Chicago Bears special teams coordinator Richard Hightower has been around the league a long time. He credits that experience with getting him where he is today. That does not mean he has stopped learning, just like his players haven’t during training camp. The Bears aren’t expected to make a lot of noise this season, at least not for the right reasons. Despite that, what they are building seems to be resonating with the people who matter most to them.
That is those individuals who are inside the locker room and building. In that regard, the Bears may very well be ahead of schedule.
Chicago Bears STC Sounds Off on Value of Cross-Training Players
Road to Knowledge
Hightower has been around cited names such as Joe Marciano and Phil Dawson when talking about his journey and all that he has learned along the way. He knows that you can’t coach any two kickers the same way. He also knows that head coach Matt Eberflus putting an emphasis on cross-training players can benefit the Bears’ players.
After he noted that starting running back David Montgomery asked for scout team reps and to return punts, I asked how that can translate for players when they go back to their regular roles.
“I think it translates a lot…It’s all movement skills.”
More than that, Hightower ran down a laundry list of what those skills might include.
“We do a lot of things in the open space and you get to see how athletic a guy is, how fast can he change direction, how much burst he has from 0-to-10, can he track tackle, can he find a guy’s hip, can he close to it, and still make a play?”
Not content to just highlight the ways special teams helps defensive players, Hightower continued to say that players can bring those skills back to the offensive side of the ball.
“From an offensive perspective, can a guy make a guy miss? Can he get extra yards for you? Can he use his hands in block protection?”
That prompted Hightower to share that he often goes over to the offensive line group to watch coach Chris Morgan, who he calls a “heck of a coach”, in action. The two spent time together with the Washington Football team from 2011 to 2013.
“I go down and watch Chris Morgan…coach line sets and vertical sets on offensive line because it relates to punt protection.”
Hightower summed up his take on how special teams work translates.
“It’s just all football. It all crosses over. And it’s all intertwined.”
As for the players, they clearly see the benefits as well because, as Hightower says, they have all bought in.
“Our players have bought into that tremendously. They use special teams, not only to develop their technique but to help with their endurance and get them going on offense and defense.”
Hightower Sees Value in Eberflus Cross-Training Bears
The players buying in is a tough first step for a new regime. Cleaning house in the manner that the Bears did is a good way to separate who will and who won’t do so. But to hear about players such as Montgomery asking for reps is another.
But having guys higher up on the depth chart ready and willingly contribute in another phase not only adds to their individual value. It also allows them to do different things by mixing and matching personnel.