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Gervon Dexter Sr. looking to maximize potential in sophomore season

Story by Gabby Hajduk

At the conclusion of Gervon Dexter Sr.'s rookie season, he sat in exit meetings with Bears personnel including coach Matt Eberflus and defensive line coach Travis Smith.

The pair evaluated Dexter's season the same way they do with each player on the roster. It was clear Dexter — who played in all 17 games in 2023 — exhibited steady improvement throughout the season. But like any rookie, there was room for even more growth ahead of Year 2.

Smith challenged Dexter to an additional offseason task: "Don't come back the same person."

"The day we left, coach Trav told me, 'When you come back, I don't want to notice you. I don't want you to look the same, walk the same, talk the same,'" Dexter told "That was his thing to me. So, I made that my goal."

With the help of veteran teammates like defensive end Montez Sweat and cornerback Jaylon Johnson, Dexter curated a specific plan to achieve that goal while back home in Orlando, Fla.

He broke his offseason into three increments. The first few weeks were dedicated to general health and wellness, which meant recovering from the longest football season he had ever played. There were a lot of massages, dry needling, physical therapy and Pilates.

After, in his words, "getting [his] body back right," Dexter jumped into the nutrition phase of his plan. He knew that in order to return to Halas Hall a better player, he needed to fix his body composition, so he took his eating habits more seriously and began a workout regimen geared toward losing body fat.

As far as his diet, Dexter simply needed to have more balance. He figured out the correct amount of protein and carbs his body required, cut out unhealthy late night snacks and hired a personal chef to help him stay on track. Rather than removing the food he enjoyed altogether, his chef made some adjustments, such as swapping out a regular donut for a protein donut.

While Dexter admitted the changes were difficult to adapt to during the first week of his plan, by Day 10 he had formed new habits. He combined his new nutrition goals with different exercises that focused on his core balance.

Once his overall movement was corrected, interval training on the Stairmaster became Dexter's go-to workout. He would run on the machine for one minute before taking a 30-second break and repeating that cycle 10 times. Dexter's goal was to be in "track shape" to ensure he could "run and play a whole game."

"It was important for me just because that's what's expected for this team," Dexter said. "And this being my second year, that's what is expected from the guys, the D-line. Coach Flus preaches 'the backside wins championships,' so I want to make sure I'm ready when my number is called. I wanted to make sure when I came back, I was ready to step into a role."

The final installment of Dexter's offseason plan was getting back into "football shape." After losing 10 pounds during the second phase of his plan, he gained five pounds back strictly in lean mass. He refocused on football training, D-line exercises and correcting things he saw on film from his rookie campaign.

"He has all of the ability, the size, the skills, the mind, he's humble. He just has to let the chains off and go." Bears defensive end Montez Sweat

When Dexter returned to Halas Hall April 15 for the start of the Bears' offseason program, it was evident he took Smith's direction seriously.

"He's taken the challenge individually from himself but also from our organization, too, that he has a lot of pride in what he's doing on the field," Smith told reporters May 31. "He wants to make sure he has goals and aspirations. There's a lot of things to learn, but he knows it's one step at a time. So, the first step was where he could not come back in the same [shape] that he was when he left last season. And where he's shown up now, he's taken Step 1. He's done a great job."

While it's difficult to fully evaluate offensive and defensive linemen during offseason workouts when players are practicing without pads, Dexter's improvements still stuck out to his coaches.

Eberflus immediately noticed Dexter's leaner frame along with his increased quickness and athletic ability on the field. During one of the 11-on-11 team periods in a veteran minicamp practice, Dexter chased rookie receiver Rome Odunze down the sideline to finish off a play.


For defensive coordinator Eric Washington, who has only had the opportunity to assess Dexter's play through film, his footwork and stance are key indicators of how he's improved the offseason. Through his first couple months working with Dexter, Washington has also taken note of the Florida's product elevated confidence level that is visible on the practice field.

"The biggest thing is just how assertive he is," Washington said. "You can tell there's a growing confidence. He's assertive. He believes that he belongs in the lineup, and he believes that he can be a major factor."

From his teammates' perspective, Dexter is set to become a force to be reckoned with. Sweat, who worked alongside Dexter during the second half of the 2023 season after arriving in a trade with the Commanders, told reporters: "He has all of the ability, the size, the skills, the mind, he's humble. He just has to let the chains off and go."


Linebacker Tremaine Edmunds has witnessed a change in Dexter's mindset between his first and second year, noting that, "he's been working hard, man. I see him watching tape all the time. I see how hard he goes chasing down stuff. It just shows his athleticism and I'm excited to see him this year."

The noticeable confidence shift is something that took Dexter a full season to achieve since he needed time to adjust to the pro level. After starting last season's opener against the Packers, Dexter's production was limited through the first nine weeks, a stretch where he compiled nine tackles and three quarterback hits but didn't record a sack.

In the back half of the season, Dexter recognized changes in his game. He had a better understanding of the tempo of an NFL game, how to read a quarterback's eyes and knowing where the center is moving — things he could only learn through experience. Through the final eight games of last season, he recorded 11 tackles, nine QB hits and 2.5 sacks.


Heading into his second NFL season, Dexter says with conviction, "I am a totally different player than I was and that is due to confidence." While his on-field knowledge has increased dramatically in the past 12 months, Dexter has also learned plenty about who he is as a person and who he wants to become.

"I learned that I'm super talented and I think that I have what it takes to meet my goals," Dexter said. "A lot of people say, 'me versus me.' I think that's what I took from it. And just putting in that extra work. I think the biggest thing in this league is, some guys do what's required and the guys that do what's not required and the extra work, those are the guys that you see get those big contracts or those guys who end up being a Hall of Famer."

While Dexter accomplished Step 1 of his journey this year, he has a new set of goals to achieve. First and foremost, Dexter puts the team first. He wants to win – win the NFC North and head to the playoffs – but he is also taking pride in a list of personal goals that he keeps on his phone as a constant reminder.

"I want to maximize my potential, and I think that's being one of the best D-tackles in the NFL," Dexter said. "That's 8-plus sacks. I've got it written out on my phone. I look at it every day."

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