The renovations are almost wrapped up, and the spectacularly technological decor is nearly touch-ready. Halas Hall isn't gleaming quite yet, but the Bears' headquarters are starting to sparkle.
A tweak here. A place, step-back, assess and shift there. The pride for the soon-to-be finished product is palpable.
But surveying the face-lifted scene, you can't help but notice something else in the air. An addition, left off the blueprints, but critical to the total transformation.
It's the old L-word — the ingredient that makes a house a home and four walls welcoming. This season, Halas Hall is hemorrhaging with it. There are more warm fuzzies jamming up that place than Jenga-ed Nike shoe boxes.
Admittedly, 2-0 is partially responsible. The Bears are winning, and that makes it easy to smile and compliment the guy standing next to you.
But it feels like more than that. Cool. Genius. Brilliant. These comments seem purposeful. Perhaps a bullet point, hammered home. Frequently. Wisely.
In any competitive realm, even in a team environment, divisiveness is more natural than unity. Therefore, relationships for the greater good must be cultivated and nurtured. Respect undoubtedly exists between teammates, but it's still strange to hear such repeated, effusive praise. Unusual for athletes, who've been trained to crave and clutch the spotlight, to go out of their way to highlight someone else.
Near the end of the preseason, Marc Trestman gave each of his players a card with bullet points on how to be a pro. Showing up on time and being accountable were just a few of the concepts. It seems a point has also been made to deflect attention from oneself and compliment teammates when prodded.
Trestman is working hard to create an environment of success. He boasts a long resume of coaching experience, so he knows that isn't exclusively X's and O's. It's why he has the players dine with guys they don't know as well and mixed up the spaces in the locker room. Force these men out of their comfort zones, encourage compliment sandwiches without the critical meat. Leave all the breadcrumbs guiding his guys to compassion. If their words show they care about each other as people — not just as blockers or route runners or pass defenders — they're more willing to sacrifice for each other.
It's an agenda, yes, and a process, certainly. But the early evidence indicates it's working. And if you think a reworked Halas Hall can put a smile on people's faces, just imagine the lovefest this fan base could be set to experience if all these seemingly simple compliments play a role in winning championships.