Reeling from the worst loss of the Matt Nagy era, the Bears’ veteran leaders said Tuesday they planned to hold a players-only meeting soon.
“I think that’s huge,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “I think that’s when guys can really be transparent and genuine, and it’s a safe place. And guys can say what they really feel, and other guys can hear it. I don’t think anyone’s going to take it personal. I think guys are going to really listen and take it to heart.”
Amukamara was asked how the players would ensure the meeting doesn’t devolve into a blame game between an at-times-dominant defense and the Bears’ popgun offense. His answer was telling — and true.
“If it would have been offense vs. defense,” he said. “I think that would have happened a long time ago.”
Rather, he said, the Bears have made a conscious effort to link players from both sides of the ball. Since his arrival last year, Nagy has scattered offensive and defensive lockers across the locker room, rather that having them clustered together. That helps players build relationships that, he said, could withstand honest assessments in a players-only meeting.
After cooling off Monday, the Bears returned to Halas Hall on Tuesday to watch film and begin planning for the Chargers on Sunday. They’ll lean on their leaders — Amukamara listed Khalil Mack, Danny Trevathan, an injured Akiem Hicks and himself on defense — during a week in which they’ll ask themselves difficult questions.
“We’re a team that’s not pointing the finger — we point the thumb,” Amukamara said. “And we have thick skin. Guys aren’t afraid to call other guys out, and, like I said, I’m thankful that we have that kind of camaraderie.”
The Bears haven’t shown signs of a fracture, right tackle Bobby Massie said.
“Guys have been in here,” he said. “Extra meetings. Extra workouts. Doing extra things together.”
This week, they’ll add another meeting to that list.
“I feel like this is a player-ran team,” receiver Taylor Gabriel said. “We believe in each other, we’re brothers and … there hasn’t been a lot of finger pointing and a lot of arguing and things like that. So as long as we come together and know that we can … just come back and get a win. I feel like a win is what we need right now.”
How does he stay positive?
“I’ve been in a situation where I was up 28-3, and then lost in the Super Bowl,” he said.
Gabriel, whose Falcons blew the Super Bowl against the Patriots, was clear: things could be worse. They certainly were for the Bears in 2014. A team that started 3-4 lost seven of its last nine games and devolved into a circus. By November, Brandon Marshall was challenging a Lions fan to a boxing match on Twitter. In December, offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer tearfully apologized during a team meeting for anonymously ripping quarterback Jay Cutler. Head coach Marc Trestman then benched Cutler to try to save his job, and couldn’t.
Kyle Fuller, one of two active Bears players on that 2014 team, doesn’t see a repeat coming just because the team has hit adversity.
“Just the culture of It, just the feel,” he said. “Like, guys know what they have to do. And we’ve been there before. We know what it takes. That will be a big thing.”
The benefit of the meeting, Fuller said, is “getting guys on the same page.” He said the defense doesn’t need to hear any apology from the offense.
And the offense, Massie said, doesn’t need to listen to anyone outside Halas Hall.
“Everybody on the outside of this building, they’re taking shots at us — rightfully so,” Massie said. “But as a team, we just have to stay together and keep working hard. Just keep grinding. Turn the ship around.”