Bobbie Massie went through down times--both as a Bear and before that--over four years as an Arizona Cardinal. He is at the end of the three-year contract that brought him to Chicago, and the time is coming for him (and the Bears) to determine whether he is a Bear or headed to become something else.
Massie has already made that determination.
“I’m a Bear. Grizzly as hell,” Massie said, laughing. “I am a Bear through and through.”
Massie still spends some offseason time back in Phoenix, training at LeCharles Bentley’s “LB O-Line Performance” facility, but “[Chicago is] a place I call home. This is my home. I would love to be back here.
“We’ve built something. I’ve been lucky enough to be part of a culture change, and it’s like night and day from when I first walked through the door to now. It’s an amazing thing to see, just to see players who’ve grown so much. I’ve had a chance to see Mitch [Trubisky] grow from day one to now. It’s just amazing.
“I am invested. I’ll just keep playing, doing my job and the rest’ll take care of itself.”
It has so far for Massie, who knows something about turnarounds like the one in process for the 2018 Bears. If anything, he could be excused for wondering why it took so long.
The Bears right tackle was drafted in 2012, into what would be Ken Whisenhunt’s last year as Arizona head coach, the Cardinals finishing 5-11. After suffering through that, he was part of the turnaround under Bruce Arians to get their record 10-6, then to 11-5 and a wild card postseason berth in 2014, and finally 13-3 and the NFC Championship game in 2015.
After that the Bears enticed him to Chicago with a three-year deal for $18 million, of which $6.5 million was guaranteed. The Bears were coming off a 6-10 first year under John Fox, improving by one victory over Marc Trestman’s final year, and Massie was part of a free-agency sweep that netted Massie, Jerrell Freeman, Akiem Hicks and Danny Trevathan, plus draft picks Leonard Floyd and Cody Whitehair and Jordan Howard – all players from winning programs.
The result instead was a colossal spiral downwards sparked by quarterback injuries, all cascading into 2017 and a deepening quarterback quagmire in the form of Mike Glennon. The tumbling led to the firing of two-time turnaround engineer Fox.
Massie had seen the turnaround impact possible with the right coaching hire, when the Cardinals went from Whisenhunt to Arians. He has seen it, and been part of it, again in the Fox-to-Nagy course correction.
“Fox was obviously defensive-minded and this thing was built around defense,” Massie said. “Nagy came in and if you really look at it, it’s the same team, just a few pieces here and there. No drastic changes, just little things.”
He paused, then laughed: “Maybe a little more passing.
“But it’s fun again. Guys here love coming to work, practicing to get better. And considering how long we’ve been going – we were the first team to start camp – we’re still hungry.”