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Bears know preseason performance matters, if record doesn’t

Jerrell Freeman makes a tackle in the first quarter of the Bears' game Sunday. (AP)

Jerrell Freeman is allergic to grass.

The Bears’ inside linebacker wears long sleeves in practice to prevent his skin from getting irritated. Games are a different story; he doesn’t want to give anyone extra fabric to grab.

“I’m just naked out there,” he said.

Freeman didn’t wear sleeves Thursday night, a reminder that, no matter the relevance, a preseason game is a game nonetheless. Performance matters, even if the result does not.

The result was ugly, though — 22-0 Broncos — and the Bears raced to vow that it was no harbinger. History proves them right, though that doesn’t excuse a contest where starting offense totaled 13 yards in a quarter, the first-team defense gave up a touchdown and special teams allowed a punt to be blocked for a touchdown.

“We’ve got a little work to do here and there,” Freeman said. “Very correctable things. We’ve got a lot of new pieces, still working some kinks out …

“Even with the young guys, there was no panic at all. We know we have some things to work on. It’s preseason. That’s what we have it for.”

Quarterback Jay Cutler said that, “I don’t think you want to hit the panic button,” while coach John Fox said the Bears’ influx of new players should be considered when evaluating the team’s performance.

“It’s a great teaching tool watching that tape,” Fox said Saturday. “Negative things that happened are very easily fixed.”

But does the result matter? Starting with the 1985 team, the last 11 Bears teams to make the playoffs won 74.9 percent of their regular season games — and 52.1 of their preseason ones. They were 1-3 in exhibitions before winning Super Bowl XX and 2-2 before losing Super Bowl XLI.

The Bears went 3-1 in the preseason last year and 2-2 in each of the previous two years — and 19-29 when the games mattered.

In four years with the Colts, Freeman never had a winning preseason record — or a losing regular season one. There are traits he looks for to judge his team, then, rather than the final score of preseason games.

“We know we have something when we’re out there practicing,” Freeman said, “Doing things over and over again, getting good work in.”

Safety Chris Prosinski played on the Jaguars team that won three preseason games in 2012 — and then only two in the regular season. In his final three seasons in Jacksonville, the team went 5-7 in exhibitions and 9-39 once games counted.

“From what I’ve seen, there’s a lot of work to be done,” he said. “I wouldn’t get too carried away, as far as worrying about the season and whatnot.”

That doesn’t mean the Bears will discount what happened Thursday.

Nor should they.

“With any game, once you get in and look at the film, you have to call a spade a spade,” Freeman said. “That’s kinda what being a professional is.”

Box: Not exhibitionists

A look at the preseason records of Bears’ playoff teams since 1985:

Season/Regular season result/Playoff result/Preseason record

2010/11-5/Lost in NFC championship/0-4

2006/13-3/Lost in Super Bowl/2-2

2005/11-5/Lost in divisional/3-2

2001/13-3/Lost in divisional/1-3

1994/9-7/Lost in divisional/4-0

1991/11-5/Lost in first round/2-3

1990/11-5/Lost in divisional/4-1

1988/12-4/Lost in NFC championship/1-3

1987/11-4/Lost in divisional/3-1

1986/14-2/Lost in divisional/4-1

1985/15-1/Won Super Bowl/1-3

Regular season: 131-44 (74.9 percent)

Preseason record: 25-23 (52.1 percent)