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Bears embracing higher expectations in 2023

Bears general manager Ryan Poles and coach Matt Eberflus
Bears general manager Ryan Poles and coach Matt Eberflus

After initiating a rebuilding process last year, more is expected of the Bears this season—and that's just fine with general manager Ryan Poles.

"We've improved our roster, we've improved continuity and we're excited about that," Poles told reporters Tuesday as the Bears kicked off training camp at Halas Hall. "We're excited about raising the level and raising expectations. I think great teams have high expectations and they go chase that. And that's what we're going to do and we're going to do that in training camp."

The team that will be on the field for the first summer practice Wednesday will be much different than the one that compiled a 3-14 record in 2022.

During a productive offseason, the Bears traded for receiver DJ Moore; signed linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards, running back D'Onta Foreman, tight end Robert Tonyan, guard Nate Davis, defensive end DeMarcus Walker and defensive tackle Andrew Billings in free agency; and drafted right tackle Darnell Wright, defensive tackles Gervon Dexter Sr. and Zacch Pickens, cornerback Tyrique Stevenson, running back Roschon Johnson and receiver Tyler Scott.

Asked what he was most proud of accomplishing with his offseason plan, Poles said: "The ability to really help our team right now but also continue to set ourselves up for the future. I think being able to do both exceeded my expectations, which was really cool."

The Bears will conduct 16 training camp practices through Aug. 17. Nine of 13 workouts at Halas Hall will be open to the public. The Bears will also practice at Soldier Field as part of Family Fest Aug. 6 and with the Colts in Westfield, Ind., Aug. 16-17 prior to a preseason game between the teams Aug. 19 in Indianapolis.

Coach Matt Eberflus revealed that the focus in camp will be on skill development, saying: "It's about strengthening the individual man, the unit, the positions and then our football team. And then really development of the schemes."

"And then really the look for us as the coaches is, 'Who are our elite competitors?'" Eberflus said. "We want guys to compete at an elite level. That's going to be evident once we get the pads on. Of course, we have our ramp-up period, but we want to make sure that that is going to be a big focus for us because that's how you win football games. You do that day-in and day-out and we're excited about being able to enhance those guys."

Get an exclusive look at players arriving for the start of Enjoy Illinois Chicago Bears Training Camp at Halas Hall.

Several Bears players have already proven to be elite competitors.

"I'm not going to point out a bunch of guys, but obviously Justin Fields is an elite competitor," Eberflus said. "He competes at the highest level. Tremaine Edmunds is an elite competitor in this system. A couple guys I won't name, but we have several guys that we've added in the last couple drafts and free agency that are in that mode that are guys we'll look to to model after."

Poles views training camp as another opportunity to create a championship mindset.

"I think you've got to boil it down in terms of just mastering your craft first," he said, "and I think that then leads into the entire unit and looking at yourself and being honest with yourself: 'Where are my strengths? Where are my struggles?' And really attacking those struggles to improve the game.

"And I think you've got to have that confidence too. I want our team to walk into the stadium believing they can win football games and not hoping."

Asked what a championship mindset means to him, Poles said: "The standard is being champions and the entire thing being Super Bowl champions is always going to be what we're putting ourselves against, because you've got to shoot for that every single year. You've got to have that mentality in order to improve and get to where you want to go."

The Bears are seemingly closer to where they want to go after Poles and Eberflus gained a valuable year of experience working together in 2022.

"The energy's outstanding in this building," Poles said. "Everyone's on the same page. I think everyone loves coming to work and working with each other. I think the big thing is once you get that, now you're on that second lap. All of the tweaks, you go through all of these and say, 'OK, we need to change these and adjust that.' You can start tightening stuff up, and we're going to continue to do that all the way through. That's exciting because I thought the process early was good, but we're going to improve to make it great."

Take a look each player on the Bears roster as Enjoy Illinois Training Camp gets underway at Halas Hall in preparation for the 2023 season. (Players listed numerically)