Trestman wants to build Bears around trust, respect and humility
BY RICK MORRISSEY Sports Columnist August 6, 2014 8:29PM
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Updated: August 7, 2014 3:21PM
BOURBONNAIS — It was as though coach Marc Trestman was hoping for the question Wednesday. Not just expecting it in light of the suspension of tight end Martellus Bennett, but yearning for it:
What kind of culture are you trying to instill at Bears training camp?
And away he went.
‘‘The overriding philosophy is to get to know each other, to develop levels of trust between each other — coaches and players, players and coaches — and define our behavior through respect and humility,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘That we’re going to respect everybody around us. We’re going to treat them in high regard, and we’re going to understand what humility means, which is that we’re a part of something bigger than ourselves.
‘‘It’s really that simple. If you understand the definition of those three terms and you love football and want to play it and are a baller, we’ll find a place for you. We’re also in a position where we don’t expect everybody to understand that immediately. That’s a process; that’s a transformational process. It doesn’t take one week. It doesn’t take one month. It may not take a year. It may take more.
‘‘But that’s the day-to-day message that we’re sending . . . to our players — that if we do that, we’re going to [have] a better chance to win football games. You can have one without the other, but it helps to win football games with that kind of environment. It’s not perfect. It never will be, but it doesn’t take an entire stadium to make a Wave, either.’’
Given how long that quote is, you might think that Trestman has hijacked my column. I think he just explained the heart of the trouble with Bennett, without getting into specifics. Bennett apparently has been showing only trace amounts of trust, respect and humility lately.
When Trestman talked about some players being further along than others in grasping his philosophy, he clearly had Bennett in mind. When the Prodigal Son returns to the team, he still might have some issues, Trestman was saying. But as long as Bennett is willing to work on those issues, Trestman is willing to work with him.
Now, we can debate whether a training-camp fight and some defiant statements afterward were cause for an indefinite suspension and a fine. If those were the only reasons for Bennett’s banishment, along with — gasp! — walking rather than jogging to the huddle, then I don’t see it as an assault on the American way of life. But the bigger point here is that there is no debating this is Trestman’s team. And that, unfortunately, he likes the Wave.
There’s an inherent contradiction in Trestman’s quest for a culture of respect amid large men competing hard for jobs. Love your neighbor, who is trying to take away your livelihood? Kind of hard to do sometimes. On Monday, when rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller tried to rip the ball from Bennett and, in the process, whipped Bennett hard to the ground, there was a good chance that the thought bubble above Bennett’s head was not going to read, ‘‘Kyle’s a swell guy just trying to do his job!’’ No, Bennett popped up and violently threw Fuller to the ground.
The rest of the talk from Bears coaches and players about everybody loving everybody else like a family? Sure, if you say so. But when the ‘‘father’’ can cut some of his ‘‘sons’’ from the ‘‘family,’’ then it’s not much of a family. It’s a football team filled with men prone to anger.
We don’t know what led to Bennett’s suspension. That can’t be overstated. But going forward, it will be interesting to see how Trestman approaches more difficult disciplinary matters with other players. If petulant behavior in training camp is worth a suspension of, presumably, one preseason game, what’s a locker-room fight with a teammate worth during the regular season? Or inflammatory quotes going into an important game? Or a drinking problem?
But this is training camp, where the foundation for the season is being laid. Show up as a fan in Bourbonnais, and you’ll see coaches teaching players extremely loudly. You’ll see some players who love what they’re doing and others who rather would be anywhere else. You’ll see the occasional scuffle.
And you’ll see a head coach very involved with his team. Does he read too many books about being an effective leader? Quite possibly. But, if I have this right, it’s a transformational process.