It’s Packers week, and the Bears know it. Much has been made of the opportunity for the team to make a statement that they’re ready to take control of the rivalry again, now that Aaron Rodgers is in New York, and the team hasn’t shied away from the rhetoric.
“I would say whoever was playing quarterback there, that was going to be the mindset,” said GM Ryan Poles.
There’s a bit of a balancing act players need to do leading up to Sunday. Week 1 is just one week in a long season. Just last season, the Bears upset the 49ers in crazy monsoon conditions in Week 1, only to go 2-14 the rest of the year. At the same time, it’s a real measuring stick to see if they’ve gained any ground against the Pack, who have dominated the rivalry over the last decade. The Bears haven’t beaten the Packers since Week 15 in 2018. They’ve gone 3-17 against the Green and Gold over the last 10 seasons.
“I haven’t beaten them yet, which is not good,” said Cole Kmet. “Definitely want to amend that. I’m looking forward to this week. I’ve had it circled since the end of last year. These games, these divisional games are big but this one in particular, anytime you get to play Green Bay it’s a big deal. Big rivalry and stuff, so looking forward to it.”
Players also realize this is more than a game for the organization, and for the fans. It’s about civic pride and bragging rights. It’s football tribalism at its core.
“That’s always in the back of our minds,” said Cody Whitehair. “We know how big this game is and the Bears-Packers history and everything it brings.”
The Bears have made it a point to sign players who grew up around Chicago, in part because they understand what games like this mean. They believe putting on a Bears jersey for moments like Week 1 will give those players a little extra fire in their bellies. From what we’ve heard, there may be some truth to that thinking.
“I put it on, looked in the mirror a little bit and was like, ‘Wow, that’s pretty sick,’” said new center/guard Dan Feeney. “Having that ‘C’ on ya, it’s cool. Definitely feel a little bit of juice playing for your hometown team. It’s a cool feeling. It really is.”
As for what Feeney thinks about the Packers heading into this Sunday’s season opener:
“I grew up hating them,” said new center/guard Dan Feeney. “So I think I am right at home.”
Guys like Jaquan Brisker who didn’t grow up around Chicago, or Green Bay, hear about the rivalry, but find out what it’s all about when they take the field. In Brisker’s case, he only experienced it at Lambeau Field in Week 2. He was sidelined when the Packers visited Soldier Field, so he’s anxious to take part in the game in front of the home crowd.
“I can’t wait,” Brisker said. “I’m itching. It’s Packers week. I know it’s going to be loud in the stadium, fans everywhere… People hate Green Bay. I hate Green Bay. So I can’t wait.”
The word “hate” has come up several times when people mention the Packers. Justin Jones got his first taste of the rivalry last season and did not hold back when sharing his takeaways earlier this summer.
“Their fans are really shitty,” Jones said. “Just the way that they’re just freaking obnoxious, just yelling and all that other stuff about things that don’t even matter. LIke we are not even running a play and you guys are talking about, ‘Boo, on yeah, Go Green.’ What are you even talking about? The game hasn’t even started yet. What are we even talking about here? Whatever bro. Half of them don’t even know football. It’s so weird to me, but I’m just ready to go back out there and play, and I want to go out there and I want to beat the hell out of them.”
Week 1– and potentially the next decade– could come down to the play of Justin Fields and Jordan Love. And a lot is still unknown between those two. Fields has proven himself as one of the most electric playmakers under pressure and can truly score from anywhere on the field. But can he take the next step in his development as a passer to become a more well-rounded quarterback? Love has sat on the sideline for three seasons waiting for his turn to lead the Packers. Will he pick up where Brett Favre and Rodgers left off before him, or will 2023 mark the end of the Packers’ reign of QB excellence?
It’s only a matter of days until we get our first glimpse of the future of this rivalry, but the Bears are confident.
“I’m ready to take it over,” said Jones. “It’s a good time to be a Bears fan.”