Chicago Bears players reported to training camp at Halas Hall on Tuesday, ready for a six-and-a-half-week lead through Week 1.
The team will hold its first camp practice on Wednesday morning. On Tuesday, general manager Ryan Polis, coach Matt Eberflis and a handful of players spoke to reporters. Here are three things we learned.
1. The Bears are turning over every stone to stabilize a questionable offensive line.
On Monday, Paul Signed veteran guard Michael Schofield For a one-year contract. On Tuesday, the first-year GM announced the signing of 33-year-old offensive tackle Riley Ref.
Reiff, a first-round pick of the Detroit Lions in 2012 who has also spent time with the Minnesota Vikings and Cincinnati Bengals, immediately became a contender for the Bears and has the ability to play either side.
Both signings are an indication that the Poles are not resting on their laurels in their efforts to upgrade the line in front of quarterback Justin Fields, who expressed his delight at the move.
“It’s definitely going to help our team,” Fields said. “Especially the younger guys — just teaching them how to be an NFL lineman and stay in the league for a long time. I’m definitely excited for them.”
The Bears appear to have only two clear starters on the offensive line right now, with Lucas Patrick locked in as the first unit center and Cody Whitehair entering his seventh season as a starter on the interior. The Bears will now take a long look at Schofield at right guard, as well as Sam Mustafer and rookies Zach Thomas, Doug Kramer and Ja Tyre Carter.
At the tackle spots, Braxton Jones, Larry Borom and Tevin Jenkins made first-team appearances during the spring but may now have to hold off the ref to solidify a key role.
“If everybody is competing, we’re going to get the best out of this unit,” Polis said. “I’ve said it from the beginning. Our front office is not going to stop messing around and bringing good football players to this team to compete and make the whole team better.”
Schofield and Reiff will challenge the Bears’ coaching staff early on, pushing them to get the veterans in shape, teaching them the offense and evaluating where they might fit. Aberfels, though, continued to stress that he is not working on a firm timetable for selecting a group of five starters.
“There is no deadline,” Eberflis said. “But like I said in the spring, the sooner the better. We’ve only added a couple of pieces. So it’s going to be two more pieces of the puzzle.
2. Polis said Fields ‘needs to continue on the path he’s been on’ as QB dictates Bears’ new offense.
After watching Fields during the offseason program, Polis said the Bears’ second-year quarterback is “doing everything he’s supposed to do.”
“We’re going to continue to add things to the offense, and let him continue to grow based on what he sees and (what) the defense throws at him,” Polis said. “I think one of the most important pieces is that command. Continue to bring that command and that leadership, and you saw that as we were finishing the offseason.
Fields said he took a week and a half off for a family vacation in Los Cabos, Mexico, before returning to training, including a workout in Austin, Tex., with other NFL players. When he returned to town, he contacted his Bears teammates to continue his work.
Fields said he has a different feeling going into camp than he did as a rookie.
“Our team as a whole, we just feel closer, I think this year, just in my opinion,” he said. “Everyone in the team is excited. We are all trying to achieve the same goal and we are ready to work.
3. The Poles explained their decision to fire director of player engagement Lamar ‘Soap’ Campbell earlier this month.
Campbell was a respected resource within Halas Hall, having strong relationships with many players and even A five-member search committee of the organization During the search for a new GM and coach last winter. But the police fired him in July and replaced him 12 days later with Mike Wiley Jr.
Polis emphasized Tuesday that his move in a new direction was largely based on his desire to add a mental skills and mental health component to the Bears’ director of player development role. To that end, Wiley Jr.’s psychology degree and extensive experience proved attractive. He has been with Cortex Performance since 2019 and, according to Bears, has consulted extensively with college and high school players as well as FIBA players. Wiley Jr. Has also worked with the Indiana State and Lincoln Memorial men’s basketball programs, the Lipscomb women’s basketball program and the Loyola track and field team.
Polis said: “The pressure the game puts on you, there’s a mental piece that’s absolutely important. And I wanted someone who could come in and learn — through their education, through school. Through — about how to work with players to get their minds set right. How do you clear your mind? How do you go to the next step and overcome a bad game, a bad practice or something like that? How do you overcome things that are wearing you down mentally? How do you overcome that? So I just wanted to go in a different direction on the support that we’re giving our players.
Polis noted that he consults with a sports psychologist monthly to help him cope with the intense pressure of his job.
“It’s absolutely critical that you have someone you can rely on to give you advice on how to handle different situations so that you can perform at your highest level,” Polis said. .
Wiley Jr. is expected to help the Bears players in that regard.