Matt Eberflus feels confident, focused ahead of 1st game as Chicago Bears head coach

Eberflus continues to lean on mentor Gary Pinkel for support

New Chicago Bears head coach Matt Eberflus celebrates as the clock winds down in his first preseason win as Bears head coach Sunday, Aug. 13, 2022, at Soldier Field in Chicago. The Bears beat the Kansas City Chiefs 19-14.

LAKE FOREST – Matt Eberflus has continued to lean on his mentors.

Ahead of his first game as an NFL head coach, Eberflus said he has stayed in close contact with former Missouri coach Gary Pinkel. He also spoke with Alabama coach Nick Saban, who was briefly Eberflus’ coach at Toledo in 1990, just a couple weeks ago.

“I always talk to those guys,” said Eberflus, whose Bears will face the 49ers on Sunday. “At least a couple times a year, just to get their feedback, and I do that with all my mentors. I think it’s important to get information from guys who have been there and done that. It’s always useful to have their experiences to help me along the way.”

Eberflus has leaned heavily on Pinkel’s advice for much of his career. Pinkel took over for Saban as Toledo coach in 1991, coached Eberflus and later hired him onto his staff. When Pinkel moved to Missouri in 2001, he brought Eberflus with him as his defensive coordinator.

Eberflus has been calm, cool and collected pretty much from the day he was hired to coach the Bears. Nobody is expecting any Sunday morning butterflies in the 52-year-old coach’s stomach. He has coached numerous NFL games since becoming an assistant in the league in 2009.

In some ways, Sunday feels more like the culmination of eight months of hard work, not the beginning of the marathon that is the NFL season.

“It’s a lot like the players – I feel confident,” Eberflus said. “I feel ready and I feel focused on the job at hand. I think that’s where we are. We’ve prepared a long time to do this and we’re all in that ready, that state of readiness. We’re all excited about it.”

The new run game: Bears running backs coach David Walker has no doubt in his mind that running back David Montgomery is the perfect fit for this offense. Under coordinator Luke Getsy, the Bears have implemented a wide-zone run blocking scheme, similar to what their Week 1 opponent runs in San Francisco. It comes from the same tree as 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan and his father, Mike Shanahan.

Walker expects to see offensive linemen getting into the second level and “creating a new line of scrimmage.”

Montgomery is coming off two really good seasons. He was top five in total yards among running backs in 2020, then had a solid season last year in only 13 games.

“I’ve seen it all since we got together in April,” Walker said. “You guys got to see it in the final preseason game, but we’ve been seeing it all training camp. He’s a very talented guy. He runs with a purpose. He’s got great vision and balance. When it’s time to go finish a run, he’s going to go finish runs.”

Injury report: Rookie wide receiver Velus Jones Jr. is listed as doubtful for Sunday’s season opener against the San Francisco 49ers.

Jones sat out practice for the third consecutive day Friday at Halas Hall. He has been dealing with a nagging hamstring injury. The injury kept him in and out of the lineup throughout much of the preseason.

“He’s working through that,” Eberflus said. “We’re close. We’re getting close with it. I think it’s going to be good here soon.”

Rookie defensive end Dominique Robinson has been dealing with a knee injury in practice this week. He was a full participant on Friday after previously being listed as limited this week. Robinson is officially listed as questionable ahead of Sunday’s game.

Transactions: The Bears released defensive lineman Mike Pennel and practice squad defensive lineman Sam Kamara on Friday. Pennel’s release leaves an open spot on the 53-man roster.

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for the Shaw Local News Network. He has covered the Bears since 2020. Prior to writing about the Bears, he covered high school sports for the Northwest Herald and contributed to Friday Night Drive. Sean joined Shaw Media in 2016.