After hearing great things about the Bears' culture from a former teammate last year, Germain Ifedi is excited about experiencing it firsthand in 2020.
The veteran offensive lineman signed with the Bears April 1 after spending his first four NFL seasons with the Seahawks. In Seattle, Ifedi teamed with running back Mike Davis, who played for the Bears most of last season.
"We talked back and forth and he'd tell me how much he loved it and how much it was just a breath of fresh air for him," Ifedi said.
"It's an organization that the culture, no one's going to complain about that, and that's a fortunate thing because you can't say that about everywhere and here I think truly it is that way. And when it's that way, players want to give it their all. Not that they're not giving it their all anyway. But when you get to work that way and you get to come to work that day and expect that consistency from your coaching staff and your organization, from the equipment guys, from the support staff, it makes doing your job so much easier and [more fun]. You just enjoy it a lot more."
Ifedi, 26, was selected by the Seahawks with the 31st pick in the first round of the 2016 draft out of Texas A&M. He started all 60 games he appeared in over the past four seasons, helping the Seahawks earn three playoff berths.
The 6-5, 325-pounder started 13 games at right guard as a rookie in 2016 before moving to right tackle in 2017. Over the past three seasons he has started 46 games at right tackle and one at right guard. The one at right guard came in the 2018 season finale when he replaced the injured D.J. Fluker.
With the Bears, Ifedi will initially compete for the starting right guard position.
"I've always considered myself an inside guy, a road-grader type," he said. "But I've always accepted the challenge that came with playing tackle also. Whichever one is needed at the time, there's no issue in doing either one. It's just doing your technique and doing what you know to be natural. You can play in space [at tackle], you can play in the phone booth, too, at guard. It's the same type of mentality playing offensive line."
Although the Bears were forced to conduct their entire offseason program on a virtual basis due to the coronavirus—wiping out all OTA and minicamp practices—Ifedi is not concerned about meshing with the rest of the offensive line.
"The thing being in the league four years going on five has taught me is that you've got to have the ability to adjust," Ifedi said. "I haven't played guard exclusively in three years. I haven't learned a new offense in four years. So you just adjust to it, get to camp, you know your playbook.
"It's going to be a fun adjustment. But it's going to be different for everybody going forward this year because everybody's coming together having not been together since the last game of last year. I've never met most of these guys. So it's going to be new. But it'll be a fun challenge."
Developing cohesiveness among offensive linemen is critical, especially in terms of communicating pass protection assignments and adjustments. But Ifedi is confident that his assimilation process will be a smooth one.
"That's where I've got to let my experience take over and I've got to let my temperament take over to where it's not a challenge," Ifedi said. "I've played with so many centers and so many guards in Seattle, so many different guys.
"You've got to know how to communicate with different people; be clear and concise in what you're saying and what you're doing. If every play you're consistent, then usually it doesn't really matter who you're next to or what team you're on or what position really. You're going to be able to execute your assignment if that person is on the same page.
"It'll be an adjustment because it's going to be new for all of us, but it'll flow because we're veterans across the board on that line."
Those veterans, according to Ifedi, are excited to work with new Bears offensive line coach Juan Castillo, who is entering his 25th season as an NFL assistant.
"His reputation precedes him," Ifedi said. "He has a history of just making guys better. The proof is in the pudding with this guy. I'm fortunate that he's here. I think he's going to take everybody on the line's game to a new level."