For most of the Bears players on the roster, the team’s H.I.T.S philosophy will take time getting used to.
Coach Matt Eberflus has made that clear and so has defensive coordinator Alan Williams — coaches who ingrained the “hustle, intensity, takeaways and (playing) smart” culture while they were in Indianapolis.
“What we’re going to ask them to do is going to, it’s not difficult but it’s extremely hard,” Williams said during his February introductory press conference. “We’re going to ask guys to give us 100 percent when they get on the field, 100 percent hustle. We’re going to ask guys to be intense. We’re going to ask them to do some things that they might not be used to doing.”
One player who knows all about the physical and mental demands of a similar philosophy is newly signed linebacker Nicholas Morrow. Even though he never played under Eberflus, Morrow did spend two seasons with Eberflus’ mentor, Rod Marinelli, while he was in Las Vegas.
Eberflus and Martinelli crossed paths in 2013 when they were both defensive coaches for the Cowboys and stayed there until 2017 — which was Ebeflus’ last year before joining the Colts. As a byproduct of the two being on that Dallas staff, the two have similar defensive preferences.
When I asked Morrow in his introductory press conference what it was like working with Marinelli, he immediately cracked a smile.
“I love Coach Marinelli,” Morrow said. “He is one of the hidden gems of the NFL. I can’t wait to see him again. I think the biggest thing about Coach Marinelli is his (ability to) bring it to a man’s attention. He is always talking about that.”
He starts every meeting, ‘Eyes up man.’ That’s just one of his things … The cycle of the snap, he says it’s not for football it’s a lifestyle … The biggest thing he brought to our defense was just that mentality of play your play, play as best as you can and then one more play. No matter how tired you are, play one more play. It’s that motor that he constantly puts and continues to installs. Those are important.”
During the 2020 season, when Marinelli was the interim defensive coordinator with the Raiders, Morrow began to ascend as an inside linebacker. He finished with career highs in tackles (77), sacks (3), passes defensed (9) and fumble recoveries (1).
Morrow embraced Marinelli’s coaching philosophy and had his best year in the NFL. But he didn’t get the opportunity to build off that 2020 campaign due to a high ankle sprain he sustained in training camp the following year — which forced him to miss the entire season.
“It was hard. I think the most frustrating thing is, I was there for five years and we made the playoffs, and I wasn’t able to be a part of it,” Morrow said. “Just being in the locker room, being around those guys and being in the linebacker room that was fun, but it was obviously hard to watch and not be able to contribute.”
The undrafted free agent out of Division III Greenville University now gets an opportunity to contribute for a Bears team that is looking for linebackers to start alongside star Roquan Smith.
As of now, Morrow doesn’t know whether he will play the Mike or Will linebacker or if he will even be a starter. But there is one thing Morrow is certain of.
“I expect to come in here and compete,” Morrow said. “I have no expectations as far as what role or whatever it is. I’m here to compete. Whatever happens, happens.”