LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Ryan Pace, John Fox and George McCaskey addressed the media Wednesday to recap the 2016 season and look ahead at what’s to come in 2017 for a Bears franchise coming off its worst season since 1969.
Here are some of the news and notes we heard from the trio of Bears decision-makers, including several thoughts from Pace on Bears players:
Pace on Alshon Jeffery: “He’s an extremely talented player that has high expectations for himself. I don’t feel like this season he really got into a rhythm that he would have liked to have gotten into. I think that was because of a lot of different quarterback play. And also he missed four games. It’s hard for him to get in a rhythm and showcase what he can do. … I think he’s a good player. And that’s a big decision for us.”
Pace on how to fix the injury situation: “I’ve been thinking about that constantly. It was a significant thing for us. I think the wrong thing to do is for me to put our heads in the sand and say, ‘Oh, man, it was bad luck. Maybe better luck next year.’ We’re not going to do that. We’re going to research and analyze.
“We have meetings set up. We’re going to look at other teams, other sports, everything — from the training room to the strength-and-conditioning room, to what we do on the field, the practice schedules — everything’s going to be analyzed. Whenever you lead the league in something, or you’re close to leading the league, I mean jeez, you better pay close attention. And there’s a lot of valuable assets that were on IR. I don’t want to make excuses for that, but I also want to understand the importance of getting that right.”
Fox on the injuries: “Like I said, on the injuries just to touch on that again. A lot is made, we've been here two years and we had some injures in practice last year, we looked at the fields, the organization did a great job in creating a safe environment there. More of our injuries happened in games, we're looking very hard in analyzing all that from start to finish of everything we do.”
Fox on reported coaching changes (per the Chicago Tribune, the Bears fired offensive line coach Dave Magazu and assistant DBs coach Sam Garnes): “There's a lot of changes. I can tell you that our coordinators are intact. There were different reports throughout the season, again it's probably too early to say, almost like who you're going to sign as a player. We're in that process, guys are under contract, I know it was publicized [running backs coach] Stan Drayton got an outstanding opportunity. His goal in life was to be a head coach in college and it was a great opportunity for him. Those kinds of things happen when you have good coaches, but we're excited for Stan in that new opportunity, but right now, that's all I've got for you.”
Pace on Kevin White: “He’s such a positive outlook guy and was the same leg but it was two different injuries. So I feel he’s in a really good spot with that right now. I’m almost one who like, hey, Kevin is like is wanting to go go go go. And I’m always like slow down on this, let’s make sure we’re doing this right so when you come back everything is in line: your gate, your hips, your hamstrings, everything is in line so you’re ready to go full speed.
Pace on the lack of takeaways: “I honestly think we need to add more playmakers to our secondary. We need to add more ball skills to our secondary. That’s on me and we’ll do that.”
Pace on why they didn’t add more defensive backs last offseason: “We re-signed Tracy Porter. I had high expectations that Fuller would be healthy this year. Tracy battled some things this season; obviously Fuller wasn’t available. Callahan was another player that we had high expectations for, and he was in and out of the lineup.”
Pace on Kyle Fuller: “You know I think he’s frustrated and we are too. I think we opened up that three-week window with the full expectation that by the end of that he would be ready to go. And he’s trying to get stronger and he is trying to do all of the little things right. I’m not giving up on Kyle Fuller. He was a high draft pick by this organization and it’s on us to do everything we can to get him playing back at a top level. You guys know it’s a position of need for us and getting him back where he can play would be huge for this organization. So, he’s got to have an important, big offseason. He knows that.”
Pace on Danny Trevathan, who tore his patella tendon: “I know he’s been communicating with some other guys in the league that have had a similar injury and have come back from it and currently playing at a high level. So we’re optimistic; he’s optimistic. He’s working hard. Honestly, it could be a situation where he misses a lot of the offseason OTAs and we get to camp and we got to make the evaluation at that point. Is he ready to go? Is he a PUP guy? We have to make that decision then. But it’s an injury he can fully recover from. And so I think we’ll be all right.”
Pace on Pernell McPhee: “There might not be a player I’m more proud of than Pernell and the way he’s responded from this injury and the changes he’s made, not just in the building but out of the building with his diet and his weight and his work ethic. He’s one of the top leaders on this team and people follow his attitude and his physicality. i think he’s getting healthier and healthier as the season went on. I can think of practices when we were in the indoor [facility] I’d see him coming around the corner, with the speed, and that’s the Pernell I’m used to seeing. Unfortunately with the shoulder injury, pursuing the ball, he’s going to overcome that. Pernell is a professional, Pernell is a leader and i think he’s going to get healthier and healthier. to answer your question, he is worth the investment and i hope to see that more next season.”
Pace on Leonard Floyd: “I think the sky is the limit for Leonard Floyd. I think you guys saw that. His athleticism, his quickness, he’s 100 miles per hour to the ball every play. He’s just refining his technique as a pass rusher, so his hand use, and that’s going to continue to get better. But he has some special things that we saw in the draft that you can’t coach. He’s the right kind of person too. He’s highly intelligent, so we can move him around. The injuries, really the concussions, he has no history of concussions prior to this, no history of concussion at Georgia. So having two concussions late in the year, we’re going to be smart about that. He really needs to learn to play with better technique and keeping his head up, especially when you’re running into Akiem Hicks. That’s not a good thing.”
Pace on Grasu, Whitehair and Long: “That would be a good problem for us to have. If there’s one thing I learned this season it’s that you can’t have enough depth, especially on your offensive line.
“I view Hroniss more of a center-only. If he comes back, that’d be the position he’s competing for. If Hroniss is playing like a solid NFL starting center and gets to that level, which I think he can, that’s a good problem. We have flexibility with other guys. Cody Whitehair is a flexible guy, and Kyle is, too. We’ll see how it shakes out, but if he’s at a starter level, that’ll sort out to get the five best on the field.”
“That would be a concern, moving [Long] around, back and forth, and we have to be conscious of that. Kyle’s coming off two injuries, so he’s going to miss a lot of time this offseason. So that’s on our minds, handling it the right way, reduce the situation where he’s getting moved around too much. Because he’s at his best when he’s focused on one position.”
Pace on Jonathan Bullard: "Bullard came from a defense from Florida that’s a little bit different from what we do here, so there’s a transition going on for him right now. His best attributes are his get-off and his athleticism and getting up the field. Learning how to come off and strike blocks and use your hands and shed, those are things he’s working on. What I really like about Bullard is you always want players that are very self-aware and they know what they are and what they need to improve upon, and Bullard is one of those guys. He knows he needs to have a good offseason, he needs to get stronger, he needs to add weight. But he has some things that we can’t coach, and that’s the quickness, the get-off, the burst. I think he’s an instinctive player, too."
Pace on Deon Bush: "Bush has a lot of range, a lot of athleticism, needs to make more plays on the ball. Just getting comfortable back there with your angles, your read and reaction times, your instincts, that’ll come."
George McCaskey on the report that the Bears would hire a consultant: “I’ll clarify it for all of you as I did with the report who authored that report. There is absolutely no truth to it whatsoever.”