The Bears have a new coaching staff and several new players. But that's not the only reason that introductions will be necessary this week when the team begins its voluntary offseason program.
In an effort directed by first-year head coach Marc Trestman to build team unity, players' lockers have been randomly moved around, mixing members of the offense with their counterparts on defense. Previously, lockers were arranged by position group.
"The locker room was set up in a way that segments were together," Trestman said. "We've all been in places like that. I just see our segments being together in meetings all the time and I want the guys to have an opportunity to get to know their teammates a little bit better. So it was basically just throw them all in a hat and pull them out and see what showed up."
Examples of those with lockers now side-by-side at Halas Hall include defensive end Julius Peppers and offensive tackle Gabe Carimi, quarterback Jay Cutler and defensive end Shea McClellin, and receiver Brandon Marshall and defensive tackle Henry Melton.
"Guys are going to have opportunities to engage in conversations and get to know guys that they may not know very well," Trestman said. "And the better you get to know each other, the better you understand the makeup of the people that you're working with and develop the relationships that will be ongoing and strong. Not only can they benefit your team on the field but they can enhance and bring more substance to your life as you move through football and out of football."
Given how many new players the Bears have added the past few weeks, a "getting to know you" period would have been necessary even without moving any lockers. Since the start of free agency March 12, general manager Phil Emery and the Bears have signed eight players from other teams.
The newcomers are left tackle Jermon Bushrod (Saints), tight ends Martellus Bennett (Giants) and Steve Maneri (Chiefs), linebackers D.J. Williams (Broncos) and James Anderson (Panthers), defensive end Turk McBride (Saints), safety Tom Zbikowski (Colts) and guard Matt Slauson (Jets).
"Obviously we're not bringing anybody in here that we don't think can help us get better, and that's what we're trying to do organizationally; Phil in personnel and us in coaching working together to try to get our football team better," Trestman said. "We do that every day. We ask the question, 'What can we do to get better?' And I think we're seeing things happening each and every day to show that's what we're trying to do."
Trestman is eager to work with an offense that added Bennett, Bushrod and Slauson to a unit that already featured Cutler, Marshall and running back Matt Forte.
"We're absolutely excited about getting to work with these guys," Trestman said. "Our personnel department has brought together a really good group of players, not only as football players but as people. Trying to put it all together and seeing how it comes together is the exciting part. We've got a lot of work to do, but it's definitely exciting."