Bears coach John Fox gives directions to his North squad at Senior Bowl practice Thursday in Mobile, Ala. (Brynn Anderson/AP)

‘Real football’ gives Ryan Pace and Bears a leg up at Senior Bowl

SHARE ‘Real football’ gives Ryan Pace and Bears a leg up at Senior Bowl
SHARE ‘Real football’ gives Ryan Pace and Bears a leg up at Senior Bowl

MOBILE, Ala. — The Bears don’t ever want to be in this position again, but they’re making the most of the opportunity to coach the North team in the Senior Bowl, general manager Ryan Pace said Thursday.

“It’s been awesome,” Pace said after the North team’s final practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. “We knew this would be a benefit coming down here. But being here full-fledged has been huge. Being in meetings — not just with our coaches, but all our scouts have been in the meetings, too — has been really good.

“Our coaches have done a good job of creating an environment where, with the players, they’re getting to talk to them more. So we’re getting a good feel for their football intelligence.”

Pace is in full offseason mode, preparing for the draft and keeping an eye on free agency. He said he has not yet begun to address free-agent wide receiver Alshon Jeffery.

“Those things will pick up as we get further down the road,” he said.

Coach John Fox and his staff wrapped up three days of practice Thursday in preparation for the game Saturday at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

“This is one of my favorite parts right here, because it’s real football,” Pace said. “It’s not just combine [workouts]. It’s not guys in shorts. It’s real football. We get to see their instincts and their toughness and their physicality and how fast they’re picking up our offense or defense.

“There are guys right away who we’re talking about, that we’re all on the same page with — not only what they’re doing on the field, but what they’re doing behind the scenes. It’s not just [players interacting] with our coaches and our scouts. It’s having them with our support staff — talking to our equipment manager, Tony Medlin, or talking to Nate Breske, our head trainer. How a guy treats your third trainer can be a little revealing, too, instead of just how they’re talking to me or Coach Fox.”

The Bears’ and Cleveland Browns’ coaching staffs switch teams in Friday’s meetings, with the Bears meeting with the South players. That’s how the Dallas Cowboys first got to know Dak Prescott at last year’s game. So Pace and the Bears are looking for anything that might yield a benefit.

“I think it gives you a little boost,” Pace said. “Everybody’s locked in right now. Everybody understands the importance of this offseason, and having the ability to coach the Senior Bowl is huge for where we’re at right now.”

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