Less talk, more action needed for Bears to improve
Among the gibberish and the plethora of platitudes that rained down at Halas Hall Monday, there were some valid opinions regarding the requirements for a return to respectability.
Almost all of the players who cleaned out their lockers before scattering to all parts of the country have never known anything but double-digit-loss seasons as Bears.
Maybe the culture has changed in two years under coach John Fox and G.M. Ryan Pace, but the bottom line hasn't. No Bears team has ever lost more games than this year's 3-13 edition.
Fox's message in his exit address to players before they went their separate ways was blunt.
"You gotta be better," linebacker Jerrell Freeman said Fox told the group. "Three-and-13 is not acceptable. It's not acceptable to anybody in this room and, if it is, they don't need to be in this room.
"We don't need anybody out here going through the motions and just riding along like 'OK, I'm in the NFL.' You might be a one-star (player), but if you don't have a mentality like you're a five-star and you don't want to get out there and train like it and study like it, you don't need to be here."
Many won't be.
Some players will decide that on their own, others will have it decided for them. It's the same every year in the NFL, especially after a 3-13 season.
"This year was reality," said outside linebacker Pernell McPhee, who started impressively as a Bear but has not been the disruptive difference-maker they thought they acquired before the 2015 season. Worse, he may never get back to that level because of a problematic knee.
"It (didn't) end up in our way, (in) our favor," McPhee said. "We just got to go into the off-season with vengeance on our mind and try to be our best to get ready for this year coming up."
McPhee had 7½ sacks for the Ravens in 2104, the year before he left via free agency. But he has 5 just sacks in the Bears' last 25 games, nine of which he missed with injuries.
McPhee is confident he can recapture the level of play he demonstrated in the first half of 2015, but he knows it will require across-the-board improvement to resurrect a foundering franchise.
"As professionals, we just don't come in to compete," he said. "We come in and we get paid to win. That's what this business is; it's based off winning. We just got to create that mindset and sell out every play because that's what it's about, creating a mindset of winning.
"You got to bring in more guys who understand how to win, and every play you've got to sell out your whole body, sell out your soul."
Guard Kyle Long, one of 19 Bears who ended the season on injured reserve, believes the offense already has its foundation for success -- running back Jordan Howard. Even though Long, a three-time Pro Bowler, missed the final eight games with a fractured ankle, Howard finished as the NFL's second-leading rusher with 1,313 yards.
"You have to run the ball to win in the NFL," Long said. "Jordan Howard is the hare out there in front of us leading the pack. You can see he wills himself to get four or five extra yards every time he's got the ball."
Howard is one of numerous young players who contributed this season and who have created some optimism for the future. But Long is already weary of words when actions are required.
"I've heard the 'young' thing for so long, and I'm so tired of all the talk," he said. "Talking is not gonna get us anything, but we've got young guys who can play. I'm looking forward to seeing that, (but) I'm looking forward to getting healthy, so I can stop talking and start playing."
After 34 losses in three seasons, Long is not alone.
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