5 Pro Bowlers are nice, but Chicago Bears focused on team
Much as the Bears considered Sunday’s division title-clinching victory a nice accomplishment but not the ultimate achievement, so too was their reaction to having five players voted to the Pro Bowl.
“I think it’s neat for those guys,” coach Matt Nagy said. “I think it’s great for our team, just to give credit to those guys for all their hard work.
“The neat thing with our guys, too, is they were happy about it, but we’re in this team thing together right now, and we’re focused on trying to do the team thing.”
OLB Khalil Mack, CB Kyle Fuller, S Eddie Jackson, RS Tarik Cohen and DL Akiem Hicks were all voted in by a combination of ballots from fans, players and coaches a year after the Bears were shut out. But the Bears’ honorees all hope they’re unavailable for the all-star game because they’re instead preparing for the Super Bowl the following week.
“Thank you, god bless and Bear down,” Jackson said, before adding, “We still have unfinished business.”
That’s exactly where Nagy and his staff want the focus for their 10-4 NFC North champions to be, especially with the potential of moving up from their current No. 3 seed to get a first-round bye, which only goes to the top two teams in each conference.
“The message to our team right now is one of not being satisfied,” Nagy said. “It’s easy to be happy with where we’re at, but we’re not satisfied, and I think that that’s a good thing. We did reach a goal that we had, but we want more, and we know that there’s a lot more hard work ahead of us.
“We’ve got to continue to stay focused and that’s why we’re going to attack this week against San Fran and do everything that we possibly can to win.”
The Bears are just a game behind the second-seeded 11-3 Rams, but if they wind up with the same record, the Bears win the tie-breaker based on their 15-6 victory two weeks ago. The Rams play at Arizona against the 3-11 Cardinals and they finish up at home against the 4-10 49ers, so the Bears cannot afford any more losses if they want to have a realistic chance of catching up.
On Sunday at Levi’s Stadium, the Bears are expected to be without Jackson, who suffered a sprained ankle late in the division-clinching victory, and OLB Aaron Lynch, who went out with a sprained elbow. But everyone else practiced Wednesday and they should all be dialed in to finishing strong.
“The best thing about this team is we’re not worried about individual accolades,” said QB Mitch Trubisky. “We know that you’ll get individual accolades if you put the team first, which these guys do.”
That makes it easier for Nagy to convey his message, which he honed over the previous five years in Kansas City under head coach Andy Reid, as the Chiefs went to the playoffs four times. In the three years previous to that, when Nagy was with Reid in Philadelphia, the Eagles went to the playoffs once. None of those teams made it to the Super Bowl, though.
“I’m just kind of wired that way,” Nagy said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to be on other teams where we’ve won division championships. It’s nice and it’s important because it gives you advantages -- it gives you a home game in the playoffs. It helps you get to the ultimate goal, but you can’t be satisfied.
“That’s who our guys are. I don’t really need to harp on that too much to our guys -- they get that. Our coaches understand that. So for me, it’s kind of easy because I’ve been brought up that way. In the end there’s really only one winner. Everybody else are losers. And we want to try to be (winners) in the end.”
Anything less than that is unfinished business.