BOURBONNAIS — There are 13 different teams on the Bears’ schedule this season. But as the Bears started training camp ahead of the 2017 campaign, they saw many more opponents.
“The world’s against us,” linebacker Danny Trevathan said Thursday.
Trevathan was referring to the almost universal lack of faith among preseason prognosticators when it comes to the Bears’ chances to make some noise this season.
The last three seasons have been miserable by the franchise’s historical standards, with last year’s 3-13 mark the worst the team ever posted in a 16-game season. So those doubting some sort of sudden turnaround have something to back their opinions up.
But down in Bourbonnais, the Bears are using that lack of confidence as a motivating tool.
“You want that mentality. You want it to be just us against the world. That’s how it is. It’s us,” Trevathan said. “A lot of people are going to say what they want to say, critics, all those guys are going to say you were 3-13, all this and that. But we know we can be way better than that. And we showed glimpses of that. But now we gotta go ahead and show it the whole season.”
Self confidence is never in short order for athletes, especially at the dawn of a new season when every team has the same record and there’s no new data to separate contenders from pretenders. But it’s not just the Bears pumping themselves up. They have a few reasons to believe that a flip of last year’s script is possible.
Health is a big one. Trevathan is one of a lengthy list of Bears returning from injuries that cut their seasons short in 2016. Impact guys like Kyle Long, Kevin White and Leonard Floyd missed significant time last season due to injuries. Their healthy return would figure make a big difference for the Bears this season.
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New additions are expected to make a huge difference, as well. The Bears will have a new quarterback, with Mike Glennon the likely starter to begin the season and No. 2 overall pick Mitch Trubisky waiting in the wings. Two new faces, Dion Sims and Adam Shaheen, are earning plenty of attention in the battle for the starting tight end job. And Prince Amukamara, Marcus Cooper and Quintin Demps are a trio of new starters in the secondary.
Those guys, guys who weren’t a part of last year’s loss-a-palooza, are bringing a fresh perspective to the team.
“Last year is last year,” said Demps, who’s been to six postseasons in his career, including each of the last two with the Houston Texans. “You’ve got to come in each and every year and prove yourself. That’s the goal right now. We’re coming in with a clean slate, 0-0. We’re just trying to get better right now, trying to build a good team.”
But most importantly, the Bears see this season as the culmination of the cultural changes Ryan Pace, John Fox & Co. have put in place over the past few years.
“That change has been starting from two years ago, it’s been starting. It just hasn’t rolled over to the games,” tight end Zach Miller said. “3-13 is not acceptable for us. We put in all the work, and you can feel the change coming. Every year you walk into camp, everybody’s against you, it’s time to turn the tables, surprise some people, so that’s kind of the goal in mind right now and see how we can do it.”
“I saw spurts of us last year just blooming and being that four-quarter team to win games, close games,” Trevathan said, talking about the team and his defense, specifically. “A lot of people are not seeing the work that we’re putting in, the communication, pieces that we’re putting in, putting in work, guys coming in like they’ve been here before. It’s like we’re clicking on all cylinders right now, and it feels good to be part of a defense like that. I feel like we’re going to be one of the greatest coming up. As long as we keep that full steam ahead, that attitude, that hungriness and that drive, we’re going to be great.”
Never underestimate the power of bulletin-board material, something that’s been around almost as long as football has. There's enough of it floating around this preseason for the Bears to fill a few bulletin boards. As they said, it’s up to them to prove they’re better than everyone thinks, better than last year’s 13-loss season indicated.
But while 2016 was short on wins, one thing 2017 will not be short on is motivation.
“A lot of people have got their backs turned to us. And we’re going to come out swinging. They’re gonna come over to our side,” Trevathan said. “But right now we’re taking care of our business. Our thing is to get better and get better every day, and that’s our goal.”