Between the Bears’ last time in pads and Wednesday’s practice, the team traded a future Hall of Famer and a former second-round draft pick, and waived a player the previous regime moved up to draft in the fourth round less than 18 months ago.
On paper, maybe they didn’t get much worse: Jared Allen was out of position as an outside linebacker, Jon Bostic was constantly hurt and safety Brock Vereen had, just Sunday, been toasted by Jimmy Graham for a touchdown.
In the locker room, though, the players’ departures resonated.
If the Bears were willing to trade Allen, a player they didn’t plan to bring back next season, for a sixth-round draft pick, might they consider the same route for veterans signed to a one-year contract last offseason?
How about running back Matt Forte and receiver Alshon Jeffery, who are in the last year of their contracts? Or tight end Martellus Bennett, who held out for a reworked contract this offseason that Bears were unwilling to give?
“I feel like I could always get cut or traded,” Bennett said. “It’s just part of the job description. It’s not like college where you do four years and then you get in and out. They can move you anytime they want.
“So, for me, I continue to go to work and do my job. You do your job, and if they feel like moving you then, then they move you.
“It’s nothing you can really worry … you can’t control it, so you just ball out.”
Many sounded happy that Allen could return to plying his craft as the active sacks leader in the Panthers’ 4-3 defense.
If the Bears were sending a message, it was with the waiving of the second-year Vereen and the trading of the third-year Bostic for another sixth-round pick. Neither helped the Bears’ woeful special teams. Their draft pedigree — at the hands of a previous regime — didn’t guarantee success. Or a paycheck.
“I think that’s the way it should be with everyone,” safety AntreL Rolle said Wednesday at Halas Hall. “I think everyone should hold themselves accountable – week to week, performance-based.
“It’s a ‘What have you done for me lately?’ business, and you have to strive for perfection each and every week.”
The Bears are asking, “What can you do for us later?” — be in this year or next.
Trades are “part of the business we sign up for,” said Jeremiah Ratliff, who returned from his three-game suspension and is in the final year of his contract.
“I’m thankful every single day I’ve had,” he said. “I’m a seventh-rounder. Eleven years. And I’m just missing a Super Bowl. I know what I’m playing for. Whatever decision’s made, I’m at peace.”
Outside linebacker Sam Acho, who will start for Allen, disputed the notion that the Bears were looking to next year already — “We’re not collecting draft picks; We’re out here trying to win games,” he said — and said players know they need to step up to fill the void.
Coping with teammates being traded comes with “just being a pro,” cornerback Kyle Fuller said.
Playing behind Acho, Lamarr Houston said he hasn’t wondered whether the team moving Allen — another defensive end-turned-outside linebacker — could portend a trade for him later.
“Not at all, actually,” he said. “For him you wish the best, you know I want him to have success this year, but you know that’s totally just for him.”
The Bears are rebuilding, and their players swear they’re not nearly as concerned about the team’s next step as they are with the next opponent.
“We concern ourselves with the game plan and preparing for the team that we’re playing that week,” Houston said. “And all that other stuff — trade rumors, trade talk — that’s for you guys to worry about.
“We’re worrying about preparing for the next team.”
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