Bears

Self Confidence 101: Bears sending Kevin White back to college

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AP

Self Confidence 101: Bears sending Kevin White back to college

If Bears fans had the opportunity to talk with Bears wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni, they'd walk away loving their chances of this group making an unexpected impact. Here's some of what Azzanni shared Monday after practice in Bourbonnais:

On the development of Kevin White after two injury-plagued seasons: 

"We talk about a golf shot every day. Like, 'what keeps you coming back to practice? What was that one golf shot that you remember that got you excited, that makes you want to come back for more?' So every day, we do that in our room. This morning, we watched his West Virgina highlight film again. He forgets about that sometimes, because of the battle he's had the last two years. I'm pleased with him. First day was great, second was OK, and today (Monday) he comes back out and he's buying in. You see flashes of what we want him to be, of what he wants to be. We've just got to block out the noise for him. I can't let him read the papers and the media. I just can't let him because there's going to be some negative in there that gets into his head and he can't let that happen. He's got to be positive and we've got to go in out bunker in there and I've got to tell him how great he is all the time, because he is."

On going back to White's West Virginia tape, circa 2014:

"I wanted him to see how he used to go up and just grab that ball out of the air, and he's starting to do that again. I know he had a drop the other day in one-on-ones the other day. He's a prideful kid, and he lets that beat him up and you cannot do that. You can't let one drop give you another drop. Kobe Bryant takes 60 shots a game. There's a reason. He clears it out, like he didn't even take those first 59. He keeps shooting and that's what Kevin's got to do. He's got to put it away. We've got to be on the positives too. He ran a great route, great release, physical, violent, ran a great route, now he's got to finish it. You've got to also understand there's some good in there too.

"He's a prideful guy. He's got some conscience. He wants to do well for Chicago. For Ryan Pace, for coach (John) Fox, for Dowell (Loggains), all these guys. He wants to do well and I tell him, don't worry about all that. Do well for you. Don't worry about the media and all the people outside. Let's just be the best player you can be.

Cam Meredith: 66 catches in 2016, so 2017?

"The sky's the limit for Cam. He's everything you want in an NFL receiver. He's tall, he's loose, he's got great ball skills, can run. He's smart because he played quarterback, so he gets the game a little bit better maybe than other players at the position. He's still got a lot of work to do and that's what's fun. So every day we're working on some of the little things to help him take his game to the next level, and he's willing. He just had an 'OK' second day, and when I played it for him, he didn't think he did. Then when you press 'play,' he looks at me and he's like, 'you're exactly right, coach.'  He's starting to get what the standards are and he's getting better and I'm excited about him, really excited."

Victor Cruz's encouraging start

"He's been through it all. Great seasons, Super Bowl, injury setbacks, he's seen it all, right? Big market in New York so he's definitely a good sounding board for those guys. As far as the first couple days? He's still learning the offense. But we're asking him to do things he did previously. Some of the routes he's running? That's what he did. It's too late in his career to reinvent a route tree for him. We got him to do the things he does well. A good first three days. I wouldn't say excellent, but good. I think what me and him are vibing together is, you know, I don't really care how long he's played. I'm going to push him like he's a rookie. At first, he was like, `Wow,' but now he appreciates it, I think."

Kyle Long looking forward to 'seeing what another set of eyes from a coaching perspective can give Mitch'

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USA TODAY

Kyle Long looking forward to 'seeing what another set of eyes from a coaching perspective can give Mitch'

Former Bears offensive linemen Kyle Long appeared on The Rap Sheet and Friends podcast hosted by NFL insider Ian Rapoport and he didn't shy away from questions about Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Long, while stating that he understood the questioning and criticism that Trubisky faces, still believes in him.

"The Bears have won with Mitchell Trubisky."

Indeed Mitch was the starter for 14 games of the Bears 12-4 season before this year's 8-8 disappointment. The issue was Trubisky's play was of course, as he didn't show any noticeable improvement in 2019 after tossing 24 touchdowns in 2018. "We all regressed this year, but unfortunately heavy lies the head that wears the crown, and Mitch is the captain," Long said. 

"Mitch is the quarterback. He’s also suited to take the stuff that he’s gotta deal with, and that’s what I love about Mitch. He can deal with the noise, and he’s young. He’s so young."

Long seems excited by the idea of Chicago's hires, saying that new faces could have quite the positive effect on Trubisky’s game "I’m looking forward to seeing what another set of eyes from a coaching perspective can give Mitch. It’ll be cool to see.”

This offseason the Bears have brought in a new offensive coordinator (Bill Lazor), quarterbacks coach (John DeFilippo), and promoted former quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone to passing game coordinator. Bears head coach Matt Nagy, similar to Long, has faith in Trubisky developing, especially in regard to Ragone. In December Nagy said, “I think I know Mitch better than anybody in this building, except maybe Dave Ragone.”

Long certainly seems to miss his teammates though he clearly has no regrets about his decision. He and Trubisky definitely share a bond that will last long beyond their playing days. “I love the kid, he’s a great friend obviously, a teammate, but I’m looking forward to seeing him develop.”

Similar to the message delivered by the Bears’ front office, Long was in full support of Trubisky throughout the entire interview.

"Mitch is the quarterback. He’s also suited to take the stuff that he’s gotta deal with, and that’s what I love about Mitch. He can deal with the noise...”

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Kyle Long says retirement was easiest decision he's ever made

Kyle Long says retirement was easiest decision he's ever made

Kyle Long saw the same thing Bears fans did during the 2019 season. His level of play was no longer among the top guards in the NFL. In fact, he became a liability for an offensive line that ultimately became one of the biggest weaknesses on the team.

"Fans who are frustrated with my performance, you don’t think I’m sitting in that film room just clenching my fist because I just can’t make a block, or I’m just not healthy enough to get there?" Long said on the Rapsheet and Friends podcast this week. "It’s frustrating. I feel that. I’ve seen the writing on the wall, the Bears did it right, they gave me every opportunity to get healthy. Any other team in the league would have cut me years ago, I’m talking years ago.

"The Bears did me right, and I wanted to do right by them. I’ll never wear another set of colors but navy and orange. I take pride in that, a lot of guys have gone and played somewhere else when this time came for them and it tarnished their legacy, in my mind at least."

Long started 76 of 77 career games with the Bears and during the course of his seven-year career in Chicago became one of the team's most recognizable personalities on and off the field. It began during his rookie season when he was selected to the NFL's All-Rookie team and was an NFC Pro Bowler.

"The miles that I do have in the NFL are rough ones," Long said. "I played the game hard when I could, I played it as I thought it should be played, I gave everything I could to my teammates, emotionally and all that. I always knew there would come a time where I would not recognize the player that I’m seeing on film, and no player wants to have that. 

"It was the easiest decision I’ve ever made because I didn’t recognize the guy on film. I’ll be honest, I was an ass-kicker for a long time. You line ‘em up, I’ll put ‘em down, but there came a point where I couldn’t do that anymore, and it was frustrating. So I knew it was time."

Long, who said he could play another three or four years, didn't use the word retirement when discussing his status. Instead, he chose 'hiatus' as a better description of his current state.

"Could I play more? Absolutely," said Long. "If I took a year off, can I go play 3-4 more years? No doubt in my mind. Do I want to do that? It remains to be seen, which is why I use the term hiatus."

Maybe we haven't seen the last of Long with the Bears. But one thing's for sure, he won't be suiting up in 2020.