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1985 Bears Coverage: Ditka minds manner

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.

Ditka minds manner

Kevin Lamb

Originally published Nov. 17, 1985

Bear players already were clenching their teeth, and it was only Monday.

The Dallas game. They hadn’t even watched film of their victory last Sunday, and already they were tightening up.

Coach Mike Ditka noticed it right away.

“He looked out across the room, saw everybody with their jaws set, and said, `Hey, lighten up,’” linebacker Cliff Thrift said. “`Let’s enjoy the Detroit game. We’ll worry about Dallas on Wednesday.’”

“I’m not a tough guy at all,” said Ditka, the notorious tough guy, a couple of weeks ago.

“Our practices right now are like a walk in the park compared to what Dallas does. Our conditioning work is nowhere near the level of what Dallas did when I was there.

“I don’t want them coming off the field mad because they’re tired. I want their minds coming off and saying, `OK, what did we do today? We worked on this offense and this defense. We learned something. We’ll come back tomorrow and know that practice isn’t going to be drudgery.’

“Our practices have to be repetitious because we have to do certain things every day. But we’re trying to make it as much fun as we can.”

If Ditka has any advantage over other coaches, it’s that it hasn’t been so long since he was a player.

“He knows when you have to lighten up and when you’ve got to bear down,” Thrift said. “He understands players.”