Coach Matt Eberflus making Bears practices ‘the hardest thing you’ve ever done’

Eberflus’ coaching ethos is built on hustle and intensity, and his practices reflect that.

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Bears head coach Matt Eberflus, center, watches players during the NFL football team’s training camp on Friday.

Bears head coach Matt Eberflus, center, watches players during the NFL football team’s training camp, Friday,

AP Photos

Bears coach Matt Eberflus speaks with the specificity of a defense lawyer, each word chosen to offer no more than the minimum amount of information necessary in a news conference. So when he brought up the grueling practice Friday at the end of the session Saturday, it was no accident.

‘‘[Players] talked about, ‘The practice was long,’ and all that,’’ he said. ‘‘I didn’t see it that way.’’

The message: You ain’t seen nothing yet.

Eberflus’ coaching ethos is built on hustle and intensity, and his practices reflect that.

‘‘If you want to be a good football team, you have to have mental and physical stamina,’’ Eberflus said. ‘‘And to build that callus, to build that stamina, you have to go through hard; you can’t do it by going through soft.’’

Tight end Cole Kmet considered Friday ‘‘the hardest practice I’ve ever been a part of.’’ Receiver Darnell Mooney was laid out in the Bears’ locker room afterward, soaking in all the fluids and air conditioning he could find.

Practice Saturday was warmer — ‘‘It’s so humid here, you walk outside and you just want it to rain,’’ linebacker Nicholas Morrow said — but no less intense.

‘‘The intensity going from period to period, having to run to the ball . . . it’s a lot harder than what I have usually done,’’ Morrow said.

It’s by design.

‘‘That’s just what our practices do,’’ Eberflus said. ‘‘So the tempo which we practice, how we execute with speed and what we’re asking our players to do, that builds that mental and physical stamina.’’

Eberflus’ practices are physical — so much so that the Bears were fined one practice during organized team activities because they crossed the line into contact. The laundry list of banged-up players who sat out practice Saturday shows the line Eberflus is walking by having such intense sessions.

The Bears stand around less during camp this year than they did under former coach Matt Nagy. This past week, they focused on moving the ball without preparing the offense with a script beforehand. Each play demanded mental focus from both sides of the ball. They had to make sure they substituted at the right time and lined up in the same place before the ball was snapped.

‘‘The last two days have been tough,’’ running back Khalil Herbert said. ‘‘But we needed them.’’

There’s reason to think the uptick in practice intensity is more than your typical camp narrative. Eberflus is trying to set a culture — he said he plans to be this way every year — and to allow his coaches to teach.

Mooney hinted that wasn’t always the case last year. This year, receivers practice where to go when quarterback Justin Fields scrambles, making sure to break out at different levels of the defense. Last year, Mooney said, the Bears’ coaches talked about what to do but rarely put it into action on the back fields at Halas Hall.

‘‘We had the system, but we just never worked on it,’’ he said. ‘‘You have to work on things, even though it’s just scramble drill: ‘We just scramble — everybody run around.’ You have to work on it every now and again.’’

You can’t say Eberflus didn’t warn his players when he taught them his H.I.T.S. system, which focuses on hustle, intensity, takeaways and smarts, and then grades every practice snap accordingly. Coaches track ‘‘loafs,’’ or moments in which players didn’t hustle.

‘‘He said, ‘It’s gonna be the hardest thing you’ve ever done,’ ’’ Morrow said. ‘‘And he’s not joking. . . . He’s keeping his promise, that’s for one. And then two, he wants to make it hard enough that when you get to the game, it is not as hard. Or maybe you’ve had that intensity before and then you can adapt to it.’’

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