The Bears returned to the practice field Tuesday for the start of their three-day minicamp, but players were still buzzing about their experience at the Bears100 Celebration Weekend.
The entire current team joined about 130 former players at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont Friday through Sunday to help kick off the franchise’s 100th season.
“Oh man, it was amazing,” said outside linebacker Khalil Mack. “Getting to see all the Hall of Famers and all the past players, it was an honor to be a part of it. There’s a rich history around the Bears organization, and just taking it all in was amazing.”
One of the highlights for Mack was spending about 30 minutes speaking to Hall of Fame defensive end Richard Dent, the Super Bowl XX MVP and the Bears’ all-time leading sacker.
“It was cool, just chatting about the game,” Mack said. “You can tell he still loves the game and he wanted to teach me everything that he knew in one little sitting.”
Dent played 12 of 15 NFL seasons with the Bears. He led the NFC with a team-record 17.5 sacks in 1984 before recording a league-leading 17 sacks in 1985 in helping the Bears win their first NFL title in 22 years. The 6-5, 265-pounder registered 10 or more sacks in five straight seasons from 1984-88 and in eight of 10 years from 1984-93.
Mack on Tuesday described Dent as “a dominant force coming off the edge.” It apparently takes one to know one.
“The things that he showed me is exactly what he did,” Mack said. “The same things. Just understanding angles. He kept telling me about basketball, how you check up somebody in basketball. The same way he kind of put his elbow on somebody is the same thing I saw on film.”
Asked if Mack would be able to apply what he learned from Dent to his own game, the four-time Pro Bowler said: “Hell yeah.”
Second-year linebacker Roquan Smith also enjoyed spending time with former Bears stars.
“It was a great experience, being able to interact with guys that came before me and had done a lot of great things for this organization,” said Smith, the eighth overall pick in the 2018 draft. “It was great being around those guys and picking their brains a little bit.”
Smith especially liked chatting with Hall of Fame middle linebacker Dick Butkus and Otis Wilson, a star outside linebacker on the 1985 Super Bowl championship team. Smith had first met Butkus more than a year ago after winning the 2017 Butkus Award as the top linebacker in college football.
“Those two guys, their play speaks for itself,” Smith said. “It was just good to be around those guys and ask different questions about the game.”
Smith received similar advice from the two former greats.
“Butkus was like, ‘Just be violent.’ That was his main thing,” Smith said. “And Otis, it was more saying the same thing, ‘Get the quarterback, knock him out,’ stuff like that.”
Smith embraces NFL history and has spent countless hours studying tape of some of the league’s greatest players, especially linebackers such as Butkus.
“He was very violent,” Smith said. “He didn’t let anyone off the hook. If he gets you and catches you, he’s trying to decapitate you. He was one of those types of guys.”
Safety Eddie Jackson's favorite moments from the Bears100 Celebration were meeting the legendary Mike Ditka and participating in a panel discussion with some of the best safeties in Bears history: Gary Fencik, Doug Plank and Mike Brown.
“It was a blessing,” Jackson said. “It was a fun experience. Anytime you get to do that and meet guys that have been here before you and did the things they’ve done who now have gold jackets, it’s always a fun experience.”
Current Bears players felt a special bond and camaraderie with their predecessors throughout the memorable weekend.
“It’s all love, it’s all family,” Mack said. “Ultimately, they have our best interests. Just little things, even off the field, seeing who we know that can help us with certain things, even down to massages and all different kinds of stuff. Just learning from them and hearing from them was huge.”