The Bears are “pissed off,” in the words of defensive end Mitch Unrein, which is probably what this team should be following their fourth consecutive loss. That feeling was clear when, about 15 minutes before Unrein and running back Benny Cunningham met with the media, a heated argument between players could be heard coming from the hallway outside the media room at Halas Hall. 

“I most definitely feel like you can feel the frustration within the team, but I feel like that’s natural as a competitor,” Cunningham, who said he did not witness the argument, said. “When you’re in a business that is basically, (where) wins and losses is what it boils down to at the end of the year and you don’t get the wins you want or you lose tight games, whatever it is, just naturally being a competitor, it’s going to hurt. And then eventually you’re going to get frustrated if you care about it. You’re going to get sad and you’re going to be emotional  because you put so much into this game.”

The Bears have too much to play for to not care, even if there’s a bleak outlook for the rest of the season. The following players will be unrestricted free agents next year, among others: Cunningham, Unrein, receivers Kendall Wright, Josh Bellamy and Dontrelle Inman; offensive linemen Tom Compton and Bradley Sowell; linebackers Christian Jones and Sam Acho; cornerbacks Prince Amukamara, Kyle Fuller and Sherrick McManis; and kicker Cairo Santos. Wide receiver Markus Wheaton, linebacker Pernell McPhee and offensive lineman Bobby Massie may be under contract but don’t necessarily have secure futures in Chicago beyond this season, either. 

 

Cunningham, who played on a 4-12 Los Angeles Rams team in 2016, knows there’s plenty at stake over these last five games for him and his teammates. 

“Unfortunate enough for me, I was a part of something like that last year where guys didn’t get it and you don’t understand that the average career is three years and when you lose everybody loses,” Cunningham said. “It’s hard to find a job in free agency when you lose. So you want to put good stuff on film. You want to win games. Teams want winners. That’s the business we’re in. So you just want to find ways to win games.”

Cunningham, then, can be a good conduit for coach John Fox’s message to his 3-8 team: “There's 3-13 and there's 8-8.” On a collective level there would be something to be said for winning four or five of these last five games. 

That wouldn’t change the narrative about the 2017 Bears, nor would it necessarily do anything to change the job status of Fox. But if playing for jobs isn’t enough for Bears’ players, how about just playing for pride?

“I just don't wanna be disrespected as a player, as a man,” offensive lineman Kyle Long said Sunday. “You're not gonna line up across from me and take my lunch money every play. I won't allow it to happen. I know we have guys in this locker room that feel the same way, we just have to do it as a team.”