Bears wide receivers coach motivates through toy soldiers


If this Bears wide receivers group performs this season the way their position boss coaches and talks, this could end up being fun.

It's Zach Azzanni's first NFL coaching job, he's going full throttle, and from his standpoint, every one of his pupils is on board with that.

"I just constantly hear you can't coach like this - you can't coach like college in the NFL. I don't know, I don't think that's true," Azzanni said after Monday's practice at Olivet Nazarene University. "I think you can. I think they want it. I think they want that tight-knit, that brotherhood, that...`Coach, stay on me.' I think they all want to be pushed, to be good. If you kind of let them taper off - that it's`too cool for school' for the NFL, and`nah, we don't do it that way,' I think you're missing the boat. I think those guys want that.

"That's why they started playing. They get a paycheck now, and I get that. But they didn't get a paycheck for a long, long time, and they still got pushed. So they're having fun with it. We're creating that hard edge. It's fun. It's a work in progress."

Just like any position group, Azzanni's dealing with everything from an undrafted free agent like Tanner Gentry, to a potential stud still searching to reach his potential like Kevin White, to a former Pro Bowler like Victor Cruz, looking to revive and squeeze out some more production (and money) for a few more years.


"Each guy's different. You've gotta find ways to present how we're gonna do that, how we're gonna buy in. We do some corny stuff in my room, in our meetings, but they're buying in and having fun."

Oh, really? Like...

"Yeah, I give out those little green army guys. I give out one of those a day for our soldier of the day. And it doesn't have to mean making 18 catches. And you know what's funny? We go into those meetings and guys are like, `Who's got the Soldier of the Day?' Cuz they wanna line `em up on their desk. I mean, these guys are still kids playing this game. And we've got to make it fun, too. I'll let everyone else stress out about it, but we're gonna have some fun in there but also teach these guys how to respect this game, how to play it with a hard edge and make people change the way they think about NFL wideouts."

I had to ask. Is this coming out of his personal childhood collection?

"No it's just Amazon. Ten bucks (for a 144 pack)...I don't get paid what they get paid."

We'll bring you more interesting comments from Azzanni on White, Cruz and Cam Meredith Tuesday.