Germain Ifedi Seeks Fresh Bears Start Minus Apologies

From changing positions to working out with the son of Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews, new Bears guard Germain Ifedi plans to take advantage of a change of scenery to jump-start his career

Germain Ifedi realizes the word out on his production in Seattle included plenty of talk about his penalties and uncomplimentary assessments of his play.

It's not easy to disguise 51 penalties in four seasons.

"I think if any lineman in the league is telling you they don't want to get better they're telling you a story," Ifedi said.

The new Bears guard not only plans to reverse negative trends, but take his play to another level after leading or tying for the team penalty lead all four years he played for Pete Carroll and the Seahawks.

"There's a lot out there—didn't live up to expectations and this other stuff in Seattle," said Ifedi, a candidate to start at right guard. "But I thought it was a good four years with Seattle. It's just an opportunity (now) to continue to grow as a player.

Getting flagged isn't always the transgression it seems, according to Ifedi.

"A lot of people look at penalties, they look at the numbers and they say, 'well, he got a high number of penalties, so there must be something wrong.' Well, not all penalties are created equally," Ifedi said. "Not all of them are correct on the person they called them on.

"You know, it's a thing, something you've got to deal with. You know there's two refs back there. You know that teams can send a pregame report in, pregame saying this guy's had a holding penalty, he jumps the count, all this other stuff. So you're aware of those things. It's not something you play with, it's not something you're thinking about in the back of your head. But you're just you're aware of it. You're aware that now there's two officials back there instead of one like there used to be so now they really can kind of see everything you're doing especially when, OK, you've been high on the penalty count lately so they can spot like that anything borderline."

The move to right guard in Chicago from right tackle alone may account for an improvement if Ifedi's past is any indication.

"I think some of the moves we made in free agency, with Ifedi, we're really high on him and just his transition to the right guard spot," Bears general manager Ryan Pace said.

Ifedi started his career at right guard and committed a career season-low eight penalties. The troubling part of this was seven were false starts while playing next to the center. However, he had only one hold.

It took the move to tackle before his penalties piled up, especially the first year in 2017 when he had 19 total penalties.

Where Ifedi might be if he never had to move in his second year to tackle is a great unknown the Bears are about to explore.

"Coming up until college, I had played guard my entire career," Ifedi said. "I played guard my first two years at college but there was a need at tackle and I just kind of stuck out there the last two years of college. Same in the league. Came in the league, played guard, and then played tackle the last few years.

"I've always considered myself an inside guy, a road-grater type, but I've always accepted the challenge that came with playing tackle also. Whichever one is needed at the time, there is no issue in doing either one. It's just doing your technique and doing what you know to be natural. You play in space or you play in the phone booth at guard. Same type of mentality playing offensive line."

 With the Bears, Ifedi needs to first beat out Rashaad Coward. It was Coward who started 10 games last year, including eight after Kyle Long's career-ending injury.

Coming into a new situation without an offseason to sync up with other line players makes for a tough situation for any free agent acquistiion.

"I've played with so many centers and so many guards in Seattle, so many different guys," Ifedi said. "You communicate with different people. You've got to be clear and concise in what you're saying and what you're doing, every play be consistent it doesn't matter who you’re next to or what team you're on or what position really, you're going to be able to execute your assignment if that person is on the same page.

"It'll be an adjustment because it's going to be new for all of us. But it'll flow, because we're veterans across the board on that line."

Ifedi was a first-round draft pick and is familiar with the Bears center who will be lining up to his left, assuming Cody Whitehair is a center this year and not flip-flopping again with guard James Daniels.

"Me and Cody are the same draft class," Coward said. "He got picked a few picks after me, so I just know I've been able to follow his journey also and see that he's become a veteran guy and a reliable guy.

"I've watched a ton of tape on them. You know these guys are locked in and they're going to do their assignments. So they're going to make it easy for me."

It might be a new team but Ifedi's offseason work remains the same. He works out in Houston with Falcons tackle Jake Matthews, son of Oilers and Titans Hall of Fame lineman Bruce Matthews.

"We've bull-rushed each other so many damn times we're so sick of each other at this point," Ifedi said. "We're going to keep working, and we are fortunate to be able to continue working throughout this whole pandemic scare, continue to do stuff to stay in shape and to keep becoming better football players even without being able to get with your team and do the team stuff.

"There are so many other things you can do to get yourself ready whenever you do get back with your teammates. That’s going to be the best part, when it all pays off and we all get back together."

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