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Montez Sweat: Bears defense 'trying to pick up where we left off'


Bears star pass rusher Montez Sweat participated in his first workout of the offseason Tuesday at veteran minicamp. The Pro Bowl defensive end, who still spent time at Halas Hall this spring, remained "in great contact" with coach Matt Eberflus, defensive coordinator Eric Washington, defensive line coach Travis Smith and his teammates any time he was outside the building.

Now in a ramp-up period at practice this week, Sweat said "it's almost like I didn't miss a beat." With much of the Bears defense from last season remaining intact, Sweat is looking forward to "stacking days and really creating that chemistry" with the unit throughout the remainder of the offseason program.

"It's great," Sweat said of the defense's energy. "We're trying to pick up where we left off from last year. We lost two guys, two great guys up front, Justin [Jones] and Yannick Ngakoue, but we got some young guys that are really stepping up and an experienced guy like Jake Martin that's really making some noise out there. So, I am pretty excited on what I'm seeing."

The minimal turnover on the Bears defense from both player and coaching standpoints also allows Sweat to head into his first full season in Chicago with a sense of familiarity that didn't exist when he was acquired from the Commanders last Oct. 31.

While he had to physically and mentally adjust to a new team after spending the first four-and-a-half years of his NFL career in Washington, it didn't affect Sweat on the field. He became the first player in NFL history to lead two teams in sacks in the same season — totaling 6.5 for the Commanders and 6.0 for the Bears — and earned his first Pro Bowl nod.

"It was just all a blessing for me," Sweat said. "It just displayed a bunch of hard work that I've been displaying for my whole life. It's also a credit to the guys I had around … it was really the guys around me that was doing everything."

As far as the outlook for his sixth NFL season, Sweat is keeping his goals simple: "Just be better than I was last year."

While he doesn't have a specific number in mind for his sack count this year, Sweat is eager to continue bolstering the playmaking ability he's showcased since joining the NFL in 2019. Sweat is just one of seven players to record at least 5.0 sacks in each of the last five seasons.

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Eberflus is also excited for Sweat — who signed a four-year extension with the Bears last season — to have a full year in the defensive system.

"I really feel that Montez is in a good spot," Eberflus said. "Obviously his talent level is there and our system and the way our culture is really lets guys play at their highest level, meaning that we're going to make sure guys play at their max effort, max intensity, max preparation, because that's the way we do it. We don't walk by mistakes here. We don't let things slide. Doesn't matter if you're Montez or you're DJ [Moore] or you're Caleb [Williams], that doesn't matter. We have a standard of how we operate, and it's coached by the coaches and enforced by the players.

"He understood that coming in, too. He was very clear with our message on how we do things and he bought into it and he got better every single week. We anticipate that this year, too."

Along with being one of the team's impact players, Sweat will also serve as a mentor and leader for young defenders, including rookie defensive end Austin Booker.


After being drafted by the Bears on April 27, Booker told reporters that working alongside Sweat would be "a great opportunity," adding the pair had already talked via Instagram shortly after the pick was announced.

While Booker expressed his excitement to learn from the veteran, Sweat is equally as eager to share his knowledge with the fifth-round pick.

"Oh man, I'm excited about him," Sweat said. "He's got the whole makeup, from the frame to the pass-rush ability. He's gonna be a great player.

"I've just gotta be that big brother for him. Be there for him when he has a question, just help him along the way like the vets helped me."