Bears defensive tradition big draw for incoming free agents


Tradition, especially defensive tradition, still matters to players when they decide to play for the Chicago Bears. We hear it every year when new players address the media for the first time at Halas Hall, and it was no different in 2023. To a man, every new defensive player who spoke on Thursday spoke about how excited they were to specifically play on a Bears defense.

“These guys have done a lot of good things historically,” said new defensive lineman DeMarcus Walker. “When you look on the wall behind me, I mean, come on now (alluding to the Bears logo). I mean you get a rush being a defensive player coming here. This is an offensive league nowadays and when you walk in here you see, you know there’s Gale Sayers, but you see (Brian) Urlacher and Mike Singletary and a lot of defensive guys up here. So you go, ok, this is where I want to be.”

When you think Bears defense, you almost always think linebackers. There’s Urlacher and Singletary like Walker mentioned, but there’s also Dick Butkus and Bill George and Lance Briggs and Joe Fortunato and Wilber Marshall and the list goes on and on and on. That’s not lost on the two new Bears linebackers: Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards.

“When you talk about great linebackers— in particular, middle linebacker — I mean, why wouldn’t you want to come to a place like this?” Edmunds said. “It’s such a great tradition. I’m just excited to write my own story now. Obviously they’ve had a lot of great guys to come through here. I’m a big believer that you gotta pay respect to those guys who came before, because that’s who we’re striving to be like. Not exactly imitate their game, but take a little bit from everybody and put it into your own game. That’s what I’m about, man. I’m excited to start my story now.”


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Bears Super Bowl champion Leslie Frazier was Edmunds’ defensive coordinator at Buffalo, so he’s heard about the defensive history in Chicago for some time.

“(Frazier) would always give us some stories about it and just about the tradition and obviously they had that good team here, and the great things that they did,” said Edmunds. “Hats off to Coach Frazier, man. He’s a great guy.”

Edwards grew up in Lake Villa, so he didn’t need anyone to tell him tales of the Bears’ legendary defenses of yore. It’s in his DNA.

“There’s a lot of guys who have played a lot of good football here,” Edwards said. “They understand how the game is supposed to look.”

Even though linebackers have gotten most of the love throughout Bears history, Walker is happy to play defensive line in a city that loves its defenses. He bounced around from Denver, to Houston, to Tennessee, before finally landing in Chicago. It’s clear he’s happy to be here.

“Finally,” Walker said about playing in Chicago. “Finally get appreciated, you know what I’m saying? It’s a quarterback driven league. Everyone wants to see touchdowns and passes and obviously that’s what sells tickets, but everybody wants to hold up the Lombardi, and there’s one side of the ball that’s very pivotal, and that’s defense.”

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