Bears general manager Ryan Pace tried to do the rebuild-on-the-fly. But injuries, and some misses among his hits in drafting and free agency, proved during last season this was going to take a little longer. And based on health, cohesiveness, and their first half schedule, who knows if 2017 will look much better, won-loss-wise, when all is said and done?
Even though the collective bargaining agreement requires players to stay away from team-supervised workouts, Bears rookies have been working with the organization to remain visible through the first two weeks of this break before training camp. While veterans scatter to vacations and their off-season homes, the rookies are trying to settle into their new professional homes while they can. They’ve been seen out in the community, led by Mitch Trubisky, visiting hospitals and speaking at youth camps. And let’s face it, most optimism about the franchise’s future must come from the hoped-for cornerstones of this rebuild, with those ingredients needing to come together and show progress this season. Not the only factors, but key ones in resuscitating the organization. And the more we see and hear them, the better, provided they’re willing participants.
While there are Leonard Floyds and Eddie Goldmans and Cody Whitehairs and Cam Merediths that should be part of that foundation, three potential keys who, ideally, could be main offensive stars when this team gets good again, led a 7-on-7 camp Friday in Wheaton. Trubisky was joined by “veterans” Jordan Howard and Kevin White. Two of those three have yet to prove much, if anything, in NFL game action. But unless you’ve already made your minds up negatively on Trubisky and White, feel-good interaction with kids, and fans in general, goes a long way in rooting for them.
Trubisky has embraced his activity. The second overall pick is probably aware of the doubters, and hopefully understands the knuckeheads who booed him when he was introduced at a Bulls game were more likely booing the overall drought and frustration. But he’s said all the right things, has bought into what the investment in him means, and understands his short-term role behind Mike Glennon without planning on giving a competitive inch. So when he answered a question about whether the Bears would make the playoffs during Friday’s Q-and-A with the campers, he said he thought they would. But White, who knows a thing or two about how things may be interpreted, got in the quarterback’s ear to make sure they understood it was a feeling, not a public guarantee.
“Great message,” White said with a smile as reporters laughed, knowing where he was going. “He’s just gotta be clear on some things. People can take it the wrong way and run with it and make it seem like he’s being cocky. We all think that, of course. But we’ve gotta put some pieces together and do what we have to do to get there. I think Mitch cleared it up that he wasn’t saying 'for sure we’re going to the playoffs,' but just said that’s what we think. And that’s what we all think.”
White also shared some other knowledge about the trials and tribulations of Bears’ fans expectations with a top 10 draft pick.
“Just with the experience and the pressure, the things people expect, try to teach him how to handle that a little bit.”
Howard, who was on stage at Soldier Field Saturday night as part of the Warriors Games opening ceremony, has noticed Trubisky’s commitment.
“You can tell he wants to be great” the team’s all-time rookie rushing leader said Friday. “He puts the time in, and the effort to be a great quarterback in this league, because in order to be great, you’ve go to put the time in and have a good work ethic.”
That, of course, is no guarantee for greatness, just as Trubisky’s words were a feeling, not a guarantee. His personality could change down the road as success and failures come. But Pace said that’s not likely, based on his background homework and personal interaction. At this very early stage, Trubisky is embracing all he can to represent his employer, and maybe even plant some seeds of hope along the way in the community.
“I guess that comes with the position, part of playing quarterback, part of being drafted second overall,” Trubisky said between answering questions from campers, then getting out on the field with them.
“I realize that my voice holds some weight now. I just gotta be careful with what I say, but also realize I want to be a positive influence in the community for these kids out here and the Bears organization. The things I do, I want them to reflect on my own beliefs and how I want to make a positive impact on the people around me.”