General manager Ryan Pace spoke with Jeff Joniak Sunday on the Bears pregame radio show on WBBM Newsradio 780 AM and 105.9 FM. The following is a transcript of Pace's comments:
On the defense playing well in recent games:
"I feel like our defense has improved as we've hit the final stretch of the season. I think you look at the physicality, the effort, the urgency of the defense, that's been good to see the last three weeks. There's a good variety of veteran players stepping up, along with some young guys emerging and playing bigger roles. That's been awesome. Sean [Desai] and his staff have done a good job adjusting to the circumstances. Naturally, there are injuries that occur in the later part of the year. I think they've done a good job and you've really seen it the last three weeks."
On outside linebacker Robert Quinn, who has set a new Bears single-season record with 18 sacks:
"What's been impressive to me has been the consistency throughout the year. It's not like he's had a couple games that have just spiked his total; he's played at a high level in every single game this season. I just look at him first as a naturally talented player, but [also] his work ethic, he's a great teammate, and it just makes you really proud to see all these accomplishments that he's having."
On Justin Fields not being able to play Sunday due to COVID-19:
"We were all really excited for him to have this opportunity, just to close out the season on a high note. He had a great practice on Wednesday. He was so accurate throughout the day. Unfortunately, he comes in Thursday morning with symptoms, and here we are. He's frustrated, we're frustrated, but it's really been life in the NFL the last two years. You just deal with it, you roll with it and you go forward."
On what he learned about Fields and what should give Bears fans hope for the future:
"Obviously, he's got high-end talent, he's got tremendous upside. But I think from just being around him throughout the year, you learn about his confidence, his steadiness in adversity, his football IQ and just how well he was able to respond when we kept putting more and more on his plate. I think that bodes well."
On whether the plan to develop Fields worked and the rookie's most exciting highlight:
"I like the quarterback environment that he was in as a rookie; the coaches around him, but I think [is] really significant is the two veteran, accomplished players around him in Andy Dalton and Nick Foles by his side. You're always going to be yourself as a player, but I think he picked up different things from their games, and just with the preparation habits and study habits, and those things will help him long term. A highlight moment, for me it's just been the steady improvement that's been so good to see. He responded to adversity in the Pittsburgh game, and he had those moments. But what's really encouraging is just to see the progress he's made from the first time he stepped in the huddle at rookie minicamp and that's just continued."
On how Fields has handled losing this season:
"Obviously, he goes into this offseason as the starting quarterback, and I think he's shown when he has that opportunity, he excels as a player and as a leader. We want people around here who hate losing, and that's who Justin is, and that's good for our future."
On what's encouraging about the young players and their traits:
"There's significant contributions from the last two draft classes and the talent from that young core just continues to expand as they get play-time and as they get opportunities. What I like about the group we're talking about is the common traits they all possess. When I look at that young core we're talking about, they all love football, they all love the process, the preparation. They're all extremely passionate and prideful. They're all high-end football IQ and they're competitive in everything they do. We just talked about it. They all hate losing. And I think that culture continues to expand with our team and with that young core. And as that torch gets passed to that group of players, it's really exciting."
On his message to Bears fans and the blueprint to return to the playoffs:
"We just talked about the young core and the traits they possess. But obviously the quarterback is the critical piece to any team's success, and we feel really good about that. We have good flexibility with our cap going forward. We'll continue to stack strong draft classes and just continue to add to that core, and that's the blueprint."
On how he manages speculation about his future:
"That's the industry we're in. It's sports in general. I love the passion of our fan base. But our job is to focus on the continued process of building our team, and we feel good about the trajectory that we're on."
On his relationship with coach Matt Nagy:
"I think any job or situation that you're in, you become really close with the people you work with every day, especially the hours and the time that naturally comes with our profession. I think those relationships, when you go through really good times or you go through adversity, you lean on those bonds, and that's something that I really value and appreciate with our relationship. Matt's approach, his leadership, is just who he is, and I think it's really evident with how hard our team is playing down the stretch right now. I think that says a lot about Matt, and I'm proud of that."