With Bears veterans reporting to training camp Tuesday at Halas Hall, general manager Ryan Poles and coach Matt Eberflus discussed a multitude of topics with reporters.
One theme during their 36-minute press conference was the opportunity to pick up in training camp where the team left off during minicamp and OTA practices.
"I am really pleased in the direction we're headed," Poles said. "I thought this offseason we made a lot of strides forward. I thought the standards were lifted from Day 1 until we broke and I am excited to see us build off of that and continue to get better."
Poles explained specifically what he meant about the standards being lifted in the spring.
"First is how we practice," he said. "Coach is always talking about finishing, and you saw a team that finished. They played faster than the first day. The energy on the field, the way the unit communicated, you could see that pretty clearly. And as long as we take where we left off and bring that to camp and continue to go upwards, I think we'll both be really happy."
For the first time in training camp, Bears players will have their last names on the back of their practice jerseys. That should make it easier to identify all of the new faces. Almost 58 percent of the players on the roster (52 of 90) have been acquired in 2022.
The Bears obtained Harry from the Patriots July 13 in exchange for a 2024 seventh-round draft choice. Selected by New England with the 32nd pick in the 2019 draft, the 6-4, 225-pounder arrives in Chicago with a chip on his shoulder after failing to perform as well as expected with the Patriots.
"I am excited about him," Poles said. "I think he has a really good skill set, great physical traits, and I think he has something to prove, for sure. He has the chance to improve this football team."
Poles declined to speculate about why Harry didn't excel in New England, saying: "I wasn't in that building or anything. I just know what he's capable of. And I want to give him the opportunity to come here and show what he can do and get things on the right path."
The Bears added depth and competition to a young offensive line this week by signing two established veterans in Schofield and Reiff.
"If everyone is competing, we're going to get the best out of that unit," Poles said. "I said it from the beginning: our front office is not going to stop just chipping away and bringing good football players on this team to compete and make the whole team better."
“I am really pleased in the direction we’re headed. I thought this offseason we made a lot of strides forward.” Bears GM Ryan Poles
Training camp expectations
Beginning in the first practice Wednesday and continuing throughout training camp, it's vital for Bears players to push each other at every position.
"We want to see guys compete," Eberflus said. "We have a lot of spots on the roster that are in flux right now and we're just trying to find the best combination of players."
As part of the quest, the Bears will continue to experiment like they did during offseason practices.
"Offensive line moving guys from outside to inside, and if it's defensive line, moving a guy around for pass rush purposes, inside or outside, we're going to do that all across the roster," Eberflus said. "Moving a corner from outside to inside, moving a receiver from outside to inside, we're going to do all those different things to find out the best combination for the Chicago Bears going forward."
Poles believes that fierce competition brings out the best in players.
"That is when you become a really good team is guys are pressing to be the absolute [best] version of themselves possible," he said.
The Bears general manager also wants to see players show resiliency.
"In camp, every camp, every offseason and that goes into the season, there's ups and downs," Poles said. "A resilient team is absolutely important to be successful. And to see that stability, see guys go through those ups and downs, have short memories on bad days and come back and have good days, that is really a very important characteristic of any team, so I am looking forward to that.
"The other thing is when you have so many new faces, it's units starting to gel together and play together, communicate together and be as one. If we can do that, we can be successful."
Present and accounted for
Poles informed reporters that both defensive end Robert Quinn and linebacker Roquan Smith were at Halas Hall Tuesday.
Quinn, who set a Bears' single-season record with 18.5 sacks in 2021, skipped the entire offseason program, including an unexcused absence at the club's mandatory minicamp.
Asked whether Quinn has requested a trade, Poles said: "I haven't had that conversation with him. I would hope that he wants to be here, so nothing's changed on that front."
Quinn has played 11 NFL seasons, the most of any player on the Bears roster.
"It's important to have guys who are experienced, that have had success in the league and know how to play and practice," Poles said. "For me, that's what he brings."
Smith, who is entering the fifth and final year of his first NFL contract, participated in the entire offseason program. But NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport reported Monday that the two-time All-Pro would not take part in training camp due to his contract situation.
Poles addressed the situation Tuesday, saying: "My feelings for Roquan don't change at all. I love the player and the person and that won't change. I know I am going to get a lot of questions and I get it; I'm just not going to talk about contracts and all that. I want to just make sure we addressed it, though. In terms of my feelings for him, nothing changes."
It's unclear whether Smith will participate in practice.
"I don't know what his intentions are," Poles said. "I know he checked in and we're going to take it from there and gather information and take it one step at a time. That's all I can do."
If Smith opts not to practice, Eberflus said that the Bears would "make the best of it."
"In this league, you've got to adjust, adapt and overcome," Eberflus said. "That's what we are going to do."