For Bears outside linebacker Aaron Lynch, two years spent doing very little for the 49ers and facing old questions about himself — from his fitness to his dedication to his competitiveness — serve as motivation. But Lynch won’t say so at first.
“I have nothing to prove to [the 49ers],” Lynch said during minicamp this week. “I’m not here to prove anybody right or wrong. I’m here to do what I can for me, my team and my family.
“But when we play them, I do want to whup the . . . out of them. You know what I’m saying? I really want to get after them.”
The 49ers host the Bears on Dec. 23. By that time, the Bears will know if signing Lynch was money well spent in free agency.
Lynch suffered a hamstring injury during minicamp. It was a reminder of how thin the Bears are at outside linebacker and how Lynch can be viewed as the wild card of the group. He also hurt his ankle and missed time during voluntary minicamp in April.
Are the Bears counting too much on a player who played sparingly for a bad 49ers team the last two seasons? Are they relying too much on his one-season connection with defensive coordinator Vic Fangio?
“It’s amazing,” Lynch said of being reunited with Fangio. “I mean, he’s the one who gave me a shot in the league, as I came out with problems and stuff like that. He really believed in me. I did pretty well with him.”
Always the realist, Fangio acknowledged in May that Lynch had much to prove to him.
“He’s had a checkered career, to say the least,” Fangio said. “But there has been some display of talent throughout his career at times. Hopefully, we can get that to be more consistent.”
The Bears hope the configuration of Lynch’s contract provides incentive. It’s a one-year deal that’s worth as much as $4 million, but it includes $31,250 in per-game bonuses based on him being active.
The Bears need Lynch, who’s only 25, to be more than merely a contributor after saying goodbye to veterans Pernell McPhee, Willie Young and Lamarr Houston. Lynch was their top defensive target in free agency.
Returning outside linebackers Leonard Floyd, Sam Acho and Isaiah Irving accounted for only 7½ of the Bears’ 42 sacks last season. Expectations also should be tempered for sixth-round pick Kylie Fitts in his first season.
“We feel like he’s going to bring a dimension to our team that we’re excited about, a really good complement to Leonard,” outside linebackers coach Brandon Staley said.
The Bears’ faith in Lynch obviously is rooted in his relationship with Fangio. As a rookie, Lynch had six sacks for Fangio in 2014. It was Fangio’s last season with the 49ers.
Before Lynch hurt his hamstring, Fangio sounded encouraged by his performance and work ethic during the offseason program.
“It’s been good,” Fangio said. “It hasn’t been perfect by any means. I think he’s in a good spot emotionally, mentally. He’s fired up, ready to take advantage of this opportunity. But he has to be a more disciplined guy play after play after play and not be inconsistent in that area.”
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Seeing Fangio work with him firsthand, Staley said that Lynch fits into a defense that returns players with starting experience at every position.
“He was on a successful defense in San Francisco, so he was around a lot of good players,” Staley said. “He knows what a good defense looks like, what a good outside linebacker looks like.
“But so much of anything is being around people who can make you better. Him coming here, I think he feels like he can be himself and all the best qualities that he has can really shine.”