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At 155 E. Townline Road in Vernon Hills, Ill. is Bears Fit.
Inside the 45,000-square foot fitness center that is partnered with the Chicago Bears are banners of current Bears players on columns throughout the facility. Each column has two players – one on the front and back.
David Montgomery is in the beginning of the gym on the front column with Eddie Jackson on the back just in front of the treadmills, ellipticals and StairMasters.
In the second row, wide receiver Darnell Mooney and linebacker Roquan Smith are just to the right of the calf raise machines. Also in the second row is Jaylon Johnson on his own column near the seated cable row machines. And on the 135-foot long training turf – which features the signature Bears “C” – are two other columns. Only center Cody Whitehair fills one of the four banners.
In total, there are 12 spots, but only six are occupied. On May 3, Bears Fit replaced banners that featured Khalil Mack, Danny Trevathan, Allen Robinson, Tarik Cohen and Akiem Hicks with a banner that says, “Train Like A Bear.”
Those “Train Like A Bear” banners are simply placeholders and will eventually need to be filled.
Here are the six players that not only should occupy the vacant spots but also be considered as the next “faces” of this current Bears franchise.
(Rookies were excluded from this exercise because Bears Fit has not placed any first-year players on the columns since opening in April 2019.)
You may be wondering why Fields wasn’t featured on one of the columns in the first place. Well, since I’ve been going to Bears Fit, which officially opened in April 2019, there haven’t been any rookies.
This past season, Bears Fit didn’t have a quarterback as one of the banners.
But that should change now that Fields is the starting quarterback and leader of the team. Coach Matt Eberflus expects Fields to take a big leap in Year 2, and a lot is being placed on first-year offensive coordinator Luke Getsy to help the young quarterback to meet those expectations.
If it were me, Fields’ banner would be placed in the front, next to Montgomery.
Depending on who you talk to, there will most likely be a different opinion on Kmet. The No. 43 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft hasn’t exactly produced eye-popping numbers in his first two seasons in the NFL: 88 receptions, 855 yards and two touchdowns.
But, remember, Kmet came out of Notre Dame and entered the league during the pandemic, which prohibited organized activities from taking place until training camp. Also, he played in Matt Nagy’s offense, and we all know how that goes.
Kmet did show progress in Year 2, but he can prove he is a building block for this new Bears regime if he continues on that upward trend and starts becoming a reliable red-zone threat.
Obviously Ryan Poles didn’t draft Jenkins, but he is still a fundamental piece and a part of the future plans for this Bears offensive line.
He only played in six games last season and started in two of them at left tackle due to back problems that required surgery in training camp. But it looks like the former No. 39 overall pick in the 2020 draft is healthy and will be going back to right tackle, which is where he primarily played at Oklahoma State.
Year 2 will provide a far better evaluation of the player Jenkins is capable of being.
With Khalil Mack no longer on the team, this is Gipson’s opportunity to showcase he can be a consistent and reliable defensive end. He ended his second season with 39 total tackles, seven sacks and five forced fumbles.
Gipson did do that as a 3-4 outside linebacker and will now be asked to be a 4-3 defensive end in defensive coordinator Alan Williams’ defense. But the former fifth-round pick did play in that type of defense while he was at Tulsa.
At just 24 years old and being an ascending player, Gipson definitely deserves to occupy a space on one of the columns at Bears Fit.
Initially, Quinn didn’t make the list of players who should have their banner at Bears Fit. He will be 32 years old on May 18 and is a signing from the previous regime, which in my mind made him a goner after the 2022 season.
And even though that could still very well happen, Quinn still deserves his respect. Not only was he named the veteran Brian Piccolo Award winner but he also set the franchise record in sacks for a single season with 18.5.
Quinn may be on the last part of his career, but he is only on Year 3 of his five-year, $70 million contract.
It probably isn’t the best investment for Bears Fit to purchase a Quinn banner; however, he is deserving — even if the facility would need to find a replacement the following season.
Four years ago, the Bears’ kicking situation was an absolute mess. Everyone knows how the 2018 season ended. Now, though, with Santos, the organization has a player it can rely on — something that has been missing in Chicago since Robbie Gould last suited up for the Bears.
Last season, the nine-year veteran made 26 of his 30 field goal attempts — good for a 86.7 percent success rate. In his first year with the Bears in 2020, Santos made 30 of his 32 field goals and set a franchise record for his 27 consecutive field goals made in a single season.
Let’s say Bears Fit began using rookies on the columns.
Here are the two players that easily could be represented.
As mentioned before, Bears Fit hasn’t put rookies up in its facility. It makes sense, especially since players should need to prove themselves before being anointed to a high pedigree, but the Bears don’t exactly have much star power.
And Gordon is no doubt one of the key building blocks of this Bears defense and should be one of the banners at Bears Fit.
With Gordon being Poles’ first pick as the Bears’ general manager, he should be viewed as a player that can make an immediate impact. Poles did mention that Gordon would have to compete to get the starting job, but only Kindle Vildor stands in the way. Given the No. 39 overall pick’s familiarity in a cover-2 scheme plus his athleticism and instincts, Gordon should win the job in training camp.
Much like Gordon, Brisker is another foundational piece for the Bears and deserves to take one of those vacant spots at Bears Fit.
Outside of DeAndre Houston-Carson, there isn’t much competition at the safety position opposite of Eddie Jackson.
When many Bears fans thought Poles would add to the offense with the 48th overall pick, the first-year general manager continued to address the secondary by selecting Brisker. The former Penn State Nittany Lion brings physicality and versatility to the defense, which has been missing at that second safety position for some time now.
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