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With the Bears at 5-0, Ditka Is Not Having Any Fits

October 13, 1985|JACK SHEPPARD | Dallas Times Herald

Mike Ditka's blood pressure should stabilize near the normal range these days. His Chicago Bears are 5-0, making them one of two unbeaten NFL teams. Only the Bears and the Rams have dodged the spattering of upsets that seem to strike each weekend.

Chicago already owns a two-game lead in the NFC Central race.

Hey, the guy's so relaxed he has even started wearing neckties to the games.

But while five consecutive victories in this age of so-called parity is impressive, the feat borders on remarkable in Chicago because it follows preseason problems that would have driven most coaches either out of the game or their minds.

It started with the league's most popular form of player protest--the holdout. In Chicago's case, the result was an absentee list that looked amazingly similar to the defensive starting lineup of last year's Pro Bowl. At the top of the list was former Baylor linebacker Mike Singletary, the NFC Defensive Player of the Year in 1984.

Things didn't get much better.

Also in the disenchantment line were All-Pro defensive back Todd Bell, All-Pro defensive end Richard Dent, starting defensive tackle Tyrone Keys, starting defensive tackle Steve McMichael, starting linebacker Al Harris and starting offensive tackle Keith Van Horne.

Adding to the problem was that the Bears had yet to come to terms with No. 1 draft pick William "The Refrigerator" Perry, a defensive lineman out of Clemson.

Was Ditka fazed? Did he get involved in the negotiations? Did he urge the head honchos to give in to players' demands just to get his players back on the field?

"I told our team from the beginning that we were prepared to play the people who were sitting in the room and we were going to do that regardless of what other people thought," Ditka said last week as his team prepared for today's showdown in San Francisco, a rematch of last year's NFC championship game won by the 49ers, 23-0.

"I truly don't think this team was ever divided (by the holdouts). A lot of times there were conversations and things written in the media by people who don't know what a person really said or what the issues really were. Believe it or not, we were going to play the season whether those (holdouts) were here or not. They aren't here because that is their wish. I just feel it's important to take care of those guys who are loyal to this team."

One by one, contract disputes were settled as the preseason schedule progressed. By the time the season opened, all but Bell and Harris (who continue to hold out) had reported.

In the midst of all that good news, however, came the just-how-fat-is-William-Perry controversy. There were rumors that Perry was in the 320- to 380-pound range. His nickname stemmed from the fact that he can empty a refrigerator and then carry it across the room.

Perry arrived in camp weighing slightly less than a two-story Dutch Colonial, drawing criticism from the media and the team's defensive coordinator, who suggested Perry's selection was "a wasted draft pick."

More disruptions. More aggravations.

"The Perry thing was blown completely out of proportion," Ditka said. "He is an excellent player. Some things were said by people who don't know what they're talking about and some people said things whose purpose was different from what it should have been. He's done a good job for us and the only bad part is that he hasn't played as much as he should for us. He's getting better every day."

Throw in a 1-3 preseason record (the only win over Buffalo the last week of preseason) and the fact the Bears have fallen behind their opponents in four of their first five regular-season games, and few could have anticipated Chicago's early success.

So how has Ditka, not known as one of the great X-and-O guys of the league, been able to pull his team together and avoid the Detroit-over-Dallas, New Orleans-over-San Francisco, Warren Moon-over-Miami upset?

"There isn't any secret to it," he said. "First, we don't worry about being 5-0; we just worry about this week. Second, we repeat the same things to the players week after week. I believe if you don't try to motivate the players, if you don't try to encourage them, if you don't harp on the same points every week it'll end up getting you beat. I'm sure I get boring sometimes because I say the same things every week. But if those things stay on their minds, they'll do something about them.

"You can look at, say, the Tampa Bay game and say that it's not that important a game and that we can get by them without all that much effort. But if we don't keep pressure off the quarterback, if we don't execute on offense, if we don't give an all-out effort on defense we're not going to beat anybody. We had that kind of an effort in the first half last weekend (in 27-19 win over the Buccaneers) and instead of getting 20 points, we ended up with three."

With all this success, you'd think Ditka's publicized Woody Hayes-style sideline displays would be on the decline. For the most part, they did disappear during the first four games of the season. But the emotional coach suffered a rampage relapse again last Sunday when he ripped off headsets and spiked clipboards as the Bears fell behind winless Tampa Bay, 12-3, at halftime.

"I got mad Sunday because the guys were playing lousy," Ditka said matter-of-factly. "What am I supposed to do, pat them on the head and tell them they did a good job? I'm a little different with other people, but these guys are paid a lot of money to do a job and they should get out and do it right.

"But that works both ways. I know that if I don't do my job, I have a pretty good idea where I'll wind up."

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