It's rare that a team receives an inspirational speech from a kicker, but that's what union rep Robbie Gould delivered at Halas Hall on Tuesday. Although it was was delivered to the media and not to his teammates, Gould has been communicating with his fellow-Bears on a regular basis this offseason and struck a note that is sure to be repeated when training camp opens in Bourbonnais on Friday.
It's Super Bowl or bust for the Bears in 2011.
"The Chicago Bears wouldn't have re-signed [coach] Lovie Smith to that deal during a lockout if they didn't feel he had the leadership to lead us through an opportunity to win the Super Bowl after a shortened offseason. If you look at the guys we have in our locker room, it's a very veteran-oriented group of guys who have been here, have been around.
"Our leadership is great in our locker room. We're going to be ready to play football. We're going to be ready to make a run in the Super Bowl. We didn't have OTAs. You have to be a professional. All of our guys are professionals. You don't come into this organization unless you're a professional. And if you aren't a professional, guess what, you'll find your way out the door, and I think history speaks for itself.
"We're going to be ready to play football. We're going to be ready to make a run. There's no excuses."
Defensive end Israel Idonije reiterated Gould's belief that the Bears' leadership and professionalism will allow them to easier overcome missing minicamps and organized team activities than other teams.
The fact that they have continuity on the coaching staff, at quarterback and almost all of their key players should return is another plus.
"I don't think we'll be hurt, mainly because we have a core group of guys back, and the kind of guys who have been through this system, played in this system," Idonije said. "This system brings stability to it. This guy knows his job and this guy knows his job. And for the guys who have been added, because everybody else knows what they're doing, the coaches can pay a little more extra attention on bringing those guys up to speed.
"We'll be in great shape. We won't go through a lot of that learning curve, and our path to getting back will be easier than a lot of the other clubs that are kind of rebuilding."
Another critical element will be coaches and training staffs quickly evaluating the physical condition players are in and planning training camp practices accordingly to avoid injuries. Smith has been criticized for not having intense enough training camps in the past, but letting players ease into workouts is likely the wisest choice this season.
"You do the guys a disservice when you say they're just going to fall apart when they start playing," Idonije said. "These guys take this seriously. Despite everything that's been going on, everybody's been working out because guys take their jobs seriously. A part of the fine line is having the coaches in place to really understand their core guys, understand how you pull back in practice a little bit, when it's time to intensify things. As far as that goes, we have a master of that. Coach Smith will do a good job of managing the guys, making sure we're all moving along and managing those practices. So we'll be fine."
Bears chairman George McCaskey said with the lockout over, the focus should be on football.
"The talk should be about what it takes to get back to the Super Bowl, and to win the Super Bowl, instead of all this back business; the business side," he said. "That's what we've been working on, even in the absence of the players, being prepared for the resumption of operations, and getting back to the Super Bowl and winning it. That's what it's about."