Bears players support John Fox: ‘For him, I wish we had finished better.’

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Bears head coach John Fox hugs wide receiver Kendall Wright (13) before Sunday’s game against the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Vikings won, 23-10. (Bruce Kluckhohn/AP)

MINNEAPOLIS — Coach John Fox gave an emotional speech to his players in the visiting locker room at U.S. Bank Stadium after a 23-10 loss to the Vikings that concluded a 5-11 season. But he didn’t give the impression it was a farewell speech. Just the end of a tough season.

“I think it was like any end-of-the-year speech,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “He said he loved us. He said he appreciated us. And he said if there’s anything we need, he’s a call away. He’s here for us. I would say it was pretty different. The tone was emotional. And, yeah, it was tough.

“Coach Fox coaches with passion and gives his all, and we appreciate that. He didn’t quit on us this whole year and always encouraged us and always believed in us. You don’t see that in a lot of coaches. We’re glad that he stuck with us this whole year.”

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Fox remained a players’ coach to the end.

“It wasn’t too jittery or anything like that,” wide receiver Kendall Wright said. “But he’s always a positive, outgoing guy, and that’s how he was when he came [into the locker room] and broke us down. He’s uncertain of his future, but he wants the best for all the guys in the room.”

Players in general are conditioned to ignore the tumult surrounding them — in this case the imminent firing of Fox. So the aftermath of Sunday’s season finale was not the time to lament just how costly the latest disappointing season was.

“I’ve been through my fair share of different coaches,” said Sherrick McManis, the longest-tenured Bear who in his six seasons with the team has witnessed the firings of Lovie Smith and Marc Trestman and general manager Phil Emery. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. I never do. So I just stay out of it and see what happens.”

Still, it’s hard to totally ignore the reality.

“I’m not new to what’s coming,” Amukamara said. “I was telling Kyle [Fuller], when I was with the Giants, we had a couple of [bad] years, and [Tom] Coughlin was gone. Then Gus Bradley [was fired] with the Jaguars last year.

“You kind of know what’s coming. We’re not robots. We see what’s on Twitter. We see what’s printed. We know there’s a possibility. It’s almost like Voldemort in Harry Potter — you just try not to talk about it and just let things play out.”

And some players have themselves to worry about.

“It’ll probably be my last game as a Bear,” Wright said with a chuckle when asked about Fox’s impending ouster. “For guys that have been here for three years . . . I think they’re emotional, and I think [Fox is] emotional. Nobody knows what’s going to happen. For the [one season] I’ve been here, he’s been nothing but good. He’s helped me grow in a lot of different ways. I thank him for that.”

Defensive end Akiem Hicks, whose career has blossomed in two seasons under Fox and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, typified the awkward situation the Fox scenario presented.

“I don’t know anything that goes on upstairs. I work here, you know?” Hicks said. “You guys probably hear stuff before I do. I play the game. That’s it.

“I know he’s disappointed, just like everyone else this year and how we’ve underperformed in some situations. I know this: A lot of times there’s nobody it weighs on more than Fox. When I leave the building — 6:30, 7 o’clock at night — his truck is still there. He’s clocking his hours and doing his best to make us better. For him, I wish we had finished better.”

Follow me on Twitter@MarkPotash.

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com

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