Weather Updates

DITKA: Da Coach puts hard feelings behind, reflects on return to Halas Hall

Updated: September 22, 2013 6:38AM

It’s time to dispel the notion that I’m not a Bears fan.

Yeah, I was fired by the Bears, but that’s life. There has never been a time I was not a Bears fan. I have a right to be a Bears fan as much as anybody. I played on a championship team and I coached a championship team.

George McCaskey called me a month ago and asked if we could have dinner with him and Marc Trestman. We had dinner and talked for a couple of hours. They’re just good people. So we talked, and finally he said, ‘‘Would you consider coming up?’’ I said, ‘‘Absolutely.’’

I’m glad I did it. I really am.

I had been back to Halas Hall one other time. It’s so much different now. It’s so much bigger. Their weight room might be as big as our whole offices were when I coached. It’s really an impressive setup. Those guys have every tool, if they’re willing to use them, to make themselves better.

You have to understand where you’re at in life now. That was my life a long time ago as a player and a coach. But it’s no longer my life; this is their life. This is Marc’s life, the players’ [lives], the organization’s life. They’re taking a new route. They have new people running it in George McCaskey. They have a new head coach. I think it’s a new feeling, and they’re excited up there.

The message I delivered to the team: Football starts in the mind. You have to believe you can. And if you believe you can, then you have a chance. Here’s where we’re at. Here’s where we’re going to go. Now, how are we going to get there? You have to have a set of rules that will help you achieve your goals.
The other thing I told them is to respect the game. If you respect the players of the game, respect the coaches, it will respect you.

I told them that they have the best opportunity in the world. They’re playing in the greatest city for the greatest organization that was founded by Mr. Halas. I signed two contracts with Mr. Halas, one as a player in 1961 and one as a coach in 1982, and it was the two greatest contracts I’ll ever sign in my life.

So I told them the sky is the limit. They can go as far as they want to go. But you have to understand there are things you have to do to get there. You have to set goals, reach goals, then set new goals. Don’t be satisfied.

I talked to Jay Cutler and briefly said hello to a couple of guys. They have a lot of things on their mind. The last thing you want is to have someone start talking to you right after you’re done practicing. You’re tired, you want to get out of there, you want to get off the field, go take a shower and have lunch. I understood all that. It was fine. I don’t think it could have worked any better. I didn’t know I was going to be there for the whole practice. I got there early and spent some time with Phil Emery. Then I went down and talked to Marc, and we went out on the field. It was nice. I enjoyed it.

One thing you never want to do is live in the past. You live in the present. You deal with the present and you look to the future. In that sense, if you’re talking about healing wounds, I was never wounded. I don’t know where that misconception came from. But I can honestly say I enjoyed it. I didn’t tell them anything that wasn’t true.

I’m a Bears fan, and I’ll pull for them. I hope they win a championship. It’s time!

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.