What’s it like to be a ‘new’ guy on Matt Nagy’s NFC North-winning Bears?
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Cornerback Marcus Williams was warned, but the Bears’ newest player still didn’t know what he was walking into last Sunday in the locker room after the Bears won the NFC North by knocking off the rival Packers.
“Once I got in there, the lights were already out,” Williams said.
It was his official welcome to “Club Dub.” It was time to dance.
“I just got in with everybody else and started having fun with them,” Williams said. “Club Dub was exciting. It was definitely an experience I’ve never had before. Hopefully, we can just keep going and keep having more of those.”
Williams, a five-year veteran, was signed Dec. 12 after slot cornerback Bryce Callahan went on injured reserve with a broken left foot. The Bears have made 15 roster moves during this season, including those involving the practice squad. Last year, they made 68 roster moves in the regular season.
The substantial decrease this year is the result of better health overall. But it’s also a reflection of what general manager Ryan Pace has built in four years — a winner. And that includes coach Matt Nagy.
“There is a ton of confidence in this [locker] room,” Williams said.
That’s one of his earliest impressions of the Bears. Here’s what else Williams and the other “new guys” have experienced since joining the team during this division-winning run.
The first thing that struck offensive lineman Willie Beavers when he was signed to the practice squad Nov. 5 was how his new teammates talked and walked.
“Guys have a little swagger about themselves,” said Beavers, a fourth-round pick for the Vikings in 2016 who also had stints with the Patriots and Seahawks. “You can see confidence, just coming out to practice. And the way we practice is really tough. It’s confidence plus preparation.”
Williams soon realized where that confidence begins.
“It all starts with great coaching,” he said. “[Nagy] brings a lot of energy. It just trickles down to the assistant coaches and to the players. That’s what I’ve seen, and everybody is excited.
“I can feel it from everybody. It starts with Coach, just how he talks to everybody, and it’s just everybody buying into what he’s saying. Everybody is trusting him and believing what he’s saying.”
Having started 13 games for the Chiefs last season, right guard Bryan Witzmann already was on a first-name basis with Nagy, the Chiefs’ former offensive coordinator, when he was signed Oct. 8. And Nagy’s schedule is similar to Andy Reid’s with the Chiefs.
“Just being around Nagy, you know just what he brings,” Witzmann said. “He definitely came here and set a tone for the guys, and you could sense that when you got here. . . . You felt an energy and an excitement that good things were on the way.”
What Witzmann didn’t see coming were Nagy’s new touches: Club Dub and the Bears’ weekly dance-offs on Saturdays, which include voting and awards.
“It just adds to the camaraderie and the togetherness between the offense and defense,” Witzmann said. “It’s fun to be a part of.”
But there’s also a “good balance” between fun and work, Beavers noted.
How would he describe the atmosphere?
“Camaraderie. Family. And hard work,” he said.
Receiver Cyril Grayson has been a member of the practice squad for only three weeks, but he, too, has been part of a Saturday dance-off. He lost to punter Pat O’Donnell.
“They did, like, the most basic dance,” said Grayson, a former track star at LSU who was signed Nov. 27. “I killed it, of course, because I’m dancer. I’m a dancer!”
He joked that he didn’t want to see O’Donnell after that. But he considers the experience meaningful.
“It’s something to take your mind away from football and just remember you’re human, even in here,” he said.
Grayson contrasts this experience with his time in Seattle, where he was signed and cut four times since last year.
“It’s a be-yourself type of atmosphere [here], and that allows the players to be exactly who they are, to show their personality on and off the field. That allows you to play a lot more relaxed and free, and when you’re playing like that, then you have no choice but to be your best.”
Best of all, Grayson feels welcomed. His locker stall is between cornerback Kyle Fuller and defensive lineman Akiem Hicks.
“It can take awhile to get comfortable in the locker room,” Grayson said, “but these guys, you could tell they were a good team and that they were comfortable with each other to show love. I think that’s an attribute of a championship team.
“I’ve been part of a couple championships with track and field [at LSU], and you can just feel the energy and the camaraderie of those type of teams, and that’s exactly what I picked up when I walked through the door.”