Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
During training camp last July in Bourbonnais, Bears coach Lovie Smith borrowed a page from the iconic 1985 squad, invoking the “Monsters of the Midway” mentality.
The rest of the pages Smith metaphorically burned.
Don’t expect Smith to unleash any tirades, Jay Cutler to moon anyone and for two dozen players — let alone even a pair — to film a rap video.
“A lot of the fans ask about that. ‘How come you don’t have a Super Bowl Shuffle?’ ” running back Matt Forte said. “We don’t want to do that stuff. What they did worked for them, but what we’re doing is working for us.”
A quarter of a century has passed since the Bears asserted themselves as one of the most memorable teams in NFL history and dazzled a nation with a swagger and style all their own. Yet that team is a stark contrast to the current one.
“It was like a ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest’ type of deal,” said Hall of Fame defensive tackle Dan Hampton, an analyst for Pro Football Weekly’s television show. “Everyone was kind of out there.
“But this team, it’s like they don’t want to say [crap] if they had a mouthful. They don’t want to rock the boat in any way, toeing the Lovie line. But all I know is, you got to tip the cap and say how amazing this year is.”
The 1985 Bears basked in the spotlight; the 2010 Bears shy away from it. The 1985 Bears reveled in being cast the favorite; the 2010 Bears embrace — whether real or imagined — the role of the underdog. In the NFL’s second-largest media market, players on the current roster largely avoid the billboards, commercials, gossip columns and police blotters.
“Those guys are the reason we have millions of fans, so we have to respect them,” Bears center Olin Kreutz said of the 1985 team. “But we have a bunch of guys who aren’t terribly worried about being famous or being on ‘SportsCenter.’ We have a bunch of guys who just want to play ball.
“There’s really a lot of Chicago guys in here. Hard working, put your head down, blue collar, and you would think [fans] would appreciate that.”
Starts at the top
When adding players, many teams place a premium on character. The Bears, though, take on fewer redemption projects than most.
“They do a good job of weeding out ‘I’ guys,” said Bears linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa, who joined the team last season. “We understand team is much bigger than ‘I.’ ”
There is, of course, a trickle down effect.
Coaches and general managers in other markets often have their own television and radio shows. But Bears general manager Jerry Angelo limits his extracurricular activity to a weekly chat with the team’s website while Smith hosts a one-hour insider radio show on WBBM-AM (780).
Why doesn’t Smith have a television show?
“That’s just low-priority stuff right there,” Smith said matter-of-factly.
Smith said he doesn’t tell his players not to dabble in television or other off-the-field ventures.
“We set a tone on what we’re about,” Smith said. “But I don’t tell guys what to say or do — ever.
“It’s just not a part of the DNA around here. Guys want to be noticed for what they’re doing on the football field, and that’s about it.”
Last month, Mike Ditka said he respected Smith’s approach.
“Everybody can’t be the same,” said Ditka, the coach of the 1985 Bears who’s now an analyst for ESPN. “Coach [Tom] Landry was different than [Vince] Lombardi. I don’t think you can be anybody other than who you are.
“That’s what I like about Lovie. He is who he is. He’s not going to rant and rave, he’s not going to go crazy like I did. But he’s got control, and he’s got their respect.”
Yet there’s a clear chain of command at Halas Hall.
Smith’s top locker room lieutenants are Kreutz and linebacker Brian Urlacher, veterans who cast a foreboding presence among teammates.
“When you see guys like Urlacher and Olin, who practice every day, you say, ‘Well, if they’re doing it, then who am I?’ ” Tinoisamoa said.
On Monday, backup tight end Kellen Davis expressed confidence in his team during an interview on WSCR-AM (670).
“I’m just glad to be a part of the history it’s going to be, because we’re gonna win, it’s gonna be a huge game, the crowd’s gonna be crazy and the build up is gonna be nuts and we’re gonna go to the Super Bowl so I’m ecstatic,” he said.
In the locker room, Urlacher poked fun at Davis.
“He said, ‘Guarantee? Better you than me,’ ” Davis recalled.
Davis’ comment qualified as the week’s most inflammatory, one that would hardly raise an eyebrow if said within the locker room of the New York Jets. But the Bears are of the mind that it’s better to build up opponents in the media, then break them down on the field.
Davis attempted to rationalize his comment, explaining the context on Wednesday.
“I didn’t mean it as like a guarantee,” he said. “I was just stating my opinion, that I feel just the way I always feel when we play games. I feel we’re going to win, just like the Packers feel they’re going to win.”
One of the more outspoken players, Davis noted the difference between the locker rooms of the Bears and the Jets, a team playing in the AFC title game that has reveled in controversy and chaos.
“If we were the Jets, I could say whatever I want to,” Davis said. “But, I try to be mindful, especially of my teammates and coaches.”
One veteran said Urlacher could be one of the most marketable players in the NFL. But Urlacher said that’s not appealing to him.
“I just try to lay low,” Urlacher said. “No news is good news. If you’re not seeing me, then that’s a good thing.”
Yet other high-profile players take a similar approach. Bears receiver Devin Hester has endorsements, including with Red Bull, yet he limits his obligations during the season while Cutler avoids them altogether.
“Right now, I’m not producing on the football field the way I want to,” Cutler told the Sun-Times in August. “And until we get to that level, that we’re going out there, and on a very consistent basis and winning football games, and doing it the right way, I’m going to stay away from that.”
Besides, there’s always the offseason, tight end Greg Olsen said.
“There’s a time for all that,” Olsen said. “In the offseason, guys do a lot of different stuff. But, right now, for the time we put in here, guys are really just focused on playing. It’s hard to balance too many things without getting distracted.
“We have a good understanding that, at the end of the day, we’re judged on our performance.”