Skip to main content

Tough Stuff from Matt Eberflus

Bears coach goes from Mr. Positive to the cold shoulder when it comes to players who have missed or are missin

Perhaps it's simply the practice of this Bears coaching staff to turn a more objective shoulder once the full squad is together at organized team activities, but the compliments were harder to come by at Tuesday's practice unless you were Kyler Gordon or Justin Fields.

In fact, coach Matt Eberflus had nearly been like a team publicity guy through the early offseason, minicamp, rookie minicamp, the NFL combine and owners meetings. He lavishly doled out praise for even undrafted free agents.

Then he saved the first relatively disparaging remarks for veterans at Tuesday's allowed media session of OTAs and it started with criticism of reserve defensive tackle London LaCale, who now wears Akiem Hicks' old No. 96 jersey. LaCale had a shoving incident in non-contact scrimmage. 

"This is Bears on Bears and we're not going to tolerate that here at the Bears," Eberflus said, after addressing his team. "So that's a simple message. I have no problem delivering that message to anybody so they understand that."

Eberflus understood but didn't condone the fighting. It's against the last letter in his HITS philosophy. The "S" stands for smart.

"What happens is during the course of football, OK, there are things that happen against your opponent you're playing, whatever, opponent A, B or C doesn't matter, you have to have emotional control during the course of the game," Eberflus said. 'It's got to be a boxer's mentality because you can't go let your anger get to you because why, then you'll foul, right? You'll make a stupid thing after the play and now it's hurting our football team and hurting our chances to win."

Eberflus understood it was a minor thing in a practice, but wanted to use the example.

His comments about Jaylon Johnson and missing veteran defensive linemen were probably a bit more abrasive because he said he understood London's shoving was a minor situation in the early offseason.

Given an opportunity to toss out a compliment to Johnson, who is back with the team for the first time after missing voluntary minicamp, Eberflus became strangley objective.

"So Jaylon you know a young player, is still a work in progress," Eberflus said.

This was the same Johnson who the last coaching staff felt so sold on they gave him the assignment of covering the opposition's best pass receiver all over the field throughout most of the season.

"He's got some things he's got to work on just like all the rest of those guys that are second- and third-year players they've all got to work on stuff," Eberflus said. "Just, just keep working and we'll see where he goes."

Given another shot at some faint praise for Johnson, Eberflus stonewalled it.

"Well, I look at tape but you know I do hold a little bit of onus to that but I want to see him in person so I've got to have time on task so I don't really know how to answer that question right now," Eberflus said. "So I've got to be very general if I answer that question so I've got to see time on task, I've got to see the guy cover, I've got to see how he takes his angles, you know how he plays on the ball, I've got to see all those things before we're going to start diving into the details of that, coaching him."

Scroll to Continue

Read More

Fine, but when given the chance to compliment another cornerback, rookie Kyler Gordon, who was drafted in the same round as Johnson and has played exactly zero NFL games, exhibition or otherwise, Eberflus had no problem doling out praise.

"Yeah, just his athletic ability, I mean, you see guys being able to bend and contort and have body control like I talked about on the onset," Eberflus said. "Man, you know, that's been really good. It's been really good. And he's got a lot to learn because when you're playing corner in the NFL, you have a lot of skill sets you have to cover.

"I mean, you have to cover guys from all different types, all different skill levels and that's a big task and it's a hard position to play. So he's got work to do and he's going to do that."

It became evident Johnson was part of the shunned veteran absentee group when Eberflus was asked about his three missing defensive linemen: Robert Quinn, Al-Quadin Muhammad and Mario Edwards Jr.

Whether it's because the players union message about veterans not attending voluntary offseason work reached them or they are thinking they will be traded or discarded, or they simply want to stay away, none of them have been at Halas Hall for work. Quinn did show up for his Brian Piccolo Award. Muhammad was a player who followed Eberflus from Indianapolis during free agency.

At least Johnson has shown up now but the others haven't.

"Yeag, I'm in communication with all the players," Eberflus said. "I always call and text them, how you doing, talk about their family, how's everything going. And, like I said before this time of year is voluntary, and everybody has something going on, right? And some things you know that are just, you can't control as a person right? And they have to be somewhere and that's OK you know?"

Being somewhere for the week of voluntary minicamp and now the start to OTAs?

"But we want everybody here but in some cases they're not and we want them to be here and when they're here we'll coach them up," Eberflus said.

Quinn did say when he received the Piccolo Award that he treats the offseason his way because he knows how to take care of his body.

"I want 'em all here but it’s voluntary," Eberflus said. "So they don't have to be here. He does know his body and he's been a darn good player for a long time. I wish he was here. Again, it's voluntary."

So is praise for players.

Bottom line is voluntary or not, availability remains the best ability especially when a team is trying to install a new offense and a new defense.

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven