Bears players cleaned their lockers out Monday morning, closing up shop at Halas Hall after finishing the 2017 season at 5-11. Head coach John Fox was officially fired Monday and delivered an emotional address to his players after the move was finalized. That left the Bears to reflect on a wide array of topics on the first day of the new year, reacting to Fox’s exit, the disappointment of the season and the optimism for what’s ahead. Here are some of the highlights from the select players who spoke Monday.
Outside linebacker Leonard Floyd
On the news of Fox’s firing:
"Everybody was sad. Coach Fox is a great man. I love him to death. He gave me the opportunity to come play here by drafting me. I wish nothing but the best for him."
On missing the final six games with a knee injury:
"It was tough, but it was also a humbling experience, getting time to really sit down and study myself and study what I was doing when I was playing. It was a good experience. … I just watched plays that I made, giving myself a good feeling because I wasn’t playing. Then (it was) watching the guys on TV. I was always told to stick as close to football as I could."
Cornerback Prince Amukamara
On his reaction to Fox’s firing:
"I like to tell everybody that we’re not robots as players. We don’t just go into our closet and go to sleep at night. We read. We know what’s on our Twitter feed. So we’ve all seen rumors swirling around and you kind of always had a feeling that it would happen. But you never know for sure until it happened, and it happened today."
On what kind of coach would resonate with this team:
"I think this locker room could be receptive to any type of coach. I have been with a player’s coach and then I’ve been with (Tom) Coughlin. I don’t really know how to coin Coughlin. But both types of coaches were great for the teams that they had. And I feel like Coach Fox was a little bit in between. I think this team already demonstrates toughness and we love each other in this locker room. So I think any form – a player’s coach or a hard-nosed coach – this team could deal with that."
On his lasting impression of quarterback Mitch Trubisky this season:
"I’d say he’s definitely a leader. As soon as he took the starting quarterback spot it seemed like he was just a starting quarterback. But then as the weeks started to progress, he became a leader. … Next year I would hope the (captain’s) “C” is on his chest. Because he’s definitely a captain of his team and a leader. It’s how he’s very vocal. And how he takes charge of the huddle. I see a little bit of (Tom) Brady in him, just from the fact of how passionate he is when he makes plays. And he’s probably a little bit more animated than Brady. But I say he’s like Brady because he’s very passionate in his actions after he makes a play."
Linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski
On Fox’s message Monday morning:
"He just expressed his appreciation and showed genuine care for us and wished us luck. … It’s tough, man. It’s a rough situation. At the end of the day, this is all business. And this is a business decision I guess. As players we don’t have control over things of that nature. So you have to move on. It’s rough though. It’s rough on the team. It’s rough on him. But we have to trust that they’re going to continue to do what’s best for the team."
On the future of the defense with so many building blocks returning:
"As a defense, I feel very, very good about us as a group. On the field, off the field, we’re a close group. We enjoy being around each other. I think that goes a long way. Preparation and building chemistry and things of that nature. We have a strong group overall. And big things, I feel, are going to come to us in the near future. We work together very well. Guys enjoy being around each other."
Receiver Cameron Meredith
On establishing rapport this coming year with Trubisky:
"I was just talking to him actually. We’re going to try and get together as much as we can in the offseason. Try and make up for the lost time. I’m excited to just to get in rhythm with him. He’s got a whole year under his belt. He’s not a rookie anymore. I know he knows what he can do and we’re excited about that part, too. He showed the world a lot. He can run that ball, he can throw it. He’s poised in the pocket. He has a lot of good tools for the first year of being a quarterback. The sky’s the limit for him."