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1985 Bears Coverage: Bears settle for Suwanee

Every day of the 2015 Chicago Bears season, Chicago Sun-Times Sports will revisit its coverage 30 years ago during the 1985 Bears’ run to a Super Bowl title.

Bears settle for Suwanee

Dan Pompei

Originally published Dec. 27, 1985

The Bears decided today to move their practice sessions for the upcoming National Football Conference playoffs to Sewanee, Ga. because University of Illinois officials were unable to erect a plastic dome in Champaign.

The Bears had expressed interest in training at the university’s stadium because club officials hoped to stay in a cold climate in preparation for freezing temperatures expected here when the Bears’ host their post-season opener Jan. 5.

Snow, low temperatures and high winds make outside practice here practically impossible, so to Sewanee they will go. They are leaving Monday afternoon.

“We’re all set to go to Atlanta,” said Bears general manager Jerry Vainisi, who had to notify the Suwanee Hotel this morning of his intentions to house the Bears there next week as they prepare to play the winner of the San Francisco 49ers-New York Giants game in the NFC playoffs.

The news did not sit well with coach Mike Ditka, who expressed concerns over security in Suwanee.

Although the training facility is in an isolated area about 25 miles from Atlanta, Ditka is concerned fans will bother the Bears in their hotel and as they commute to meetings and practices.

The Bears had a few problems with overzealous fans last season when they prepared at Suwanee to play the Washington Redskins in the playoffs. Running back Walter Payton had to change rooms when fans kept knocking on his door.

Worse problems were incurred in residential Santa Rosa, Calif., where the Bears prepared to play San Francisco in the NFC championship game.

Increased security at Suwanee should cure the problems if not placate the paranoia. Rooms at the
hotel where the Bears are staying will be leased only to persons in their party.

“People will say, `That’s not right,’” Ditka said. “Well, that is right.”

Is Ditka overreacting?

“This is an opportunity that doesn’t come along too often and we can’t squander it away just to be the goodwill ambassadors of the sporting world,” he said.

“We’re not being selfish. We’re being realistic about what we have to do. It’s time to put away the toys.”

It seems unlikely the Bears would be as distracted in a suburb of Atlanta as they have been in a suburb of Chicago, where they’re more visible than the mayor and almost as visible as the City Council.

“All the attention we’ve created can be a problem,” Vainisi said. “We want to get them to focus on the game and keep distractions to a minimum.”

The team also wants to leash the media.

No television crews will be allowed on the field, the locker room doors will slam shut and each player will speak to the media only during a 45-minute interview session next week.

The players should be happy to have Georgia on their minds, since the facility has natural grass while Memorial Stadium has artificial turf.

The Suwanee facility also has open air, however, and could leave the Bears with a weather dilemma.

Oh well, they can’t control everything.