Matt Eberflus makes bear exercises ‘the hardest thing you’ve ever done’

Matt Eberflus speaks with attorney specificity, each word chosen to provide no more than the minimum amount of information needed in a press conference. So when the Bears head coach brought up Friday’s grueling practice at the end of the Saturday session, it was no coincidence.

“[Players] talked about, ‘The practice was long’ and all that,’ he said. “I didn’t see it that way.”

The message: You haven’t seen anything yet.

Eberflus’ coaching ethos is based on busyness and intensity, and his practices reflect that.

“If you want to be a good football team, you have to have mental and physical stamina,” said Eberflus. “And to build up that callus, to build that stamina, you have to endure hard — and you can’t do it by going soft.”

Tight end Cole Kmet regarded Friday as “the hardest workout I’ve ever been a part of.” Recipient Darnell Mooney was then laid out in the Bears locker room, dousing in all the liquids and air conditioning he could find.

Saturday’s practice was warmer — “It’s so humid here; you walk out and you just want it to rain,” said linebacker Nicholas Morrow — but no less intense.

“The intensity that goes from period to period, having to run to the ball and like the way we go about things,” Morrow said. “It’s a lot harder than what I’ve usually done.”

It’s designed.

“That’s exactly what our practices do,” Eberflus said. “So the pace we practice, how we execute quickly and what we ask in the standards we ask our players to do, that builds that mental and physical stamina.”

Eberflus’ practices are physical — so much so that the Bears were fined for an organized team activity drill for crossing the line to make contact. The laundry list of excited players who completed training on Saturday shows that Eberflus is going through such intense sessions.

At training camp this year, the Bears are less still in training than they were under head coach Matt Nagy. This week they focused on moving the ball without pre-scripting the attack. Every game required mental focus from both sides of the ball – they had to make sure they switched at the right time and lined up in the same place before the ball was snapped.

“The past two days have been tough,” said Khalil Herbert, walking back. “But we needed them.”

There’s reason to believe that the increase in exercise intensity is more than your typical training camp story. Eberflus is trying to create a culture – he said he plans to be like this every year – and for his coaches to teach.

Mooney hinted that this was not always the case last season. This season, Bears receivers practice where to go as Fields scrambles, making sure to break out at different levels of defense. Last year, Mooney said, the Bears’ coaches talked about what to do, but rarely put it into action on the Halas Hall backfields.

“We had the system, but we never worked on it,” he said. “You have to work on things, even if it’s like a scrambling exercise. “We’re just scrambling—everybody’s running around.” You have to work on that every now and then.”

You can’t say that Eberflus didn’t warn his players when he taught them his HITS system, which focuses on crowds, intensity, takeaway, and smarts — then rates each practice snap accordingly. Coaches track “loaves,” or moments when their players weren’t concerned.

“He said, ‘It’s going to be the hardest thing you’ve ever done,'” Morrow said. “And he’s not kidding. …

“He keeps his promise, that’s for one. And then two, he wants to make it so hard that it’s not that hard when you get to the game. Or maybe you’ve had that intensity before, and then you can adapt to it.”

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