One player says it’s changed the way he’ll work out for the rest of his life.
Others claim their bodies feel as good as ever.
The Bears’ new training system has won converts inside Halas Hall. When coach John Fox moved to Chicago, he vowed to change what he felt plagued the Bears before his arrival: too many soft tissue injuries.
The Bears hired staff members — strength and conditioning coach Jason George; head trainer Nate Breske, a former physical therapist; and sports science coordinator Jen Gibson— who focus on prevention and recovery.
Fox says there’s “good science” behind everything they do to try to prevent soft tissue injuries and recover from them, from functional movement exercises to stretching to using rolling balls on sore muscles.
Players are even weighed every single day. Nutrition shakes are placed outside Halas Hall meeting rooms in different colors and flavors — chocolate peanut butter cup was popular this week — and Gibson talks to players during practice.
“We’ve got very, very qualified people,” said Fox, who said his system was similar in Denver. “The reality is, like any other relationship, it takes time.”
It takes more time for certain players than others, Fox said.
Alshon Jeffery has been the Bears’ steadiest presence on the injury report this season, having been slowed by groin, calf and hamstring injuries.
The latest hamstring problem, suffered Sunday in Minnesota, made him doubtful for Sunday’s Buccaneers game. Jeffery declined an interview request after not practicing Thursday.
“Some guys are more apt because of their physical makeup to have those injuries than others,” Fox said, speaking generally. “So it’s not just all science or what we are doing. It’s an individual and learning what his tolerance is, what his exact weight is, what is his hydration level.”
The program is “drastically different” than last season, said running back Matt Forte, who put the onus on players.
“You can do all that, but when you go home, if you’re doing knucklehead stuff and not taking care of your body, it’s going to show the effects,” Forte said. “It’s not really gonna take an effect if you’re doing it here and you go home and don’t take care of yourself.”
Players are responsible for themselves.
“I think we do a really good job from the training room to (George) and those guys in the weight room, but a lot of this stuff is going to be on players,” quarterback Jay Cutler said. “We’re only here for a certain amount of time. You’ve got to take care of yourself when you leave this building as well, what you eat, how you hydrate, the work you get done on your body. We’re not here all day long. We’re professionals.
“A lot of that soft tissue stuff I put on the players.”
Cornerback Tracy Porter, who has started all 16 games only once in his eight-year career, called the staff “one of the best I’ve been around.” It focuses on soft tissue injury prevention while coaches monitor practice reps.
“They’ve been doing a great job in making sure that if you have something it’s minor, it’s something you can come back from quickly,” Porter said.
The Bears are “all preventative maintenance, all recovery,” receiver Marc Mariani said.
“When I was younger, we just used to throw weight around,” he said. “That was the whole idea: how strong are you?
“Now it’s become more recovery-based and maintenance — so when you get to the fourth quarter of the season you can continue to go on an upward trajectory.”
It’s trendy for a reason, he said. His body feels as good as it ever has through 15 weeks of the season.
“Whether I’m playing golf or doing whatever in the offseason or five years from now,” he said, ”those are things that are going to help me in my life.”
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