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Players get physical, mental reset from mini-bye

Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson
Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson

With 11 days between the Bears' loss to Washington and their Monday night game in New England, players were able to spend this past weekend away from Halas Hall.

Cornerback Jaylon Johnson said the team's mini-bye allowed everyone to reset their minds and bodies six weeks through the season.

"I forgot about the game myself. Just going back home and not having that meeting the day after the game kinda allows you to flush the loss, the last two, and kinda just gives us a reset mentally," Johnson said. "Of course, physically, being able to get off our feet and really rest, relax. I feel like it was a good mini-bye for us, for sure."

Johnson, who sees his role in the locker room as a subtle speaker, has kept encouraging and uplifting his teammates to "keep people in the right space mentally." The third-year player doesn't classify himself as a "loud, rah-rah speaker," but his growth and maturity in the league and on the team has allowed him to earn respect and speak up when necessary.

While losing the last three games has caused some frustration, Johnson is using that encouraging voice to make sure his teammates are bringing more energy each week to correct the losses.

"Hopefully there's no fatigue when we're losing," Johnson said. "I feel like everyone should have, if anything, more energy to stop the bleeding, and I feel like that's kinda where we're at right now, trying to stop the bleeding and trying to figure it out. Of course, we've all heard that we're moving in the right direction, but we have to find a way to really stop the bleeding. And I feel like that just starts with each individual person. I feel like there shouldn't be a shortage of energy. I feel like if anything we need to have more energy, we need to find a way to spark this team … just find a way to win. I feel like at the end of the day, that's what it's about right now."

Each of the Bears' last three losses has been by a one-score margin, with the offense having a possession in the final two minutes with a chance to tie the game or take the lead. Following last Thursday's game against the Commanders, quarterback Justin Fields said he was "tired of being this close" after hearing "we're almost there."

Johnson clarified that the coaching staff has told the team how close they are to winning, but noted, "I wouldn't say they're lying, I wouldn't say they're just saying it to say it."

Considering how close the losses have been, Johnson said he agrees the Bears pretty close to winning. He feels if the team won those close matchups, the conversations would be different, but they've "shot ourselves in the foot these last few games."

"We are doing some things better," Johnson said, "but I feel like a lot of that is overshadowed by the loss. I feel like for us, we'd much rather come in here and make corrections and build on wins, not on losses. As a competitor, you give everything you got, and you fall short. We want to make corrections, we want to grow after a win, not necessarily after a loss."

The reason for the team's shortcomings as of late are clear to the players and staff. Johnson said there's not much that needs to be changed other than executing down the stretch.

"In that moment, you've got to find a way to get it done," Johnson said. "Everybody has been in a situation where they've had their backs against the wall and had to fight their way out of it. I feel like that's really the situation that we're in. There's times in crunch time, times where a play has to be made, and we haven't been on the right side of making those plays.

"I feel like at the end of the day, we've just got to find a way. I feel like it's different for each individual person, but we've got to find a way to win our individual matchups to help the team win."