Bears players are immersed in franchise history from the moment they first enter the Halas Hall lobby, with retired numbers and Hall of Fame players part of the first impression they get of being a Chicago Bear.
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On Tuesday that history came to them as Mike Ditka watched practice from upstairs at Halas Hall and then addressed the team after practice.
Coach Marc Trestman reached out to the Hall of Fame tight end and coach not long after getting the job that Ditka held from 1982-92.
“I thought that was a great place to start, somebody who knew as much about the Bears and the tradition of the Bears as he does,” Trestman said. “And it turned out to be dinner with our wives and I called him last week with the idea that we left it, was to bring him to come by and see Halas Hall and the new facility and spend some time with our players and say hello to them.”
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Ditka, whose personality bombast is perhaps as far from Trestman’s style as can be, nevertheless sounded a theme that Trestman has gone to great lengths to instill.
“It’s about the relationships that you have with your teammates, it’s about the camaraderie, it’s about the locker room,” Trestman said. “The money is the least significant portion of it. I think that’s pretty universal in the game of football when you’ve been around it a long.”
No current Bears players were yet born when Ditka was defining the position of tight end in the NFL but the impact of the Ditka teams still resonates.
“I think he echoed a lot of the same things that Marc says every day,” said quarterback Jay Cutler. “There is a common thread between guys that have been there and done it and won championships and know what it is all about – enjoying the game, respecting your teammates, taking advantage of each and every day. That is what Marc tells us. That is what a lot of the great ones tell us. That is what Coach Ditka said as well.”
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As for the current leader at Ditka’s old position:
“We all know the story behind coach Ditka and the things that he brought to this team and the Bears organization,” said tight end Martellus Bennett. “Even when he was just giving his little speech today, you could hear his passion.
“He talked about commitment to teammates and it comes down to the players, not just to the coaches.”