Following the news of Roquan Smith being traded to the Ravens Tuesday, safety Eddie Jackson received several questions from the young players in the locker room: "Is this normal? Did this really happen?"
While Jackson was initially shocked by the trade himself, the sixth-year player also understood the move general manager Ryan Poles made. What he appreciated most about how Poles handled the trade was his direct communication with the players as he and coach Matt Eberflus met with the leadership council the same day.
"It helps a lot," Jackson said. "I told Ryan that. I appreciated him giving us a call and telling us what's going on. You kind of need that. There are a lot of things that start floating around, especially in the locker room. Like, 'they don't take care of their guys. Or they don't care about their guys.' Or whatever the case may be. That was something pretty cool for them to come and talk to us as men. We get the business part of this. We respect that. But we like to be respected as men and football players as well."
After talking with Eberflus and Poles, Jackson's message to those young teammates was "to rally around each other more than ever." Jackson admitted it's difficult not to feel a little down about Smith departing as the linebacker was highly regarded in the locker room.
However, the safety is expecting veteran players, including himself, to step up on the field and in the locker room. Jackson's leadership role has already expanded after being named a permanent team captain last week and he expects it to keep evolving.
"It's everything I do now, how I carry myself, how I am on the field, how I walk around the building," Jackson said. "A lot of people are looking at me for the type of reaction – if I'm sad, if I'm up about a situation. The crazy part is sometimes you can't control it. We all know what Roquan meant to us, what Robert meant. We know the type of guys they are, even off the field, and the relationships they have with players in the locker room. For that to be taken away, it's like, 'Ah.' It's a shock. But like I said, we can't control it so we have to focus on the things we can control and that's how we react to the situation and how we go out there and perform."
The Bears hit the Halas Hall practice fields Wednesday afternoon as they get ready for Sunday's matchup with the Miami Dolphins at Soldier Field.
One of those controllables is how the defense performs without Smith and Quinn. Jackson said while losing those pieces will require other players to "pick up a little more slack," he's positive those still in the locker room are capable of doing so.
Eberflus' continued confidence in the defensive unit has also made it easier for the players to adjust, which is something Jackson values. The veteran said Eberflus is "a different type of guy" and isn't "thinking about sinking [the] season."
Now, Jackson sees it as a responsibility to convey those same messages to his teammates and keep pushing towards success for each other.
"I told the team, the defense can be like two paths," Jackson said. "Everybody can start thinking of their individual; I'm going to get mine. Or we can come together like, 'Look, man, this is what we've got. We're all we've got. Let's go out here and we can prove everybody right or we can prove everybody wrong. It's all about how we react.' We talk all the time about resilience. Right now, it's time to show true resilience for every man in this room. We have a lot of young guys who have never been through stuff like this. I mean, I haven't been through nothing like this. Now it's time for us to step up and show them, 'This is how we handle the situation. Go out and let's rally around each other.'"