Bears staff, players have kept distractions to minimum
BY MARK POTASH Staff Reporter September 28, 2013 1:36AM
Rookie guard Kyle Long begged off answering questions about his matchup against Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. | AP
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Updated: September 29, 2013 1:28PM
Asked if he had warned rookie guard Kyle Long about Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh this week, Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer was almost defiant.
‘‘We don’t go by reputation; we go by tape,’’ Kromer said.
So does the tape show the reputation is inaccurate?
‘‘Suh is a very physical, athletic, talented defensive tackle,’’ Kromer said, adding no further comment.
There was scant comment about Suh’s reputation as a cheap-shot artist last week at Halas Hall. Even the usually accessible Long begged off answering questions about his matchup against Suh. Tight end Martellus Bennett addressed it, but he doesn’t count because he talks about everything.
The best thing the Bears have going for them heading into their game Sunday against the Lions at Ford Field is that they won’t be distracted. In 2011 at Ford Field, the Bears committed 14 penalties — including nine false starts — in a 24-13 loss. That season at Soldier Field, the teams engaged in a melee after Matthew Stafford threw D.J. Moore to the ground on an interception return.
In fact, since Jim Schwartz became the Lions’ coach in 2009, the Bears-Lions matchups have featured 32 major penalties in eight games — from unnecessary roughness (Bears 7, Lions 3) to roughing the passer (Lions 4, Bears 1) to personal foul/unsportsmanlike conduct (Bears 3, Lions 1) to horse collars (Lions 2, Bears 1) to various illegal blocks (Bears 3, Lions 3).
One feature of the Bears’ 3-0 start has been the noticeable uptick in focus and discipline that has kept them out of deep holes and allowed them to be productive at the most critical junctures of games — the beginning and the end. The Bears have been penalized 11 times in three games, with no false starts. After three games last season, they had been penalized 21 times.
That level of discipline under first-year coach Marc Trestman will be tested against the Lions at Ford Field. But the Bears already passed the first test by keeping the Suh story in the background.
‘‘I don’t tell our players what to say or how to say it,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘The only thing I ask them to do is to be mindful of the fact that their locker room is just like ours, their players are just like ours and they’re working just as hard, just like their coaches are. We talk about respecting our opponents.’’
The level of focus Trestman has instilled is a breath of fresh air for Bears guard Matt Slauson, who spent the last four seasons with the Jets.
‘‘What is great about this staff that is so much different is that they don’t put the focus on the opponent — ever,’’ Slauson said. ‘‘We haven’t talked about Suh very much. We haven’t talked about [Nick] Fairley very much. It’s touched on . . . but then It’s about what we have to do — our own battles, mentally, with schemes and staying disciplined and staying smart.’’
Slauson said distractions were impossible to avoid with the Jets ‘‘because the press there, no matter what, they’re out to get you.’’ But he also blamed the Jets’ organization for fanning the flames at times instead of extinguishing them.
‘‘When we brought in Tim Tebow, there were rumors that he was going to start and they were going to bench Mark [Sanchez],’’ Slauson said. ‘‘As a team, we knew that wasn’t going to happen. But the organization never did anything to say, ‘No, that isn’t true.’ They almost played into because it kept media interest on us. That was their way of doing it. It was terrible. I hated it.’’
With the Bears, he is focused like never before.
‘‘This is great,’’ Slauson said. ‘‘It’s just [about] what we need to do. Don’t let the focus get away from us as a team because that’s all that really matters.’’