Hub Arkush: For at least one Bear, Eagles game doubles as reunion

January 4, 2019

So much has already been written about the deep ties between Bears head coach Matt Nagy and Eagles head coach Doug Pederson and the even deeper ties between Eagles DE Chris Long and “little” brother Bears RG Kyle Long, that many are overlooking arguably the most common bond between the two clubs.

He is soft-spoken and exceptionally bright; polite and respectful to the extreme; as pleasant and easy to talk to as any NFL player you will ever meet, and one of the top prizes of Ryan Pace’s free agent class of 2018.

Bears TE Trey Burton is far more than just one of the most popular guys in both the Eagles and Bears dressing rooms these days, he is the man who threw the “Philly Special,” the pass many believe was the most important play of Super Bowl LII and the reason he brought that huge ring with him to Chicago last March.

He is also the guy almost every Bear and every member of the Chicago media has approached over the past 48 hours to find out what differences to expect from playing in the regular season to playing in the playoffs and hopefully a Super Bowl.

“I would say everything is magnified,” Burton explained. “People from the outside make every play and every second, they put it on this huge pedestal where in reality it’s just a football game.

“We’ve been playing 16 or 20 or 21 of them this year, and it’s nothing different than that.”

That, in a nutshell, is Burton: fearless, highly intelligent and perhaps the perfect sounding board for his younger teammates who have no idea what to expect Sunday.

Paraphrasing a great deal of what he had to say Wednesday: relax guys, we’ve got this.

Listed at 6-3, 235, Burton looks more like a big wideout than a tight end, and it’s hard to believe that 235 isn’t being fudged by 15-20 pounds.

But his blocking has been a pleasant surprise, and he is — beyond a free agent plum — possibly the most improved player on the Bears.

In his four seasons in Philadelphia, Burton totaled 63 catches for 629 yards and six touchdowns; he has garnered 54-569-6 in his first season with the Bears.

His 29 catches for first downs matches Tarik Cohen and trails only Taylor Gabriel (31) and Allen Robinson (36) for the team high, even though he’s been targeted 15 times less than Cohen, 17 less than Gabriel and 18 less than Robinson.

As impressive as Burton has been in Chicago, if you’re thinking he’s not the kind of guy to forget his friends, you’d be right.

Asked if he’s still close with his Super Bowl buddies, Burton said: “Really close. I was in four of those guys’ weddings in the last two years.

“Obviously I have a relationship that goes far beyond football. I’m extremely happy for (Zach) Ertz. I couldn’t be happier. I’ve called him multiple times and congratulated him as much as I could.”

Ertz, the Eagles’ starting tight end who made it really difficult for Burton to get on the field the past three seasons, also set the NFL’s single-season reception mark by a tight end last Sunday.

Queried on whether he sees similarities between the Super Bowl Eagles and his playoff-bound Bears, Burton said: “Yeah, a lot of wins. A lot more wins than losses.

“From a broad sense, really good defense last year and this year. Offense and special teams have played at a really high level. The turnover margin was huge for us last year and has been huge for us this year.”

But if you want him to tell you how badly he wants to beat his old team, you’re going to be disappointed.

“I’m really excited,” he said. “Like I said earlier, I’m really excited to see some of my best friends. It’s a huge playoff game. I don’t know if it matters so much who you’re playing.

“But the fact that I do get to play Philly again, it’ll be pretty cool.”

Thinking about it, I’m not so sure that isn’t the best way to sum up Burton. In almost every way you can spin the phrase, he’s really pretty cool.

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