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EXCLUSIVE: Bears turning hope into belief under Kevin Warren

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ORLANDO, Fla. – Since Kevin Warren officially began his tenure as Bears President and CEO last April 17, the team more than doubled its win total from the previous season and appears primed to make another significant leap in 2024.

"I am starting to sense that people believe that we can be exceptional here," Warren said in an exclusive interview with ChicagoBears.com at the NFL owners meetings.

The Bears certainly appear to be a club on the rise, boasting established NFL stars on both sides of the ball as well as the No. 1 pick in next month's draft.

"One thing I have tried to do is raise the expectation level here," Warren said. "We need to be focused on being successful on the field, in the community and with our stadium project. The thing that I have enjoyed watching the most is to see this group of individuals come together and start believing, not hoping.

"It is different. It is one thing to believe and work for that belief. It is another thing to hope. We are moving from hope to belief that we can be exceptional here and that we are willing to put in the work to be exceptional."

As the architect of that effort, general manager Ryan Poles has continued to bolster the roster this offseason. He traded for six-time Pro Bowl receiver Keenan Allen and center Ryan Bates and signed a bevy of free agents, including running back D'Andre Swift, tight end Gerald Everett, center Coleman Shelton, defensive ends Jacob Martin and Byron Cowart and safeties Kevin Byard III and Jonathan Owens, among others.

"I would say we improved at a very impressive rate," Warren said. "The work that Ryan and his staff and coach [Matt Eberflus] and his staff and this organization have done is where my expectations were. But we made great progress in free agency, draft preparation, [re-signing] our own free agents, and it is not only progress, it is the manner in which Ryan and coach Eberflus were able to do it."

Warren has been most impressed with Poles' methodical approach. Just like in his previous two offseasons as Bears GM, Poles has abstained from overpaying free agents simply to make a big splash while instead focusing on the big picture.

"He has remained disciplined in building the roster for long-term success and longevity, which is not easy to do," Warren said. "It is very easy, especially for a young general manager, a first-time general manager, to become impatient and start making decisions that make sense for the short term. The thing that has impressed me the most about him is that he operates in the mindset that he is aggressive, he wants to win, he hates losing, he's passionate, but he makes his decisions in a manner to make us a perennial playoff club, and that is a difficult balance."

Warren has enjoyed working with Poles and is ecstatic that two type-A personalities "can be unapologetically ourselves with each other."

"We both despise losing," Warren said. "We both know what it takes to win Super Bowls and we know for us to be able to do this together, we are going to have to be on the same page at all times. We can never walk out of a meeting where we say, 'There was something that I really wanted to discuss, but I did not do it on purpose.'

"That is why I always end my meetings with him [by saying]: 'Do you have everything you need for us to win? Do you have everything you need for us to be a champion?' As long as that is the case and we can solve that, I have no doubt that we are going to build a winner here and we are going to have sustainability, which is critically important."

Warren believes that the Bears will soon contend for a championship.

"I am confident that we've improved our coaching staff," he said. "I am confident that we have signed some really good free agents, I am confident that we are poised for a really great draft, I am confident that our players want to be champions, I am confident that we have the support of ownership and I am confident that we have the best fans in the world.

"Now it will be interesting to see it all come together on the field. But there is still a lot of work ahead of us. There are 31 other teams that feel good about their situations, too. We just have to get it in our mind that we're going to work hard and make our own breaks."

One thing that Warren is working hard on is the construction of a new Bears stadium that will feature a fixed roof, allowing for the facility to host Super Bowls, NCAA Final Fours, concerts and other events 12 months a year. The focus remains on a site in the City of Chicago.

In a statement sent to the media earlier this month, Warren said: "The Chicago Bears are committed to contributing over $2 billion to build a stadium and improve open spaces for all families, fans and the general public to enjoy in the City of Chicago. The future stadium of the Chicago Bears will bring a transformative opportunity to our region—boosting the economy, creating jobs, facilitating mega events and generating millions in tax revenue."

"We have the opportunity to be the world class city that we talk about," Warren told ChicagoBears.com. "We are currently missing out on a lot. Chicago is the greatest city in our country, and I strongly believe it is the greatest city in the world. We have that combination of a beautiful lakefront, the beach, the water you can swim in, that is adjacent to an incredible downtown with the best architecture in a major city in the world.

"We are in a unique place. If we come together and stand up tall, we will be very pleased with what this brings to the city."

Warren envisions a new stadium that will be the best in the NFL.

"I have been able to visit and watch games in all 30 venues," he said. "Our fans deserve a substantially upgraded fan experience. What we are planning is to build a stadium that fits the Chicago landscape and our historical fan base, but also provides amenities that they deserve and should have and be able to enjoy.

"Going there will be an experience. Now you go to the game and you watch the game and you go home. This will be an experience that people really enjoy."

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