LAKE FOREST – Originally he was supposed to be talking on Tuesday, but a little too much contact earlier in the team’s voluntary offseason training activity period moved it back a day.
That’s because the NFL forced the Bears to cancel Tuesday’s workout due to having live contact in a previous practice in May, which is a no-no in the league’s collective bargaining agreement. It was brought to the attention of the player’s association and resulted in that session being called off.
Because of that, head coach Matt Eberflus was in front of the media on Wednesday, discussing what went down between the league and the Bears the last 24 hours.
“We respect the NFL and the NFLPA for getting together and what they concluded on was that we had a few plays early on in the OTA process, very early on, and they took away an OTA on Tuesday,” said Eberflus. “We found out late Monday evening. That’s when we notified the media as well as the players that we weren’t coming in on Tuesday.”
Eberflus said that he nor the team were fined for the violation that cause the cancellation of the practice.
At his news conference, the first year head coach was asked whether having that happen was a case of the way practice is structured or if it was the players being a little too aggressive that led to the illegal contact.
“I would say the latter. It’s just about being under control,” said Eberflus. “Be quick, but not in a hurry, body control, being able to stay on your feet, knowing the tempo, and those guys are doing a good job with that.”
A few times this offseason, Ebeflus along with general manager Ryan Poles have preached the need for the Bears to play with aggression during this new era of the franchise. Trying to do that in the OTA while also striking that balance of control is a process for the new coaching staff and one that the coach sees progress with despite the NFL reprimand.
“We’ve learned how to practice ‘Bears against Bears’ and still run full speed and be able to practice during this time, during the Phase 3 time where there’s no collisions or contacts and all those things,” said Eberflus. “We’ve improved on that severely and did a nice job and the players have done a nice job.”
Tight end Cole Kmet said balancing control and aggressiveness can be difficult for this particular group since so many spots are on the line with a number of roster changes.
“You’ve got to look at our situation right now. We’ve got a lot of young guys, new coach, new everything, and guys are coming in to prove themselves, and that’s including me,” said Kmet. “When someone says, ‘You know, you’re going 100 percent,’ you’re going 100 percent, and I’m not gonna back down, I’m not gonna ease up anywhere, because, first of all, I don’t want to get hurt. That’s how you get hurt when you’re not going 100 percent, and guys want to show what they’ve got.
“When you run that line, and we don’t have as many vets as we’ve had in years past just because, naturally, we’re a younger team. It’s kinda just where we’re at right now, and guys are learning. I thought this past week and these past two practices we’ve had have been night and day much better, in terms of how guys have been practicing, how to practice without pads on and things like that.”
That process continues through this week for OTA practices before a three-day mandatory mini-camp gets underway next week at Halas Hall.