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‘Let’s be savages’: Bears buoyed by ‘brotherhood’ with past greats

Butkus, Dent, Singletary & Co. raise the bar for the 2019 team to win it all.

Bears Hall of Famer linebacker Dick Butkus acknowledges fans at the Bears100 Celebration Weekend in Rosemont on Friday.
Mark Black

Linebacker Danny Trevathan returned to work Tuesday as the Bears opened their veteran minicamp at Halas Hall. But like many of his teammates, he was still reveling in that glorious Bears100 Celebration Weekend in Rosemont.

Trevathan already has a Super Bowl ring — he was the Broncos’ leading tackler in their Super Bowl 50 victory over the Panthers. But hobnobbing with Dick Butkus and Mike Singletary and other former players from the Bears’ glorious past put his tenure with the team into an even sharper focus.

“Man, just to be around them gave me goosebumps,” Trevathan said. “I know I’m in the right place, man — linebacker. This is linebacker heaven. You dream of this. My mouth started watering when I started thinking about this. I wanted to play that day, right after we finished talking with them.”

While the main purpose of the event was to celebrate the past, the convention also served as an inspiration to the current team to fulfill its potential as Super Bowl contenders. Players like Trevathan, Akiem Hicks, Khalil Mack, Eddie Jackson and Roquan Smith got a full dose of what it means to the old-timers to be a part of the franchise founded by the legendary George Halas — and how much pride the former players take in the current team’s success.

“What they felt this weekend was a brotherhood,” coach Matt Nagy said. “It was a family. It was a bond. And they saw that. We talked about in our team meeting is that they have the ability right now to create our own legacy.

“It’s not about being better than any other team that was ever here. It’s about carrying on that tradition and making that jersey you’re wearing better than what it was when you put it on the first time. Treating it as a treasure.”

The former Bears are fully vested in Nagy’s Bears winning-it-all approach, offering moral support and sage advice to today’s players. And many of the them took that to heart, including Hicks and Trevathan, who was motivated by meaningful conversations with one Hall of Famer in particular.

“The Samurai. Mike Singletary,” Trevathan said. “I didn’t really get to talk to him when I first came here, but it was the perfect timing right now. He knows the linebacker is the quarterback of the defense. He knows you can’t be wrong. You’ve got to have your eyes right, your feet right; your mind’s gotta be right. Always take care of yourself and take care of your boys. Just the little things he said. I can’t tell you too much, because I’m going to apply it to my game, and you’re going to see a change.”

Mack felt a similar connection to Richard Dent, the Hall of Fame defensive end who was the MVP of Super Bowl XX.

“It was cool, just chatting about the game,” Mack said. “You can tell he still loves the game and he wanted to teach everything that he knew in one sitting. … And after I talked to him, I [went] back and saw [that] what he actually did throughout his whole career here is very special. That definitely has got to be one of my favorite moments.”

Third-year safety Eddie Jackson, who made the Pro Bowl last season, called the Bears100 event “a blessing. I got to meet Mike Ditka — that was one of the highlights of my day,” he said.

Jackson said he enjoyed being on a “legacy” panel with former Bears safeties Doug Plank, Gary Fencik and Mike Brown. He was touched by Brown’s emotional reaction to missing Super Bowl XLI because of a foot injury.

“Just to see him start crying after all this time, it just shows how much it meant to him, what football means to him to this day,” Jackson said.

And he was amused by the hilarious story of Plank — one of the most vicious hitters to ever play the game — tackling a woman as part of a grant-a-fan’s-wish promotion back in the day.

“That’s crazy. But you could tell the type of player he was. He’s real down-to-earth,” Jackson said.

Second-year linebacker Roquan Smith — a prime candidate to carry on the Bill George-Butkus-Singletary-Brian Urlacher legacy of inside linebackers, talked with Butkus and Otis Wilson at the event.

“It was great being around those guys and picking their brains a little bit,” Smith said. “Butkus was like, ‘Just be violent. By all means be violent’ — that was his main thing. And Otis, it was more saying the same thing. ‘Get the quarterback. Knock him out.’ Stuff like that.”

A small dose of the ’85 Bears goes a long way. Today’s team got close to a full dose last weekend, and it appears to have rubbed off.

“The level of expectations has been raised,” Trevathan said, “but let’s be cocky. Let’s be savages. Let’s [not] care about what anybody thinks about us or what they say about us. Let’s be that cocky group, be the best defense ever to do that.”