LAKE FOREST – If new head coach Matt Eberflus will prioritize one thing during his first season with the Bears, it's discipline.
Eberflus wants the Bears to be aggressive but under control. Harnessing that aggression starts during OTAs and will be a focal point in training camp in the summer.
During Tuesday's practice at Halas Hall, a minor skirmish broke out during one of the sessions. Eberflus made sure the players understood what the expectations were under his watch.
"Well, the bottom line is this, you have to work together to practice. This is Bears on Bears, and we're not going to tolerate that here at the Bears," Eberflus said Tuesday. "So that's a simple message. I have no problem delivering that message to anybody, so they understand that. And because it's -- what happens is during the course of football, OK, there are things that happen against your opponent you're playing, whatever. Opponent A, B, or C doesn't matter. You have to have emotional control during the course of the game. It's got to be a boxer's mentality because you can't go let your anger get to you because why? Then you'll foul, right? You'll make a stupid thing after the play, and now it's hurting our football team and hurting our chances to win.
"So that to me is what we have to learn, all of us, during the course of training camp. And then even back in this part of this, it was very small, it was a couple shoves, and then that was it, it was no big deal. But again, I sent the message after the practice and said, 'Hey, we've got to make sure, you know that was real small, but that can escalate into something during a game where it's going to cause a penalty. We don't want that.'"
Last season, the Bears had the 12th most penalty in the NFL with 106. The Indianapolis Colts, where Eberflus was the defensive coordinator, were flagged only 76 times, among the fewest in the league. The Bears gave up 53.8 yards per game in penalties last season, while the Colts just 40.5.
Discipline is a mindset. It's ingrained in a person and a team and hammered home relentlessly.
As Eberflus looks to lay a new foundation for the Bears, he's made it known that he wants discipline to be one of his core pillars.