Sorry Patriots, but John Fox wants his Bears to bite

SHARE Sorry Patriots, but John Fox wants his Bears to bite

Bears coach John Fox. (AP)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Bears safety Harold Jones-Quartey did exactly what coach John Fox wants and doesn’t want him to do.

Let’s explain what happened during the second day of joint practices Tuesday between the Bears and New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium.

Jones-Quartey forcefully popped Patriots receiver Julian Edelman at the end of a play during team drills, sparking a minor fracas a day after a melee broke out.

Fox and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio promptly removed Jones-Quartey from the field, adhering to the Patriots’ strictly enforced rule of no fighting, which the Bears agreed to while in Foxborough.

‘‘I just try to play as hard and as fast as I can and try to work on my position,’’ Jones-Quartey said. ‘‘The open-field tackle is one of the hardest plays to make as a safety. That situation right there, I didn’t need to bring him down. It was a mistake.

‘‘I tried to get into position, and then he gave me a quick spin. We’re taught to tag the hip, and he gave me a quick spin, and I just naturally reacted that way. Coach Fox preached on not hitting them all week, and I made a mistake there.’’

But he also didn’t. The Bears are forming a brash identity, particularly on defense, after essentially having none under former coach Marc Trestman.

As a defense, the Bears want to play fast, physical and rough. They want to be animated and hostile. They want to frustrate and infuriate opponents. The defensive changes they’ve made under Fox and Fangio reflect that.

As for Jones-Quartey’s hit, Fox and Fangio want their safeties to strike receivers, tight ends and backs hard. They want them to be intimidating.

If Jones-Quartey had delivered the hit in the Bears’ preseason game Thursday against the Patriots, it would have been allowed.

‘‘It was a natural reaction after the spin [to hit him],’’ Jones-Quartey said. ‘‘We’ve just got to be better and take care of them.’’

The difference is, the Bears are visitors playing under their hosts’ rules. Many daily observers of the Patriots have been surprised by the skirmishes with the Bears. Outside linebacker Lamarr Houston has been involved in a few of them.

‘‘Those weren’t fights,’’ Fox said. ‘‘Those were just pushing matches.’’

Well, almost.

The most intense blowup Tuesday featured Patriots center Bryan Stork shoving and swinging at Bears linebacker John Timu during team drills. Timu showed restraint and backed off; Stork was sent to the locker room.

Of course, pushing matches, scrums and ruckuses have been commonplace with Fox and the Bears since the start of camp. They’ve been almost daily occurrences.

It reached a point where quarterback Jay Cutler said the Bears were ‘‘kind of being a dumb team’’ after a blowup during Family Fest at Soldier Field. Fox even said the extracurricular activities could be a waste of energy.

Unlike Patriots coach Bill Belichick, though, Fox doesn’t banish players to the locker room for fighting. He doesn’t exactly encourage brash actions, but he doesn’t wholeheartedly discourage them, either. He’s the ‘‘old school’’ to Trestman’s previous ‘‘new school.’’

Members of the Bears’ offense were the first to notice the defense’s edge during organized team activities.

‘‘[It’s] everybody just playing as a unit, playing with some fire, going after it and having fun,’’ linebacker Jerrell Freeman said.

Defensive end Akiem Hicks said the defense always wants to set a tone.

‘‘That’s something that we want to carry out through the whole season,’’ Hicks said. ‘‘[It’s] making sure we are on our stuff assignment-wise and then bringing that excitement and then being able to play hard and fast.’’

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