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Eberflus: First practice shows buy-in from players

Matt Eberflus

Before conducting his first minicamp practice as Bears coach Tuesday at Halas Hall, Matt Eberflus spoke to players about focusing on basic fundamentals.

"My main message this morning was this," Eberflus said. "I said, 'Hey, guys, football comes down to the simplest form of execution. What is that? It's alignment, assignment, key and technique, and everybody has that. So, when you get the play from the huddle—offense, defense or kicking—let's get lined up, let's align, assign, key and technique, and let's execute. And everybody finish.' That was my last message, is to finish the right way."

As a team with a new coach, the Bears are permitted by the NFL to hold a bonus minicamp during the voluntary portion of their offseason program. They're doing that this week with non-contact practices Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Tuesday's initial workout began with 10 minutes of special teams, followed by a 20-minute walkthrough in which concepts were introduced on both sides of the ball, including different types of passes on offense and fronts and coverages on defense. The two units did not line up against each other Tuesday, but they're slated to do so Wednesday.

"Today, we stayed separate the entire day," Eberflus said. "We did not go against each other at all, and that was designed. That was on purpose because we want to get our offensive plays down and our defensive calls down before we do that. Tomorrow, we're going to do a short 7-on-7 and then we'll do 11-on-11."

After a crisp workout Tuesday, Eberflus told reporters that he feels his message has been well received by Bears players.

"It's been a short time, but I feel that it's been real receptive by the whole team," he said. "We're teaching them and what we're telling them is that it's winning football. It's the rudiments of the game. It's about blocking and tackling. It's about doing the simple things better than anybody else does. They've been good."

Asked how he can tell that players are buying in, Eberflus pointed to Tuesday's practice, saying "today is a great example."

"There was great execution out there for the first day," he said. "A lot of times you'll see other things that don't show that, like snaps that are dropped, guys jumping offsides, defensively guys missing their assignments. I saw really good execution today. That's a tribute to them paying attention to what we're trying to do, offense, defense and kicking."

Eberflus believes that the key to earning credibility with players is just by being himself.

"If you try to be somebody else and it's not honest and truthful, I think you lose credibility," he said. "I think when you're honest and truthful and upfront with guys and you tell them exactly and you put it on the table so it's plain to see, and then you challenge them to get that done, they appreciate that and they respect that."

Because this week's camp is voluntary, Eberflus thanked the players who are attending and said he isn't concerned about those who aren't participating.

"That's part of this time of the year," he said. "Guys have things that go on personally. They're working on a part of their body, whatever, maybe they had an injury from last season and maybe they're somewhere working on that. Everybody's got their own story and that's not a big issue. Everybody's done a good job of communicating with us and they'll be here when they're here, and when they're here, they'll get good work."

Eberflus enjoyed participating in his first minicamp practice Tuesday as a head coach. He was hired by the Bears in January after spending 30 years as an assistant, 13 in the NFL and 17 at the collegiate level.

"I had a chance to go and visit with every position today," Eberflus said. "That's really good. And I got my eyes on a few guys that I want to look at and see what their skill sets are. So, I had the chance to do that. It's enjoyable. I really like it. And I get the chance to talk to each of the coaches, not only on the field but also get into every position room and talk to those guys and visit with them and see how they coach. That's been a part that's enjoyable."