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Washington honored to reunite with Bears

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For Eric Washington, being introduced as the Bears new defensive coordinator Thursday at Halas Hall felt like a full-circle moment — one that marked his return to the organization that kickstarted his NFL career.

"It's an honor and a privilege to be standing here today in this role to be returning to Chicago," Washington told reporters, "to be returning to the Chicago Bears, the place where I started my NFL coaching career 16 years ago."

Washington broke into the professional ranks in 2008, serving as a defensive assistant for the Bears for two seasons before transitioning to the club's defensive line coach in 2010.

Reminiscing on his fond memories from his first stint in Chicago, Washington expressed his gratitude for the McCaskey family, who allowed him to "understand the legacy of the Chicago Bears."

"Now having an opportunity to come back, they have welcomed me back with open arms," Washington said. "I'm looking forward to doing my part to help us obtain our ultimate goal. And that is to win a championship."

In his new role with the team, Washington is eager to work in a familiar defensive system. While coach Matt Eberflus will continue calling the plays on defense in 2024, Washington is ready to add his vast experience and provide new perspectives to the overall defensive philosophy.

"My focus was what the job is as opposed to what it isn't," Washington said. "The opportunity to come here and to this organization with a defense that is clearly on an upward trajectory that has some really dynamic performers in place with plans of obviously augmenting that, that's what my focus was. And that's what it continues to be. I've been a play caller. I'm pretty confident that I will do that again at some point, but right now I'm really confident with what Matt is going to bring to the table in that respect and I will support him as best as I can."

Most recently serving as the Bills' defensive line coach from 2020-23, Washington was drawn to the Bears front four when evaluating the team, noting the group's "size, speed, quickness and length."

He also expressed his excitement to work with star defensive end Montez Sweat, who Washington evaluated in the pre-draft process while working in Carolina. Washington said he admired Sweat's traits and mindset when he was entering the NFL.

"We're going to be a team that generates pressure with our front four," Washington said. "We're going to build the best pass rush in football. That happens to fortunately be an area that I've had tremendous success with and we have the personnel to get that done."

The talent not just on the d-line but throughout the entire defensive unit was a point of intrigue to Washington when he was interviewing for the coordinator position.

"Number one it's an explosive group of players," Washington said. "This defense was elite in several important categories that lead directly to winning football. Making teams one dimensional, stopping the run. We've got some really good players on the defensive line. This team is in the top two or three in taking the football away and continuing to feed an explosive offense. When I looked at that in terms of those things being values, those were the things that really got me excited along with the scheme and the structure of the defense."

A longstanding relationship between Washington and Eberflus built on "mutual respect" was also another crucial factor in the defensive coordinator selection. While the pair have never coached together, they built a strong foundation through common peers and mentors during their NFL journeys.

Washington also lauded Eberflus as an "unbelievable play caller," highlighting the coach's ability to be situationally aware and put players in the best position to succeed.

"We've got a lot of people in our background that we have kind of worked with," Washington said. "I've known Matt for a long time. We've had conversations back and forth over the years. We've talked about different things that I believe in, different things that are a part of his philosophy and so it's just been a mutual respect in passing. Coaches have a chance to interact with each other various points during the offseason and sometimes during the season and so that's kind of where it originated from. I knew if I had an opportunity to work with him that I would be really excited about it. "

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