LAKE FOREST – “Come all without, come all within, you’ll not see nothing like the Mighty Quinn.”
When Bob Dylan wrote and recorded the song in 1967 and other rock legends including the Hollies, Grateful Dead, Leon Russell and Phish all recorded their own versions, it’s certain none had Bears outside linebacker Robert Quinn in mind.
All but the Phish version came before the Bears’ Quinn was born.
But when the team signed the 31-year-old, 10-year veteran to a $70 million free agent deal last season, including $30 million guaranteed, the “mighty Quinn” is certainly what everybody expected.
But it isn’t what they got, as Quinn admitted Wednesday after the first practice of Bears training camp.
“I’ll be honest: Just a terrible year for me, personally,” Quinn said. “No excuses, you can’t change it. So I’ll leave that where it’s at and move on to 2021.”
Quinn’s NFL All-Pro history, including 82 ½ career sacks, 151 QB hits, 90 tackles for loss and 28 forced fumbles, buy him more than the benefit of the doubt. Many agree his return to form could be the single most important ingredient for a successful first year under new defensive coordinator Sean Desai.
So imagine the concern when coach Matt Nagy said in prelude to the first practice of training camp Wednesday, “Limited today will be Robert Quinn with a back – he’s going to be out there, we’re just bringing him along slow.”
It wouldn’t have been all that concerning, but brows furrowed everywhere when Nagy was asked if it is connected to the nagging back issues Quinn had last season.
“It is, it’s the same” Nagy said before adding a positive spin. “Right now, with his health, and the back that he has, we feel good that he is going to get through this training camp and be pretty healthy and strong.”
Quinn insists he’s not concerned.
“I guess they’re just making sure I’m as healthy as possible come whenever our first game is, and that’s an important thing,” Quinn said. “I’m, I guess, an older guy around here, so they’re taking care of the older guys. I figure that’s what they’re doing. It is what it is.”
Let’s hope that’s all it is because the reappearance of the Quinn who notched 11 ½ sacks in Dallas in 2019 would make every other player on the defense better.
Quinn said he has a plan to reclaim his lost mojo.
“I’m gonna look forward to this year and come in with a better, positive mindset, a little more energetic, happy mindset, and try to give the Bears and my teammates and everyone the best version of myself as a person and player, and hopefully they get what they’re looking for,” he said.
Quinn was on the practice field and participated in some drills Wednesday, and he scoffed at the idea he might be under any unusual pressure because of last season’s disappointment.
“You know what they say about pressure: Pressure bursts pipes but makes diamonds. I don’t have any diamonds on now, but I can still show you some I’ve been blessed with,” Quinn said.
“No, I mean it’s really no pressure. This is my 11th year. I mean what pressure? I guess the only pressure I put on myself is my self standard.”
Nagy likes what he sees from Quinn.
“He’s really more excited than anything, and he’s been in a great mood and great state of mind to really get going this season,” he said.
Maybe Quinn’s health isn’t a huge concern, but we know this, 11-year vets with All-Pro credentials don’t make the team in training camp, so we aren’t going to know which Quinn the Bears have until we get to the regular season.
But it sure would give everyone a lot more peace of mind if he can just stay on the practice field for now.
• Hub Arkush is a Shaw Media correspondent.