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John Fox Q&A: Focusing on the Bears’ free-agent additions

Bears coach John Fox. (AP)

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Bears coach John Fox sat down with Chicago media members during the NFC coaches breakfast at the NFL owners meetings at the Boca Raton Resort.

Plenty of topics were discussed, but here are some highlights, when it comes to the Bears’ moves in free agency:

On the Bears’ free-agent haul, particularly on defense, where linebackers Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman were added:

“I think obviously we had some holes. I think [general manager] Ryan [Pace] and his staff did a good job of kind of getting what was probably the oldest roster in football now to where we’re probably in the top-three youngest, if not the youngest. And I think that’s something where sometimes you take some steps back to take some steps forward. So you look at the linebacker position, we basically brought in two inside backers. Who will be Mike and Jack yet we’ll find that out when they hit the grass. But they’re guys who are still young, yet have been proven to be productive players in the National Football League. And that’s kind of what we targeted in free agency. Not going too crazy on the financial aspect, and yet improving your team.”

On what he likes about Trevathan:

“Well, even right out of the draft, there was a kid Levonte David who was earlier in that draft, second round, that we had kind of targeted. But we went another direction as far as position. But we thought with our evaluations that Danny was kind of that next guy. Coming out, he was the leading tackler in the SEC at the University of Kentucky. He had the speed, quickness, explosion measurables that we like. And our coaches did a good job of getting him screwed into our defense. So it was no shock that he played really well. He had the one year that he was injured and missed significant time. Those are always setbacks for any players. But then he came back and played very well again.”

On Trevathan’s mentality:

“He loves football. This thing we do is a blue-collar job. We kid with them that we don’t pay them to play. Most guys would play for nothing. But we pay them to practice and prepare. And that’s hard. It’s very hard. So it takes the right kind of mindset to do that day in and day out at a high level.”

On what he learned about Freeman during last preseason when the Bears trained with the Colts in Indianapolis:

“Well, I have friends, kids that I coached on the [Colts]. Nate Irving was a guy that had just gone there. I was talking to them [and] couple coaches that I know. I was able to observe [Freeman] in a couple of our cross-training drills. The thing I liked about Jerrell is that he has a little bit of a chip [on his shoulder]. You mentioned that he’s a little under the radar, well yeah, he spent three years in Canadian Football. I’m not knocking Canadian Football, but he lived in Saskatchewan. I’ll get yelled at by all the Canadians. But he was in that setting. It’s like being in Triple-A, possibly. Then you’ve got to have that opportunity. That blue-collar job I’m talking about, there’s guys like that, both in preparation and in play that have a little bit of an edge. That is what impressed me, and obviously his skill set and the production that he’s had in a short NFL career.”

On signing defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, who played college football in Canada:

“Back to familiarity, it was just by chance that [Freeman and Hicks] both visited the same weekend. They connected. They knew each other I think from that area, whatever area that is that they lived, even though they didn’t play together. I think at that time Akiem was going to [the University of] Regina [in Canada]. They had had contact so they knew each other. It was kind of cool to see that little reunion when they came in [to Halas Hall]. But I think really the basic information was that our coaches liked him on tape. We’ve got guys in our building who have been at New Orleans that really liked him. Going back to Denver and the draft, we liked Akiem. We had the opportunity to acquire him and we think he’s a good get for us.”

On adding Hicks and whether the Bears want to get bigger on the defensive line:

“We’re trying to get better. Sometimes that comes in different packages. The thing that is exciting about Akiem is he is a big body. He played a bunch of nose. He played three-technique. He played in a 4-3 [defense] as a 325-pound guy. He kind of slid into a little bit more of how we’re going to use him with New England. He’s got the flexibility to be both [in 3-4 and 4-3 defenses]. He’s got very long arms, which helps in pass rush and developing that. He doesn’t have that completely down yet, but he’s excited to learn. We’re excited to teach him. So he kind of fits what we’re doing maybe better than some other guys that we’ve had.”

On signing right tackle Bobby Massie:

“Big, physical. We had a lot of insights, people who knew him. Knew he would fit us. We had many reports like that. We needed to improve our offensive line. We could’ve gone a lot of different directions, but we were able to obtain Bobby and that’s how we’re going to start. He makes us better.”

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