'He's keeping his promise': Bears' Eberflus delivering on promise to make practices hard
"It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great."
That classic line -- delivered by Tom Hanks to Geena Davis in "A League of Their Own" -- ought to send shivers down the spine of any professional athlete who may have become a bit too complacent.
The Bears are certainly rediscovering the definition of "hard" during coach Matt Eberflus' first training camp at Halas Hall.
This was especially true when the heat index approached 100 degrees Friday and Saturday. Coaches still demanded maximum effort on every drill, required players to run from station to station, and put the team through several high-intensity in-game situations.
"I'm not kidding," TE Cole Kmet said. "That was probably the hardest practice I've ever been a part of. That's not a joke."
Said linebacker Nick Morrow of Eberflus: "He said it here -- it's gonna be the hardest thing you have ever done, right? He's keeping his promise. ... He wants to make it hard enough that when you get to the game it is not as hard."
Now, here's the interesting part: Eberflus heard the comments -- and completely disagreed.
Hard? That was hard? Suck it up, men. It's supposed to be hard.
"If you want to be a good football team, you have to have mental and physical stamina," Eberflus said Saturday. "To build that stamina, you have to go through 'hard', and you can't do it by going through 'soft'. That's just what our practices do.
"So the tempo (in) which we practice -- how we execute with speed and what we're asking our players to do -- that builds that mental and physical stamina."
Bears fans have to love this kind of talk, especially after four soft years under Matt Nagy.
Now, let's make one other thing clear: While these practices are intense and draining at times, they are nothing -- NOTHING -- compared to what players went through in the 1960s, 70s, 80s and 90s.
Two-a-days. Full pads from Day 1. All-out tackling.
It's no wonder guys were exhausted when the regular season began.
"First day of camp was the last day you were 100%," former Bears WR Tom Waddle said. "The change is for the better. We worked hard, but not smart a lot of the time."
Today's smarter, shorter practices allow most players to be at or near 100% for the opener. If there's one negative it's that the absence of tackling in practice leads to sloppy play early on.
The Bears, who were off Monday, will practice Tuesday at Soldier Field. After that they'll return to Halas Hall on Wednesday and Thursday, then face the Kansas City Chiefs in the preseason opener at Soldier Field on Saturday at noon. Eberflus said the starters will play, although it's unclear for how long.
There's no doubt players can't wait to prove that all of this hard work and extra effort will pay off with a solid performance against Patrick Mahomes and Co.
"Defensively, you have to win with effort," Morrow said. "That's been shown time and time again. Running to the football creates turnovers; punching the ball out, picking it up, recovering it.
"Effort is definitely number one."
And in the end, that is what makes it great.