Matt Eberflus has been in football long enough that he knows not to pay attention to predictions, particularly those that suggest the Chicago Bears could be in for a rough year in his first season as head coach.
However, he knows his players likely see them, and so he said it’s important for his young team to focus on their fundamentals as they open the season Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers at Soldier Field.
“In today’s age, everybody looks at everything. It’s part of our life now,” Eberflus said. “You understand, you put that in a bucket. It’s an opinion of somebody’s or it isn’t fact.
“We write our own story. I told the guys that all the time, we’re writing our own book. And then we do it one game at a time. And then you can micro it down to each play. … They go Play 1: alignment, assignment, key, technique, execution, production. Did you get it done? Turn the page. Play No. 2, and that’s the cycle of the snap. That’s what we’ve got to do as a football team and as individuals.”
The Bears bring that approach into a game against an experienced 49ers team that reached the NFC championship game last season.
Their quarterback, however, is not deep on experience.
The game will feature a battle of 2021 first-round quarterbacks Trey Lance, whom the 49ers drafted No. 3, and Justin Fields, whom the Bears picked No. 11.
It will be Lance’s third career start after making two last season. Fields will be making his 11th start after going 2-8 as a starter last year, but it will be his first under Eberflus and new offensive coordinator Luke Getsy.
“I just think he’s ready to go,” Eberflus said. “The coaches have done a great job of preparing him to be ready, and he’s excited. … Excited means that you’re focused, you’re prepared and you’re ready to do it.”
Bears rookie wide receiver/returner Velus Jones Jr. was listed as doubtful to play with a hamstring injury, while rookie defensive end Dominique Robinson was questionable with a knee injury.
The Bears elevated center Dieter Eiselen from the practice squad Saturday, which could indicate he will be the backup if Lucas Patrick is not able to snap because of a cast on his right hand. Sam Mustipher likely will start at center, but Patrick still potentially could play guard. Eberflus was waiting until game day to reveal the starting offensive line configuration.
For the 49ers, tight end George Kittle missed practice all week with a groin injury and was listed as questionable. Guard Daniel Brunskill is out with a hamstring injury.
Q&A with McCaskey and Phillips
Bears Chairman George McCaskey and Ted Phillips sat down Friday with the Tribune and a reporter from the Chicago Sun-Times to address some of the many questions that come with the search for a new team president.
Here are some of their answers on what the Bears are looking for in the next president, how the Arlington project will be handled as Phillips prepares to depart, how Phillips views his tenure and more. Read more here.
Important Soldier Field update
The Bears resodded Soldier Field with Bermuda grass, replacing the old Kentucky bluegrass.
Eberflus said the change was in the works for some time, though it wasn’t implemented until after Soldier Field hosted German metal band Rammstein’s concert last week.
“We feel it’s going to be a nice surface,” Eberflus said. “It’s going to be a fast surface, which I think lends to help us out. … We want a long, fast, athletic football team. So that lends to our advantage.” Read more here.
Justin Fields in Year 2
In the quest to establish Justin Fields as their no-doubt franchise quarterback, the Bears have to set him up for success and keep him in the proper mindset.
There’s more to that than it sounds. For Fields to stay properly calibrated, he must remain in tune with his preparation responsibilities — for himself and the team. He also must have a strong feel for what his new offensive system asks while trusting what each play is designed to accomplish. Read more here.
Miss anything this week? Catch up before kickoff (noon, FOX).
Here’s the latest on the possible stadium move to Arlington Heights.