every week. I tell the players all the time, the expectations are clear, we expect every player to come in every day, do their job, to work hard, to be attentive to the details of the game plan, put the team first in what they do. I expect them to come out and prepare with good energy, good juice. Our team has always responded that way. I expect them to go out there and compete on the field for 60 minutes. The expectations and the competitiveness, that doesn’t change. We’re not negotiating or compromising our standards around here. Every game is important, it’s the National Football League. We all lost John Madden last night. One thing John Madden was great about when you really sit back and you listen to some of the things that he said throughout his career, and he talked about the importance of every game and every opportunity in the National Football League, and the value of the opportunity that we have to coach or play in this league. None of that should be taken for granted. I hear people all the time say ‘meaningless games.’ What is a meaningless game? Everyone here has worked very hard to be in this position, to play or coach in this league. We’re only guaranteed or promised so many games a year. It’s a privilege to have the opportunity to go out here and compete. There’s no such thing as a meaningless game. There’s wasted effort, there’s wasted preparation, but there are no meaningless games.
Q: You mentioned John Madden. Did you feel an impact when you heard that news last night? You have younger sons who I’m sure have played the game and what impact has that –
A: It’s funny because I have two young sons, they play the Madden football game all the time, as do a lot of our players, and you have to educate them sometimes. They don’t really realize who the guy was, how accomplished a coach he was, how he really changed a lot of the broadcasting. But then even more important as I talked to the players this morning, the impact he had on the game by really the compassion and care he had for the players. Really it was looking after his own players when they were done playing and the impact he’s had throughout pushing around the league for different rules being changed and things to take into consideration with the healthcare of players and taking care of the older players with benefits and the things that he’s done for the players that sat in the seats looking at us today that – really his greatest impact was for the players on the field when he was already off the field himself.
Q: Did you ever meet him or have any interactions with him?
A: No, I did not. I did not, but obviously like a lot of people you grow up (with), you heard him announcing a lot of games. My first exposure to him growing up was as an announcer. It was him and Pat Summerall talking every Sunday afternoon. You heard him talk all the time. You loved the energy and the different sayings that he had and all that stuff. Obviously, as you get older, you get more into the history of the game, you learn about him as a coach. You learn about him off the field and the things he was involved in. Obviously, he has a legacy in this league which is very substantial. I think it’s an important day for everyone in the league to understand what he’s done for the game.
Q: Just to clarify the timeline with five days, is Dexter out for Sunday?
A: No, it looks like he’s out for Sunday. It looks like with the timeline and that five-day deal, it looks like he’s out for Sunday. I’ll have to finalize it and clarify it with the trainers, but the conversation I had this morning with them, that’s what it indicates.
Q: Is (Cornerback) Darnay Holmes done for the year or could he come back?
A: He’s not going to play this week for us. There’s a small outside shot for next week. We’ll see how he goes ahead and progresses. He’s still rehabbing. He’s actually in the weight room right now working with Fitz (Director of Strength and Performance Craig Fitzgerald) and his staff doing some things. Definitely not playing this week.
Q: What’s the perspective you guys take for the Bears quarterback situation at this point?
A: They have three good quarterbacks. They have three good quarterbacks and that’s a pretty good luxury right there. I think they’ve done a good job managing the offense with a lot of changing parts this year with guys going in and out. But when you look at having a young quarterback, two older quarterbacks, balance in that room, obviously that takes some managing right there and they’ve done a pretty good job of it.
Q: Do you have to prepare for (Bears Quarterback Nick) Foles though? Is that the way you go about it?
A: Yeah, you’ve got to talk to your team about any which guy that’s going to play. Foles, (Bears Quarterback Justin) Fields and those guys, you’ve got to show them the differences in how they play. They’re different players altogether. Foles is very aggressive and pushes the ball down the field. He’ll extend plays and look to force balls into tight windows a lot of times. Fields is a young player. He’s still learning in this league and he’s going to be a very good player in this league, but he’s got as talented an arm as there is in the league. He’s got great athleticism to really extend plays outside the pocket. He can pull the ball and make plays with his legs, but he can also, as we saw with (Eagles Quarterback Jalen) Hurts, get outside the pocket, keep his eyes down the field and he’s got that arm talent to throw it wherever he needs to on the grass.
Q: You’ve been a coach for a while. Is there anything that goes through a player’s head when he goes back to a field where he suffered a major injury?
A: I can’t speak for the individual player. That’s probably a better question for the player. I can’t say that individually that doesn’t come up. I don’t think that that answer there reflects someone in our locker room directly. But I understand the question, it’s a good question. To me, it’s more you’ve got to kind of check your guys’ psyche every week, and that’s all of your players and understanding where they’re standing at. I’ve dealt with different guys and different types of injuries. I haven’t dealt necessarily with something that’s affected someone going back to the scene of it.
Q: You obviously own their first-round pick in the trade. Do you find yourself keeping extra close tabs on their results as the season goes along?
Q: A couple teams, including the Patriots, have won games recently by not throwing the ball – I think (Patriots Quarterback) Mac Jones threw it three times in that one game against the Bills. Would you be willing to do something like that if you feel like it gives your team the best chance to win a game?
A: I would do whatever it takes to win a game. Whatever gives our team the best chance as we go through and game plan – look, we’re not into statistics. We’re not trying to throw for a certain amount or run for a certain amount. We’re just trying to win the game. So, whatever it’s going to take week by week, we’ll game plan differently every week however we have to to matchup against that opponent and give ourselves the best chance.