As Bears get ready for season, pressure could mount on Fox
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. (AP) The Chicago Bears are coming off their worst season in decades and the pressure could be on coach John Fox if there's no improvement.
Not that he needed a reminder.
''You can only speak to what you've done in the past,'' Fox said. ''I know here recently over the last few years has not been very productive. I can see that.''
In Carolina and Denver, he helped turn struggling teams into conference champions. In Chicago, well, things aren't going so smoothly.
The Bears reported for their third camp under Fox and general manager Ryan Pace on Wednesday with a different look coming off a 3-13 season.
They start practices on Thursday with Mike Glennon as the No. 1 quarterback after signing him in the offseason and No. 2 overall draft pick Mitch Trubisky as the backup.
While plenty of attention will be on the QBs, Fox's future is one of Chicago's biggest story lines.
After all, the Bears went 9-23 over the past two seasons. And Fox is only signed through 2018.
''There's pressure on all of us,'' Pace said. ''There's a lot of pressure on me, and we all know what we signed up for. I think the focus now is winning games.
''But if there's one thing I can stress with John and things I appreciate every day is, look, it's very difficult to change a culture. And John is doing that and he has done that while also getting younger as a team.''
Pace and Fox were brought in to turn around a team in chaos under former general manager Phil Emery and coach Marc Trestman.
It seemed at the time the only place to go was up. In that sense, it appears little has changed.
The Bears finished last in the NFC North with their lowest win total in a non-strike year since 1973. They hadn't lost 13 games in a season since 1969. While it didn't help that 19 players finished the season on injured reserve, the lack of depth was glaring.
Patience is running thin in Chicago, with crowds at Soldier Field shrinking last season. But the roster has been almost completely rebuilt under Pace and Fox.
''I think this is the deepest, most competitive team we've fielded so far,'' Fox said.
The Bears believe they have the makings of a solid front seven on defense led by nose tackle Eddie Goldman and defensive end Akiem Hicks. On offense, running back Jordan Howard finished second to Ezekiel Elliott with 1,313 yards rushing.
But there are big questions about the secondary. The Bears need receiver Kevin White to stay healthy after being limited to four games through his first two seasons and show he can be a top option with Alshon Jeffery gone.
And at quarterback, there's a big story to watch.
Glennon signed with Chicago to be the No. 1 QB after backing up Jameis Winston in Tampa Bay the past few years, only to see the Bears swing a big draft night trade to get Trubisky. Pace has repeatedly insisted since then that Glennon is the starter, and he reiterated it several times on Wednesday.
But the question remains: What if Trubisky outperforms him?
''Glennon's here for a reason,'' Pace said. ''We evaluated him over the years. We're very confident in him. Glennon's our starter and we're confident with that. This thing is going to have to play out. But Mike Glennon is our starting quarterback and I don't think now is the time to deal in hypotheticals going forward.''
For Glennon, the chance to start is something ''I've dreamed of my whole life.''
''It's what I've worked for,'' he said. ''I've prepared for it ever since I was a kid and all the way through college and into the pros, to get to this moment.''
As for Fox?
At 62 and entering his 16th season as an NFL head coach, he needs no reminders.
''I'm beyond the feeling-the-pressure part of it,'' Fox said. ''As a coach, you put pressure on yourself. I think there's a lot of people in that building, in those stands on Sundays, they wanna see a winner bad. Every year, whether it's this year or the last two years, that's been the main focus and main objective, I know for myself.''
NOTES: LB Jerrell Freeman on saving a man from choking at an Austin, Texas, airport restaurant over the weekend: ''Somebody was in need and I was there. If I wasn't there, I'm sure somebody else would have done it, I would hope.'' ... G Josh Sitton will probably be out until Saturday because his wife had a baby.
For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL