New Bears special teams coordinator Richard Hightower spoke exclusively with ChicagoBears.com senior writer Larry Mayer this week at Halas Hall.
Hightower returns for a second stint with the Bears this year after serving as assistant special teams coordinator in 2016 on coach John Fox's staff. Hightower spent the last five seasons as 49ers special teams coordinator.
Here's a transcript of the conversation:
LM: What type of identity do you want the Bears to develop on special teams?
RH: "I want them to look like a group that plays with high intensity, high effort. I want them to play penalty-free. Obviously, we realize penalties are going to happen. But I want the guys to play with relentless effort. We're going to be fast, physical and dominating."
LM: What excites you most about joining a Bears team that's now led by general manager Ryan Poles and coach Matt Eberflus?
RH: "Just the vision that Ryan and Matt have. I think they did a phenomenal job talking with me about that when we were able to do that. I just think it's going to be special. I just feel it in the air. And it's something that I really want to be a part of."
“I want guys that are violent and attack and physical and want to impose their will on people. That’s what I’m looking for.” Bears special teams coordinator Richard Hightower
LM: What are your impressions of the Bears' current special teams units?
RH: "I see that they have some pieces here. Obviously, Ryan and his staff will probably add pieces just like you do when you start. But I see that they have some pieces, and I see guys that play hard. Obviously, we played against them [in 2021] and I've got a lot of respect for those players in that locker room. They were a unit that we had a lot of respect for when we played them this year."
LM: What characteristics are you seeking in special teams players?
RH: "I think we're looking for the same thing across the board: fast, physical, guys that are ready to set the tone and help the football team win. I want guys that are violent and attack and physical and want to impose their will on people. That's what I'm looking for."
LM: How special was it when the 49ers eliminated the Packers in the playoffs thanks in large part to the performance of the special teams units you coached? (San Francisco blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown, blocked a field goal and won the game on Robbie Gould's 45-yard field goal as time expired.)
RH: "It was a credit to the players. They did a phenomenal job. And just like any game in the divisional round, you want to win to see if you can get to the NFC Championship. So, it was a special moment. I'm not going to hide that fact. But the credit goes to the players. They did a phenomenal job executing what we asked them to do. It was a great night for football, it was a great night for the Niners and it was a great night for the Bears."
LM: What was it like making that long walk off the Lambeau Field playing surface and into the tunnel that leads to the visitor's locker room?
RH: "I was just elated for the players. It definitely felt like a team win. I didn't really think about it in terms of what special teams did until we got into the locker room and I saw how happy the guys were. I'm here for the guys. I'm here to serve the guys, and hopefully we can get that done here in Chicago."