Last month Bears offensive line coach Juan Castillo told reporters that he wouldn't be surprised if veteran right tackle Germain Ifedi made his first Pro Bowl this season.
While the proclamation may have raised some eyebrows among fans and the media, it was music to Ifedi's ears.
"I don't think he's wrong," said Ifedi, who's entering his second year with the Bears after spending his first four NFL seasons with the Seahawks. "He knows me pretty well. He knows how I work. He knows my football IQ, what I put into this game, what I've done in my five years in the NFL.
"There are a lot of facts that go into that, but as far as being a consistent player and one of the better linemen in the league, I think that's the expectation. That's my expectation. Coach [Matt] Nagy, that's Ryan [Pace's] expectation. That's coach Castillo's expectation. And I try to live up to that every day because they took a chance on me. They believed in me, and I'm going to give them everything I've got."
Ifedi's move from right guard to right tackle midway through last season was part of a major offensive line reboot that helped ignite a stagnant offense. In the Bears' first five games after moving Ifedi and installing center Sam Mustipher and right guard Alex Bars as starters, they scored 19 touchdowns and averaged 33.0 points. In their previous seven contests, they had mustered just nine TDs and averaged 16.7 points.
"I've played a lot of offensive tackle in my career," Ifedi said. "I really do enjoy playing offensive tackle. I do think it's a great position for me, even though I do have the ability to play inside. Moving outside I thought was a cool experience for me. It's been cool to start back up [this year] still playing outside … I'm excited for what I'm going to be able to do. And I'm excited for what our offensive line, our offense and what our team is going to be able to do."
Ifedi once stood in rookie's shoes
Selected by the Seahawks with the 31st pick in the first round of the 2016 draft, Ifedi can relate to what rookie teammate Teven Jenkins is experiencing. Jenkins, a tackle from Oklahoma State, was chosen by the Bears in the second round at No. 39.
Ifedi revealed that he's encouraging Jenkins to "just keep competing, keep playing hard, keep getting better."
"As a rookie O-lineman, there are so many things you don't know, and you don't even know what you don't know, and it can be a real tough thing," said Ifedi, who started the final 13 games as a Seahawks rookie in 2016. "You're kind of learning on the go in a lot of situations.
"It's all about competition. It's all about, 'What can I do to get a little bit better every day?' There has to be an every-day type of question. There has to be an every-day type of action for you to continue to get better because it's a tough league and it can expose you pretty quick. Like I said, you've got to keep getting better. You've got to keep asking questions. You've got to keep learning from your mistakes."
Ifedi eager to serve as a mentor
After drafting Jenkins, the Bears spent their next pick on another tackle, choosing Missouri's Larry Borom in the fifth round at No. 151.
Ifedi plans to mentor both Jenkins and Borom as they transition into the NFL.
"Going into Year 6, I'm an older guy," Ifedi said. "I've had guys before that took me under their wing. It's just what you do. It's not about, 'Oh, I'm going to push this guy aside because I don't want him to get better.' I want them to get better; we can all eat.
"Everybody is just here trying to get better and try to have fun with it and make a living for their family. It's about, 'All right, so how do I bring this player along? How do I make someone a little better today? How do I make their existence in this tough league a little better?'
"It can be unforgiving. We all forget it can be a little brutal, so … you keep encouraging them and you do it the right way. If you do it the right way, good things happen for everybody."